Pitched as a comedy Upload has bigger ideas

Robbie Amell, left, and Owen Daniels in Upload, a new comedy set in a digital afterlife.

For me, Wednesday means a couple of different things–one, that new comic books have hit the shelves, and two, that a new episode of Office Ladies has been released on the internet. This exceptional podcast, hosted by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, lets me revisit episodes of one of my favorite TV shows of all time, The Office, in a fun new way that gives me a bit of a break from simply watching through the entire series on Netflix for the umpteenth time. 

So, when Greg Daniels, creator and former showrunner of this wonderfully hilarious program, was a special guest and mentioned a new project he had been working on to Jenna and Angela, I was ecstatic. More uproarious comedy from one of the greatest minds in television? Count me in! While I did enjoy it, Upload was not at all what I was expecting, however. In this Amazon Prime exclusive, uproarious comedy is replaced with a more subtle type of humor that is really secondary to a unique mixture of romance, mystery, and philosophical musings.

The premise is simple enough on paper: In the futuristic world of Upload, when people die their minds are uploaded into manmade digital heavens. Like all things in America, however, the process of uploading consciousnesses is ruled by the hand of capitalism. If people aren’t rich enough to upload themselves to the mostly idyllic (and advertisement-saturated) Lakeview, where do they go? Can we really value life if it can essentially be extended into all of eternity? Where does real heaven fit into this equation? Questions like these keep the show from becoming a clone of another afterlife comedy, The Good Place (which is also excellent, by the way, and was also, coincidently, created by Michael Schur, another alum of The Office), which is something I worried about a bit when I started watching. 

In a way, Upload is a cynical antithesis to The Good Place; it is not laugh-out-loud funny—I can probably count the number of times I laughed out loud on one hand—and it can be a bit depressing at times (there is also no humorous censoring involved, as the show does not skimp on f-bombs and also has occasional nudity). But there is no doubt that it is very well made and offers plenty of “oh, that’s pretty clever” moments in its biting satire.

The thing that drew me to Upload the most, however, was the romance. I can’t believe I just typed those words, but it is true. At the heart of the story is a budding relationship between deceased Lakeview occupant Nathan (Robbie Amell) and his customer service representative/”angel” Nora (Andy Allo). The two have real chemistry, and I found myself moving from episode to episode with the primary goal of simply seeing what happens between them. There is also a good old-fashioned mystery involved, if that is more your speed, and it is one that will keep you invested until the end.  

Upload season 1 is now available on Amazon Prime.