Charlie Brooker Predicted the Future (Before "Black Mirror")

A group of Big Brother housemates have yet to hear about the spreading viral pandemic...which is the exact premise of Dead Set


Picture this: There's a viral pandemic quickly sweeping across the globe.

Wow, you pictured that really quickly, good for you. Now add a wrinkle: The cast of a reality show (Big Brother) has been sealed off from the world for almost the entire ordeal. They have no idea what's going on, but they're about to find out. While their isolation was a condition of their participation in a silly TV show, it has also served to protect them from the spread of a lethal contagion and kept them oblivious to the tremendous changes unfolding in the world around them. While they've been sheltered away, society has somehow very quickly approached the brink of collapse. Will they even believe it when they find out how much has happened? Will it seem like just another twist in the "social experiment" of reality TV?

If that sounds exactly like what just happened to 14 unsuspecting housemates on Germany's Big Brother, congratulations on keeping up with entertainment news while a global health crisis destroys civilization—must be nice. It's true that the cast of the current season of the German version of Big Brother (much like Jared Leto) had been kept in the dark about the developing COVID-19 pandemic since their isolation in early February—and found out in a live televised event Tuesday night on German network Sat.1. But if you just think the whole concept sounds kind of like the plot of an episode of Black Mirror, that's because you haven't seen Dead Set.

Dead Set was a miniseries that aired on E4 in the UK in 2008. The brainchild of Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, its plot matched the current situation almost perfectly. While the cast of Big Brother (in London in this case) has been sealed up in their panopticon home, a virus has rapidly taken over the world outside, and it's at last reached the point where they're going to find out. The main difference is that, rather than the coronavirus, the outbreak in the miniseries is spread through biting, and causes its hosts to take on aggressive behavior and a corpse-like appearance… Okay, they're zombies. It's a zombie show about the world collapsing while Big Brother housemates are cut off from the world—with all the confusion, drama, and gore that implies.

It's also streaming on Netflix now, so if you've already watched Contagion five times, and you need some new escapist/masochistic viewing, the entire run of Dead Set is two-and-a-half hours of pandemic horror-prophecy.


Assuming the way one chooses to spend New Year's Day (not to mention the first day of the new decade) sets the precedent for everything that follows, I've made a grave, grave mistake in 2020.

I'm not sure what sort of productive things a well-adjusted person might do on New Year's Day. Perhaps they clean their home or start a new book? As for me, I spent my entire day marathoning The Circle, Netflix's latest American reality competition show adapted from a British reality competition show of the same name, and I'm fairly certain that says everything you need to know about the state of my life.

The Circle is basically just like Big Brother––a bunch of young, hot, dramatic messes are locked in a living space with no access to Internet or TV, with the ever-present chance of elimination and a cash prize for the last person standing––except instead of the housemates hooking up and fighting in-person, all interaction takes place on a social media app guessed it… "The Circle." I think it's supposed to take its name from a social circle, but it could also be referring to the shape of a frying pan, because The Circle fried my brain.

Netflix the circle Netflix

Oh, one more thing: Contestants can pretend to be anyone they want on The Circle app, so a huge chunk of the show revolves around the housemates trying to figure out who amongst them is a catfish. To be clear, the prize money is solely based on which person is the most popular based on their fake social media presence, so there's no real in-game incentive to specifically target people you think are catfishing you. And yet, the players become obsessed with outing the catfish for some reason. Both housemates eliminated, or "blocked," within the first four episodes were chosen because people thought they "weren't who they said they were." The housemates were wrong. Both times.

In theory, one could argue that The Circle is attempting to make an important statement about the contrast between social media and the real world, how at the end of the day everyone is being fake online. We're never judging people on social media for who they are, but rather for the image they project, whether it's an idealized version of themselves or another person entirely. But could anyone really delude themselves into believing The Circle could be that deep?

No, The Circle's entire M.O. is to bring the loudest, most unreal personalities together to...mostly get along?

Wow, okay, so watching The Circle is a really weird experience for anyone well-versed in trashy reality TV. Maybe it's the fact that none of these people are actually interacting with each other in-person, thereby removing most of the potential housemate conflicts that arise in similarly conceived shows; but for the most part, all of the housemates are surprisingly nice.

