Shortly after Facebook rebranded as Meta last year, the social media giant also rolled out a massive online space for users to play and interact with one another in virtual reality. The name of the concept, Horizon Worlds, connotated everything the company wanted to say about the infinite frontier of virtual reality.
The only issue, however, was that the name was kind of already in use. In Amazon Prime Video’s sci-fi comedy Upload, Horizon is the name of the techno-dystopian company that allows consumers to upload their consciousness into a digital afterlife.
“There’s a lot of fun/tortious/actionable things like that that pop up,” Upload creator Greg Daniels says of the Horizon/Facebook naming coincidence.
Daniels, who also created other comedy hits like The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Netflix’s current Space Force, is used to these kinds of accidental shout outs to Upload from real life. Though the show is set in 2034, technological advances frequently catch up faster than its creator or actors would ever expect.
“There was a joke in the pilot that they are 3D printing steak and the fat cartridge is malfunctioning. I thought that was like a comical exaggeration of 3D printing then immediately I got texted that there’s a company that’s 3D printing steaks,” Daniels says.
Getting “scooped” by reality is just one of the byproducts of living on the edge of sci-fi and realism as Upload did in its first and now second season.
Upload season 2 premiered all seven of its episodes on March 11 on Prime Video. As is often the case in sitcoms, the second season is smoother than the first as the audience, cast, and writers have all had time to learn the rhythms of the show’s tone and comedy stylings.
“When the jokes are coming out of the personality of the characters, it takes awhile to get to know them,” Daniels says. “People said that The Office and Parks got better and better. But when they’re watching it in rotation I don’t think they’re experiencing season 1 with the same issues as they had the first time because now they know the characters.”
What’s interesting about Upload though, as opposed to previous Daniels-produced shows like The Office, is just how far the comedy occasionally has to blend to accommodate the ambitious plot. Season 1 of the show introduced not only the high concept of a digital afterlife but also a compelling murder mystery that got its lead character, Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell) there in the first place.
Upload season 2 expands these concepts in deep, satisfying ways. The show embeds major character Nora Antony (Andy Allo) in with a group of Luddites (or “Luds”) as they craft a plan to take down Horizon.
“(Nora) is on a journey to figure out her feelings on this. She started out very tech positive,” Daniels says. “The depiction of the Luds is interesting because there are all these different factions when you get into people who are disgruntled over how things are – religious, social, economic.”
Still, while Upload is skeptical of technology (or at least certain applications of it), it isn’t intended to depict a dystopia but rather the way the world could be if taken to technology’s current logical extreme. Behind the scenes, the show itself isn’t opposed to utilizing controversial technology, as Daniels explains.
“We researched ‘deepfakes’ and ended up having to use it on one of the actors after he had already backed out. He gave us permission to use a deep fake version of him.”
Give Upload a watch and see if you can spot the one instance of deepfake technology. If you can’t, then we’re probably already doomed.
Upload season 2 is available to stream on Prime Video now.