CREATED BY: Greg Daniels
STARRING: Robbie Amell, Andy Allo, Chris Williams, Kevin Bigley, Owen Daniels, Allegra Edwards, Zainab Johnson, Christine Ko, Elizabeth Bowen, Chloe Coleman, Yvetta Fisher, Barclay Hope, Hilary Jardine, Rhys Slack, Jessica Tuck, Scott Patey, Justin Stone, Philip Granger, Phoebe Miu, Brea St. James, Lucas Wyka and Matt Braunger
A man is able to choose his own afterlife after his untimely death.
Uploaded is the Amazon comedy series released this weekend that hails from Greg Daniels, a name well-known within the realms of comedy television, as he’s worked on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, as well as create/co-create King of the Hill, The Office (US) and Parks & Recreation. The series focuses on Nathan Brown, a young man living his best life in 2033, when he is involved in a self-driving car accident that leaves him with two options: either head into the great unknown of a normal death or be uploaded into the virtual afterlife at the highly sought after Lakeview, which he can’t afford but is placed there under his wealthy girlfriend’s plan. Nathan is introduced into the virtual afterlife by customer service rep, with the company having them refer themselves as ‘Angels’ and offer those uploaded into Lakeview afterlife guidance. Nathan soon strikes a friendship with his Angel, Nora Antony, and when the two of them realise that some of Nathan’s memories of his real life are glitched, they start to question whether Nathan’s accident was not so accidental after all.
Upload is a high concept series that takes a satirical approach at how capitalism has completely taken over the future, with corporations now lending themselves to cover consumers life beyond death by placing them into the virtual afterlives that they sell, to how some of them sponsor their funerals (with gift bags for guests leaving said funeral) and right down to how we now ‘cook’ are food, as well as sell it to consumers in the virtual afterlife (there’s one-episode gag of the ‘Angels’ having to meet a quota of attempting to sell Nokia Taco Bell’s Virtual Gordita Crunch to those at Lakeview). It’s concept and execution gives the series endless possibilities moving forward on what they can showcase as it does feel at times like it’s holding back on itself as there’s multiple arcs that is going on at the same time over the course of this first season.
There’s already much that’s been addressed in regards to Robbie Amell’s performance here as Nathan Brown amongst critics, which is seemingly divided as much as their overall view of the series and, for me, I enjoyed Robbie’s performance in Upload. He plays it straight compared to the rest of the uploads he interacts with at Lakeview and for me it works in that regard, particularly in the comedic aspect in how he reacts to the ridiculousness of certain events and misgivings of living in a virtual paradise (one example being that breakfast always stops at 10a.m). Despite playing it straight, though on paper his character is bland, considering how we see him literally coasting by in the real world briefly before his accident, Robbie Amell provides charm to save his character from being a cardboard figure. While Robbie Amell is the lead to the story and its premise, it’s clear to anyone that finishes watching the first season here that Andy Allo is the star of the show with her performance as Nora Antony, Nathan’s ‘Angel’. As Nora tries to help Nathan adjust to the virtual afterlife, the series key spiritual subplot comes in the form of Nora trying to convince her father to signup for the virtual afterlife when his time comes, though he wants to die the normal, human way, in order to meet with his wife in heaven. It’s in this subplot that Upload really takes a deeper look into whether you’d want to stick around in a virtual afterlife in where you can still keep in touch with family and friends or just indeed decide to sign-out and take your chances in the unknown. I’ve never seen Andy Allo (whose also a musician outside of acting) in anything previously, and for me I thought she was the standout performer in the show, her performance just feels so natural and genuine in the way she delivers her line and how she reacts to certain things and the friendship/romance angle between Nora and Nathan is what the series hinges on and her chemistry with Robbie Amell makes it work. There’s some solid comedic performances from the other main cast members as well, with Allegra Edwards portraying the role of Nathan’s superficial girlfriend Ingrid Kannerman who might just have an even bigger role to play in a potential second season, there’s also Zainab Johnson as Nora’s work colleague Aleesha and there’s Nathan’s Lakeview chum and horndog Luke. It’s the interactions between Aleesha and Luke I enjoyed also in the season. I also really liked Chris Williams’s performance as Nora’s father Dave.
While there’s elements that can be enjoyable to the viewer, for me there is some issues that comes with the first season, particularly that of how certain sub-plots where handled. The murder mystery angle doesn’t feel as pivotal as it should be, maybe it’s because usually that kind of storyline would be the main focus for many an other show, but in Upload it’s never really addressed as being the main focus till the latter half of the season but, even at that it’s handled in such a minimalistic way that when it comes to the conclusion of Nathan trying to address memories that he’s lost, it still doesn’t feel like it addresses any of the questions we had coming out from the pilot episode. There’s the subplot of Nathan’s cousin, Fran Booth, who takes it upon herself to investigate his car accident and while there’s a significant moment to that story, it’s never really addressed and for me it lingers throughout the murder mystery that looks set to be carried over into a potential second-season. While I like the performances from the cast, there’s really only a handful that have any kind of depth to them and while we meet some Lakeview residents that could provide some interesting interactions with Nathan, from a surprising appearance of William B. Davis as the wealthy David Choak, to Rhys Slack as resident child Dylan, and Nathan’s next door neighbours Brad and Zach played by Matt Braunger and Wayne Wilderson, unfortunately they’re very limited in their appearances and while they may be developed better in the following season, they do feel like wasted opportunities for them here. Upload will also have the unfortunate circumstance of being compared to other shows that follow similar premises that came before it, with one of those being The Good Place, and while Greg Daniels has been developing this project since The Office (US) finale, there will be quite a few people that will watch this and believe The Good Place handled its concept and comedy/spiritual balance better. If Greg Daniels past record is anything to go by, in terms of going by The Office (US) and Parks & Recreation, is that their first seasons were the weakest and if Amazon decide to move forward with another season, maybe Upload can forge its identity and go from strength-to-strength.
Upload is a high-concept comedy series from Greg Daniels that breezes by if you binge it, a decent, light-hearted look at capitalist-fueled afterlife with a solid lead-performance from Robbie Amell, and a strong performance from Andy Allo. While it has nice ideas, some arcing sub-plots feel underdeveloped and while there’s many loose ends lingering to be resurrected in a potential second season, it might have some checking out beforehand due to them not being resolved.