Take, for instance, Joey Sasso, a macho, 25-year-old bro whose entire personality is "Italian stereotype" and who constantly shouts, "YEAH, BUDDY!" as if real humans have catchphrases. The second The Circle introduced me to Joey Sasso, I knew I was going to hate him. Right off the bat, the dude starts talking about shirtless selfies and d*ck pics. I was positive that Joey was a DoucheBro with a capital "D" and also a capital "B."

The Circle Joey Sasso This guy.Netflix

And then…

He's kind of not. Don't get me wrong, the dude is annoying and kind of gross. Yes, he desperately slides into the DMs of pretty much every woman (or man pretending to be a woman) in the apartment to compliment them on how beautiful they are in their profile pictures. But at the same time, he's oddly sensitive. After finding out that an eliminated player he accused of being a catfish was actually the real deal, Joey seemed to feel genuinely distraught and guilty about mischaracterizing another player. Joey, who is also really big on family, gets emotional during a conversation with another housemate, Miranda, who tells him that she spent her childhood moving around foster homes.

After Miranda explains that she values her experiences because they made her stronger, Joey writes: "Your positive outlook on life is truly inspiring, I would be happy to welcome you into my family with open arms. You're so brave to share your story, you have my respect." His response brings Miranda to tears.

Stranger yet, despite his "alpha" attitude, Joey doesn't start beef with the other guys, either. In fact, he develops an adorable bromance with Shubham, The Circle's youngest, sweetest, and most down-to-earth player, who seems fully intent on being his most genuine self. By the end of the fourth episode, very much to my surprise, I actually kind of liked Joey.

But if I kind of like Joey, does that mean The Circle is working? In a game about making snap judgments based on curated information, does The Circle assume that we, as viewers, will immediately judge someone like Joey, only to reveal that our snap judgments weren't fully correct? Could The Circle really be that introspective about human interaction in the Internet Age, or is my brain actually a puddle of mush, its synapses desperately firing into a hollow abyss?

I'm not sure, but I'm starting to think that maybe I made the right choice starting out 2020 by watching The Circle on Netflix. That, or I genuinely need to be hospitalized.


"Love Island"  Delves Into the Heart of Humanity

The sacred and the profane merge on TV's most boundary-pushing reality show ever.

Just when you thought that reality TV was dead, a show like Love Island USA comes around and changes everything.

This show, available on Hulu, taps into the heart of the human experience. Its cast members are raw, relatable, and multidimensional. All they want is love, and they're willing to do just about anything to find it.

Take Episode 10, which saw the cast members swallowing their pride and competing in a relay race that involved dropping fast food into each other's mouths. Gazing into each other's eyes as they vomited pink milkshakes onto each other's faces. For a moment, there was no division at all between these human beings. For a moment, it seemed that the walls of the simulated binary we all build between ourselves and others fell down, and they were all one, and we were one with them. We were all Caro, unable to stomach the waves of pink sugary liquid that Cashel was trying to spit into her mouth and unable to handle the blinding sweetness of another's true affection, but wanting so desperately to learn how. We were all those hot dogs, being passed by the currents of time from lover to lover, wanting simply to be digested within the stomach of our true soulmate.

Image via Daily Mail

Love Island is not always an easy show to watch. The Instagram influencers who come on the show are going to show you all their flaws and deepest insecurities. They're going to bare their true selves for the camera. They come from diverse backgrounds, and many have struggled all their lives, but this gives them a unique kind of grit and perspective that we could all learn from.

Love Island is a vital show for our time. For what else do human beings have but romantic love and beauty? What else matters except being in a relationship and earning money on reality TV? It's certainly not having healthy boundaries, or becoming friends before dating, or having positive friendships in your life, or living your dreams, or caring about others. No, to be single is to be dead, and these Love Islanders are not about to go gently into that good night. They will find love (and prize money) if it literally kills them.

For all its emphasis on human beings, Love Island is really a show about finding the greatest lover of all: God. For who else besides God could the announcer, Matthew Hoffman, be channeling when he says things like, "If I'd gone to college, I'd have a degree in women"? The message is clear. In the Love Island universe, the announcer is the Holy Spirit, and the challenges sent down by archangel Arielle Vandenberg are his ways of transmuting scripture to his blessed, lost disciples.

