Charlie Brooker 'Black Mirror' Q&A: 'I wanted to entertain and disturb'
Published Dec 2 2011, 09:00 GMT | By Morgan Jeffery
If you're looking for a TV show that will entertain, amuse, make you think and possibly even disturb you a little, then we heartily recommend Black Mirror
- the new Channel 4 anthology series from writer, critic and all-round genius Charlie Brooker
caught up with Charlie to find out what inspired the three-part series, why he's frustrated by CSI: Miami
and whether he'd ever write an episode of Doctor Who
...What made you want to do an anthology series?
"One of the starting points was that this isn't on TV very often, and it should be! When I was growing up, I used to love - apart from things like The Twilight Zone
and Tales of the Unexpected
- the BBC was always showing all these weird little Play for Today
s - things like that, weird experimental shows. And you don't get that so much anymore. Although in many ways there's more good TV than there has ever been and there's a lot more choice, there's also a lot of shows that seemed to be aimed at giving you exactly what you saw last week, but with slightly different hats on.
"I don't want to slag off shows like House
or… well, I'll slag off CSI
- why the f**k does anyone watch that?! It's the same thing every week, the same f**king thing! CSI: Miami
is the one I'm talking about - why would anyone watch it? It's literally the same thing every f**king week! I cannot for the life of me understand. You watch it once and it's f**king brilliant - it's one really brilliant episode that they're showing again and again and again. David Caruso - a mental performance! I mean, a brave performance in many ways, but a mental one. Constantly looking like he's reading his lines off the floor and doing the whole sunglasses thing - mental!
felt like a thing you don't see very often on TV and I always loved those unsettling anthology shows, where you didn't know what you were going to get, but you knew it was going to be a bit off-kilter, entertain you and often disturb you. So Black Mirror
sprang out from wanting to do that."Do you feel like you learnt anything from making Dead Set?
"Confidence, I think. When I did Dead Set
, I'd never written anything remotely like that, and I just thought 'Everyone's going to f**king kill me'. And it came out well, so mainly that, I think."And are you less worried about being taken seriously as a writer?
"I've never really worried about that, because I was working in telly before I was writing about it. But nobody knew that, because what I was doing in telly was so low-key and so under the radar. I never set out to become a TV critic at any point, really, so I don't really think about it in those terms."Do you want to continue working as a critic and writing for TV?
"I don't really write about TV so much anymore, partly because the more high-profile I am on screen or behind the screen, the more it would seem… I even paused a bit before slagging off CSI: Miami
! The persona of me writing Screen Burn
a few years ago was that I was an angry man, sitting on his own in his room, staring at things. When you're making them as well, I may be more informed, but I think it would be less entertaining to write, 'Y'know, hey, maybe they had to make lots of compromises…' - boring! So… I haven't really answered your question, but I've made some noises with my face."How did you feel when the roles you'd written were filled with such great actors?
"I know! You sort of think, 'Oh God, it's proper, isn't it?'. It is a bit daunting, it's quite scary. You feel quite responsible - like the adults have turned up!"Do you have ideas buzzing around for a second series of Black Mirror?
"Yes, there's several ideas for more stories that we didn't do. There's a whole script written that we didn't do. Yes, to put it mildly."What made Jesse Armstrong the ideal person to write episode three?
"I can't quite remember how [Jesse writing for the show] came about, actually. We approached quite a few writers. We'd say, 'Have you got any ideas knocking around that would fit into this sort of [style]?' [and] we described some of the other stories we were looking at. His was one that you went, 'Ooh, yes, I can see that'. It was an instantly interesting idea, basically. And obviously he's a great writer, so it's a joy to work with him."You've only written original projects so far - could you ever see yourself becoming a writer-for-hire? Perhaps on something like Doctor Who?
"Well if Doctor Who
approached you, that's something you'd have to consider, isn't it? That's like getting an invitation to a particular party. That's an interesting one, in that part of the appeal of Doctor Who
is that it's so different each week - even though you know you're going to get the Doctor and, broadly speaking, you know he's going to face a foe. But there's a lot of ideas that go on in it and the scenario changes, so there's a lot of room for creating things within it.
"So if it was that kind of thing, then yes. Would I write for another episodic series? I don't know, maybe I would. I'd probably be more inclined to do a comedy. There's established comic characters that you can see it would be fun to write for. If somebody said 'Do you want to write an episode of Peep Show
?' - that would be fun. If they said, 'Will you write an episode of Garrow's Law
?' - I don't really know if I'm the right man for that job. I'd be trying to make them do something odd."You've also created A Touch of Cloth for Sky1…
"That's not 'til next year. That's a silly, old-school spoof of the dark British detective serials, in the Wire in the Blood
vein. That's very different from Black Mirror
and it's just very, very silly. It's John Hannah and Suranne Jones in the lead, and it very much looks like one of those BBC One / ITV dark detective 'caught on the horns of a dilemma, with a troubled home life, on the trail of a serial killer' type stories.
"And that's just Airplane
-style daftness. The inspiration there was just to entertain. It was based on a script that had been knocking around for years, that we'd done pre-Dead Set
- I co-wrote the pilot in 2003, something like that. Then we adapted it and changed it a lot. So that's always been something that I've wanted to do - something just daft."10 O'Clock Live will also be back in 2012…
"We're coming back next year, if the world's still here!"A few changes have been made for series two - do you feel like the first run was a learning curve?
"Yeah - I think you'd be arrogant to not think it was. I think there's things we did well, things we did less brilliantly and it'll be interesting to see how it goes. I think I'm now less likely to urinate and defecate out of terror on-air than I was in the first week. It'll all be nude this time, that's the main thing! But just me, unfortunately."Black Mirror begins on Sunday at 9pm on Channel 4.