May is Greg Daniels month. The creator of the North American version of ‘The Office’ has started this month with a new comedy, ‘Upload’, for Amazon Prime Video and will conclude with ‘Space Force’, which Netflix will premiere on the 29th. Two comedies that are very different between yes. In fact, the first one we have seen offers us a new life beyond death.
In ‘Upload’ we follow the story of Nathan (Robbie Amell), a computer scientist who, after an autonomous car accident, finds himself having to quickly decide to “download” (I don’t know why they translate it that way when they always talk about uploading) in Lakeview, a virtual beyond of luxury paid for by his girlfriend Ingrid (Allega Edwards).
Nathan will have to get used to this new life together with his “angel” Nora (Andy Allo) in a relationship that goes beyond the professional. In addition, we have a plot of conspiracy around the death of this one, whose work in a free and democratized version of the technology of “rise” to a virtual beyond, could have been the reason for an attack.
The return of Greg Daniels
I find it interesting to see how we have two high-profile projects by Greg Daniels this May. The writer has been practically out of the big scene since the great ‘Parks and Recreation’ (of which we recently saw a great charity reunion).
A couple of years ago he released as producer for TBS ‘People of Earth’ but in all this time he has not returned to “first division”. In fact, as he communicates in a letter to the press, this new series has taken him six years of his life … and the idea came to him while writing in ‘SNL’ decades ago.
A trajectory that seems opposed to that of his partner Michael Schur, who has been chaining success after success since the times of ‘The Office’: ‘Parks and Recreation’, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ and ‘The Good Place’. It is the latter, in fact, with which we can find the most similar in ‘Upload’ in this treatment of life after death.
You can also see Daniels’ “school” and veteran when it comes to presenting absurd situations, mixing and referencing brands in this future (Oscar Meyer Intel) and other visual and visible gags (some more subtle than others) that he has been doing since his era in ‘The Simpsons’.
Capitalism from heaven
The interesting thing about ‘Upload’ is how it portrays this virtual world. As it could not be otherwise in our society, we are facing the capitalization of paradise. Lake View is capitalism applied to the afterlife with a subscription model according to what you are willing to pay and, in addition, good extras (the minibar of your suite, for example).
The poor are condemned either to risk seeing if there really is life after death or to pay the least month by month in a depressing beyond. Throughout its ten episodes this is emphasized (and crushed) over and over again without going into depth (we are in a first-time comedy, after all).
Personally, when exploring the topic, I find the discussions between Nora and her father more stimulating, who is reluctant to be “downloaded” because he hopes to live in the religious / spiritual afterlife with his wife. With the “heavenly” backgrounds of “The Good Place” and “Forever” relatively recent, it is somewhat disappointing that “Upload” fails to be more restless about these dilemmas.
However, as a comedy it is completely effective. Maybe it takes him a while to get the laughs that we would like, but he manages to amuse himself throughout his episodes with a simple humor that navigates a spectrum of sub-genres quite successfully.