Image via CBS Press Excess

Love Island is about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of impossible odds, and about finding the divinity that lives within each of us. As one of this decade's rawest, most boundary-shattering television experiences, Love Island is a must-see.


“Big Brother” Is Undeniably Racist

While the racism is clear to fans, the producers still try to cover it up in editing.

Monty Brinton/CBS

Three people of color left the Big Brother house on the same night amidst blatant racism and all sorts of other nasty behavior from the other contestants.

CBS' reality mainstay follows a group of houseguests stuck together in a house full of cameras as they compete for a monetary prize. To truly live up to the Orwellian implications of the title Big Brother, the show streams live footage of the cast 24 hours a day on the CBS All Access app. But what was once a summer guilty pleasure feels extra dirty this year, thanks to racially-charged bullying and disgusting comments from half of the show's contestants. But what's just as bad as the racism in the house is the producers' attempts to ignore it.

Racial lines were drawn from day one, when Camp Director Jackson selected Jess, a Latina woman, David, an African American, and Ovi, a Bangladeshi American, for possible banishment. Later, David, Ovi, and Kemi, a black female, were the first evicted and sent to Camp Comeback, a twist that allowed them to remain in the house to await a chance to re-enter the game. Viewers certainly noticed the race-based decisions of those in power. David went so far as to say, "Camp Comeback is looking real colorful," causing the live feeds to quickly switch off him.

Jack and Jackson, two physically fit white dudes, remain the two biggest problems. On the feeds, Aquaman-wannabe, Jack, was caught saying, "F**king Kemi makes me want to stomp a f**king mud hole through her chest." Jackson said he wanted to "cut this tumor out of us because she's a cancer on the house." What did Kemi do to deserve this treatment? She simply existed. But instead of showing footage in the episodes of Jack calling her "dogsh*t," "toxic," and a "f**king maggot," producers aired a clip of the Jacks insincerely comforting Kemi.

The show's production team is breaking a sweat trying to give Jack and Jackson glorified nice-guy edits, repeatedly refusing to acknowledge their racist overtones. The hate seems to be contagious, as many other houseguests are guilty of similar behavior. After David temporarily exited on Day 1, houseguests reamed him for being "a villain," "terrifying," "intimidating," and "disrespectful." David was only in the house for a few hours, yet the hate machine churned against him. And then there's Nick, a children's therapist, who said he wanted to spit in Kemi's face because "she's a piece of sh*t." Think this will make it on air? Don't hold your breath.

BB21 Nick wants to spit on Kemi

So, when exactly did Big Brother turn into a dumpster fire?

This isn't the first time the show has faced accusations of racism. In 2013, four season 15 houseguests were fired for similar racist behavior. When the episodes' edits reflected what was actually happening, live feed fans felt vindicated that the racism and ugliness they witnessed was finally exposed on national television. When Aaryn Gries was evicted, host Julie Chen Moonves grilled the Texan college student, reading back all the disgusting comments she dished out on the feeds. It was a savage serving of justice. But it's not likely that a similar reckoning will happen in BB21. Kemi, David, and Ovi deserve better.

Adding salt to the wound, producers tried to manipulate Kemi to act like a racist stereotype. Kemi told other houseguests, "I think I'm portrayed as a bitch. One-hundred percent. They were like, 'Oh, why don't you, like, wag your finger and be like, 'Uh uh girlfriend.' I'm like, 'I don't even talk like that,' I literally don't talk like that, so, like, what are you trying to do?"

On the feeds, Kemi was sweet, hilarious, and loyal to her friends, yet the show worked overtime to paint her as a villain to excuse the other houseguests' racist behavior and opinions. If disliking someone's cooking and putting her water bottle in the fridge are reasons for this much hate, then this is a cruel world.

The show has a long history of hiding bigoted remarks from the designated Golden Child of the season, but Twitter is tired of the BS, defending Kemi and calling out the show.

Even former houseguests are stepping up. Audrey Middleton (the show's first trans contestant), recently called the show a "completely corrupt operation," tweeting, "They protect the worst individuals on the show and undermine the edits of the minorities because they need people to keep watching. They can't exploit the Jacks because they need to be likable for the long game to retain viewership. They represent those that suit them. If you don't, they will discredit, sabotage, and exploit those who they deem lesser than to limit their voice."

