The latest show from Emmy-Award winning writer Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks and Recreation) hits streaming service Amazon Prime Video in May, but with some big shoes to fill, is it just as good as his much loved network sitcoms? Well, not quite, but with a charming central romance, intriguing futuristic sci-fi concept and satire elements, the ten-episode sci-fi comedy series proves a refreshing concept for the small screen.
Set in the year 2033 where hologram phones, 3D food printers and fully automated self-drive cars are the new norm; a young app developer, Nathan Brown (Code 8’s Robbie Amell), finds himself badly injured in a suspicious car crash. In this technologically advanced future, those who can afford it, can be “uploaded” into a virtual afterlife when they’re close to death. Thanks to his rich (but shallow) girlfriend, Nathan finds himself uploaded to her family’s luxurious virtual afterlife, the Horizen company’s “Lakeview”. But with some of his memories missing and his co-worker and best friend acting weird, was Nathan’s car accident really an accident?!
In the press pack sent to reviewers, Daniels describes the series as a mix of sci-fi, comedy, romance and mystery; and while it does feature elements from all of those genres, it definitely feels like it’s trying to juggle too much at once. Upload is undoubtedly a likeable show, but the tone throughout is pretty confusing as it tries to tick all of the genre boxes. Unfortunately it misses the mark when it comes to the comedy, with a lot of silly visual gags, and it’s hard not to compare it to The Good Place. But where it most shines is in the central romance and intriguing mystery, with episodes often ending on cliffhangers, giving it a real binge watch-ability. The satire elements are also an intriguing addition, exploring the social and economical divide in a future which monetises the afterlife, that’s if you can afford to be uploaded.
At the heart of the show is the blossoming romance between Robbie Amell’s utterly charming Nathan Brown and Nora Anthony (Andy Allo), his endearing ‘angel’, aka Horizen customer service representative. The two share a genuinely believable chemistry which definitely wins you over, along with a fantastic arc for Amell. It’s just a shame that the show’s supporting cast is so uneven and far less developed than those in The Office and Parks and Rec. Zainab Johnson is probably the funniest as Nora’s friend and fellow angel Aleesha, while Allegra Edwards definitely has the rich, shallow girlfriend nailed, but the rest of the cast are unfortunately pretty stereotypical.
Daniel’s world building is impressively immersive and scarily believable, with tech businesses competing to create the “best digital afterlife”. For all of it’s perceived luxury, Lakeview turns out to be full of pop-up ads and in-app purchases, which feels like a real possibility! The stark contrast in colours between Lakeview and the real world, particularly Nora’s view, are an interesting statement. However, bringing the more futuristic elements to life, particularly when it comes to the self driving cars, the visual effects just aren’t quite up to scratch unfortunately.
Thanks to the great chemistry between Amell and Allo and the short episode runtime, Upload could definitely be your next bingeable watch. However if you’re a big fan of The Office and Parks and Recreation, then unfortunately the series can come across as a bit of a mixed bag, particularly when it comes to the comedy.