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Film/TV Review: Upload

FILM/TV REVIEW
UPLOAD
Rated TV-MA
30-Minute Episodes
Season 1,10 Episodes Released on Amazon Prime May 1st

Upload has the guise of a cute rom-com. However it tackles ancient philosophical questions against a futuristic reality of 2033. Its premise is that people can upload their conscience, for a price, to an artificial Intelligence existence after death. The Living can interact with them via VR headsets. Reps of the company that provides the service control the afterlife experiences, channeling a futuristic Punch and Judy Show. The idea is a little scary, or hopeful, or at times hilarious. It is certainly universal.

Greg Daniels created Upload. His latest projects, The Office and Parks and Recreation, are two of the most successful series’ in recent history. Daniels creates simple relatable settings and populates them with relatively unknown actors who are fascinating people, who then go on to become household names. The Office (2005-2013) produced Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Mindy Kaling, Steve Carell, Ellie Kemper. Parks and Recreation ran from 2009 to 2020 and catapulted the careers of Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, and Adam Scott.

I’ll be interested to see how the careers of the stars of Upload take off. Canadian actor Robbie Amell plays “Nathan.” He’s been acting since the age of 6 when he won the role of little “Daniel Murtaugh” in Cheaper by the Dozen. A major hockey fan, he once thought of going pro. Says Amell, “I was playing a relatively high level of hockey and I thought that’s what I wanted to do. But I had my first movie audition, and I was hooked.”

Nora and Nathan Upload

Andy Allo, “Nora,” was born in Cameroon where her Dad is an ecologist. She grew up there and in California where her Mom was born. An accomplished musician, she started piano at the age of 7. While in college she formed her own band, Allo and the Traffic Jam, and released an album of original songs. Prince asked her to tour with his band in 2011, and she spent years writing and performing with him. Her first acting job was on the series The Game in 2011. She was in Pitch Perfect 3 and had a recurring role on Chicago Fire. This is her first Series Regular role.

Kevin Bigley, Allegra Edwards, Zainab Johnson, Chris Williams, Matt Ward and Owen Daniels (yup, he’s Greg’s son) round out the regulars. Never heard of them? That may change soon.
Oh and another “character” is the Lake View VR hotel where the “uploads” live, an idyllic hotel that has a Hudson River Valley vibe. The stand-in is real hotel, the Mohonk Mountain House in New York State.

The script does its best to stay nondenominational and universal. The characters celebrate the “Winter Holidays,” not Christmas. The settings reflect both big city and small town. The show takes jabs at today’s corporate culture. Major companies have devoured each other and become huge conglomerates marketing crazy combinations of products – branding invades both life and afterlife.

This is a bold new series, bold in that it tackles questions that have existed in the human mind since time immemorial, and it does so in an imaginative, creative and often touching way. The current restrictions caused by the Pandemic give us an immediate sensitivity to the isolation of the afterworld. This show could fail on so many levels, but it doesn’t. In fact it gets more intriguing with each episode. By the end of Season 1 you may be under its spell, so you’ll be happy it’s been picked up for Season 2.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

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