If the show is a microcosm of American society, it's clear we have a long way to go towards equality. While you can't always control what people say or do inside a pressure cooker like the Big Brother house, purposely altering the narrative or changing the context of houseguest's character isn't editing magic, it's unethical deception. As the novel 1984 warns, Big Brother is always watching. But heads up, Big Brother, so are we.


Expect the (Un)Expected: "Big Brother" Is Back in Session

"Big Brother 21" is shaping up to be a rollercoaster ride.

Monty Brinton/CBS

CBS's human zoo is officially open for business! Welcome to Big Brother 21: the human chess experiment where strangers live in a house with zero privacy, a bajillion cameras and microphones, and monster-sized squirrels that break in and stuff them into sacks.

We're only a little over a week into this summer's shenanigans, and it seems the men have already lost their shirts while the rest have lost their sanity. Thanks to the sheisty powers of editing, the 16 houseguests have been reduced to mere caricatures, including Token Old Guy, Nerdy Long Islander, Beefy Attractive Guy #1, and Beefy Attractive Guy #2, in addition to a Broadway dancer, a therapist, and a truck driver. Each guest is equal parts quirky and annoying in his or her own way, but they're all primed for the game and ready to backstab. As last season's winner, Kaycee Clark, would say: Let's go!

While Big Brother's motto is to "Expect the Unexpected," the show has become rather formulaic, despite coming off a series-best season with #BB20. As far as twists are concerned, our neighbors to the north at Big Brother Canada have been running circles around BB:US. But let's just be thankful for the steadfast delivery of super extra attention-whores, hungry for camera time and reality TV glory. Bless.

While we pray for savage backdoors, blindsides, and emotional turmoil, the show has more or less primed us to "expect the expected." But Big Brother fans are nothing if not patient and loyal, and no matter what happens, we're here for all the pots, pans, unitards, broken promises, and shattered hearts—bring on the diary room tears!

Here are a few predictions and first impressions following the show's first batch of episodes:

This cast is going to try to mimic last season's successful Level Six alliance...and they are going to fail miserably.

"Big Brother 21" predictions

Camp Director Jackson had his crew of jocks in tow (Nick and Aquaman Jack), and they recruited Holly, Bella, and new HOH Christie to their ranks. My money is on them falling apart the second someone outside their alliance wins the crown. I know it's early, but I don't believe for a second that any of these six have the social skills and gameplay of Tyler and Kaycee. In fact, I'd bet a week of slop on it.

The outsiders need to stick together.

The outliers seem to be Cliff, Nicole, Kemi, Ovi, and Jessica, but if these five want to survive, they're going to have to start their own Quack Pack and fire a direct hit at the main six (we need silly alliance names ASAP please!). Jessica's emotions could land her in hot water, but Nicole is the outsider you should have your sights on. She's a big fan of the game and seems to have a good head on her shoulders, but will she be able to assimilate herself into this crowd of hot LA bartenders? It's a toss up.

David and Ovi aren't going anywhere...yet.

"Big Brother 21" predictions

David, the photographer from Atlanta, was kidnapped by a furry and banished from the BB house, only to return in a new twist called Camp Comeback. After Ovi's eviction, Host Julie Chen Moonves announced that the first four evicted houseguests will compete for a chance to re-enter the game, but they're going to live inside the house while they wait for that chance. So a pre-jury Battle Back is in our future. Shocker. I'm not a fan of the Battle Back; the "twist" was overkill when Victor won his way back into #BB18 about 72 times. If an evicted houseguest is going to re-enter the game, producers need to get creative and zig when we expect them to zag. To be fair, the show did get creative with last season's Power App, but Kaitlyn wasn't able to finish a six-piece puzzle of herself. Sometimes, it's hard being a Big Brother fan. Sigh.

Jackson had a serious case of HOH-itis, and he was only the Camp Director.

"Big Brother 21" predictions

His choices for banishment weren't surprising. It was all very jock-picks-on-perceived-weaklings. If we must have an evicted houseguest back in the fold, David returning with a vendetta against Jackson could be something to root for. In just a single day, Jackson certainly got some (wait for it)...blood on his hands.

With David and Ovi in Camp Comeback and Jack as the new Head of Household, who will be the third houseguest sent packing? Find out next time, kids! (Or, you know. Check Jokers Updates for feed deets.) And let's just pray to OTEV that this season is filled with strategy, shifting allegiances, and cunning gameplay. A killer Big Brother season is exactly what Rockstar's daughter deserves for her birthday.


