Tech in TV: Humor, Hackers and Dystopia

Technology in TV knows no limits. There is an obvious arc in TV series and the way they have dealt with technological advancements: first with humor, then with caution, and finally with fear. What began with a comic portrayal of the struggles with technology in The IT Crowd, then came to a surprisingly not so embellished portrayal of hackers in Mr. Robot and finally to the dystopian tales of Black Mirror.

The truth is that although we are very much in the middle of the technology age, it lends itself very well to the tropes of the television series format: action, knowledge, fear, comedy, etc. While fraudulent online activity, artificial intelligence and flying cars (or possibly even the hybrid supercar) may be your greatest fears right now, you can find solace in the wealth of information that technology has provided us with. You can now find everything from guides informing the public about scams, to videos hypothesizing what form a flying car will come in, or even podcasts on AI. As far as we’re concerned, tech and TV have only just begun their joint venture.

Humor

The British show The IT Crowd was one of the first to bring the supposedly geeky life of IT support into the limelight. Produced by Graham Linehan (also responsible for Irish TV series Father Ted), the show dealt with a very unsociable but loveable trio who found themselves in a series of unfortunate, yet hysterical, situations. This show took a rather unusual angle to tech, and began by exploring the stereotypes of the sector in a very flattering way.

Hackers

One of the more widespread tech shows to grace our screens was the American show Mr. Robot, with Christian Slater as one of the lead character. This show takes hacking/programming/cybercrime, something that has often been glorified in the media (think The Matrix and War Games), and provides a more accurate portrayal than you might expect. Depicting a world where computers rule all, something which is certainly not off the cards, the hackers are in fact saving the day. Perhaps the moral here is that in the run up to a complete AI domination, we should learn to nurture our hackers rather than punish! Perhaps.

Dystopia

Not too dissimilar to Mr. Robot in theme, is the critically acclaimed British TV series Black Mirror. This one is written by Charlie Brooker, a man famous for his satirical broadcasting. The TV series is, for the most part, terrifying, but also thought-provoking, intellectual and at times far-fetched and a tad humorous. It consists of three series to date, each with a number of vignette-like episodes that explore society’s deep-rooted fear of technology. Think sci-fi with a twist that is guaranteed to open your mind.