5 Forgotten Parodies That Predicted the Future

Spoofs have been fortune-telling with eerie accuracy long before The Simpsons or Family Guy predicted Bruce Jenner's transformation into Caitlyn.


Yes, we've all heard that The Simpsons predicted the future, and Matt Groening is probably a time-traveling harbinger of doom.

But spoofs have been fortune-telling with eerie accuracy long before The Simpsons or Family Guy predicted Bruce Jenner's transformation into Caitlyn. From crime confessions to the future of sex toys, satire has proven to be more reliable than the news in many cases. These five parodies that came true are proof that everything is only getting weirder. You might as well start laughing now.

1.Chris Rock predicted O.J. Simpson's book, If I Did It

Chris Rock predicted O.J. Simpson's confessional bookIFC

The Chris Rock Show was under-appreciated for its run on HBO between 1997 and 2000. The raunchy comedian hosted the show's satirical sketches and parody commercials with guest stars like George Carlin, Arsenio Hall, Conan O'Brien, and Tracy Morgan. In a 1997 parody of a studio tour, Rock rummages through a collection of gifts supposedly given by celebrities. 20 years before O.J. Simpson allegedly approved ghostwriters to release the confessional book, If I Did It, Rock held up a VHS tape and reflected, "Who could forget the night O.J. Came by to sell his new instructional videotape: I Didn't Kill My Wife! But If I Did, Here's How I'd Do It?"

Chris Rock Sees The Future

2. The Onion predicted eerily specific masturbation technology

The Oculus Rift Sex simulatorThe Daily Dot

The only real difference between Samsung's "Apex" and the Oculus Rift sex simulator is that the Apex was the subject of The Onion's satirical news video and the Oculus Rift offers a wider variety of simulated sex acts. The Onion first spoofed the idea with the description that the Apex "streams video into your left eye, Internet into your right eye, and sucks your dick at the same time." Now, developers in Japan have crafted next-gen masturbation techniques that allow virtual reality users to simulate sex with crudely-animated 3D women. They even offer compatible masturbation aids for a fully "immersive experience."

New Wearable Computer Also Sucks Your Dick

3. Gremlins 2 (1990) first broke the news that Donald Trump was a cheater

Filmmakers Joe Dante and Charlie Haas cooked up a Donald Trump riff in their comedy sequel. In Gremlins 2, Daniel Clamp is a crass, narcissistic billionaire who dominates New York real estate despite being too idiotic to believe. He also has an affair with his employee named Marla. Shortly after the film's release, front page news broke one of Trump's most public scandals of the 90s when he cheated on his wife with Marla Maples, who would later become his second wife. Haas said, "He was an emblem of what was going on in the '80s and '90s with greed and money and crassness, and [the idea of] the whole world being for sale. But he still seemed sort of harmless."

John Glover as Daniel Clamp (Gremlins 2 )

4. EDtv (1999) mocked soulless reality TV before reality TV existed

Few people had good things to say about Ron Howard's comedy at the time, but the entire premise of the film seemed patently absurd in 1999 (even with The Truman Show riffing on media and sitcoms the year before). Ellen Degeneres portrays the comically cold-hearted studio head of "True TV" network who tries to drum up ratings with the novel idea of filming a painfully average man (Matthew McConaughey) and broadcasting his life 24/7. One year before Survivor and Big Brother debuted, "reality TV" didn't exist as a genre when the comedy captured how successful a show can become when people watch for "no reason, I just want to see what happens."

Edtv Official Trailer #1 - Dennis Hopper Movie (1999) HD

5. Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) turned airport scanners into nude pictures

Airplane 2: the sequel predicted nude airport scannersIFC

The 1982 disaster movie spoof delivers more of the original's bawdy humor and dirty jokes. But in a simple scene of travelers passing through airport security, there's a passing joke about security scanners being able to view passengers naked. The bored security guard and quick pacing of the scene banks on the sheer ridiculousness carrying the joke. Of course, in 2013 the TSA introduced Advanced Imaging Technology scanners soon dubbed "naked scanners." The backlash was so extreme that the TSA eventually switched software systems to reduce the clarity of the images.

Airplane II: The Sequel. Airport

Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.

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