Imagine a world where instead of going to the great unknown after you die—you go to your choice of virtual heaven for all of eternity. There are many virtual options; from luxury resorts, too far off getaways, and even a simple basic motel. They aren’t open to just anyone, however. It all depends on what you and your lineage can afford. How much are you willing to pay for your eternity? That’s just one of the many questions behind the reality of Upload, a new comedy from showrunner Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks & Rec, SNL).
The show follows an app entrepreneur named Nathan, played by Robbie Amell (Code 8, The Flash), who after an accident is suddenly uploaded to one of the best available virtual heavens. The show bills itself as a comedy, but make no mistake—there is plenty of drama etched into its code, alongside a very emotional core. It’s stuff of real quality. It’ll make you laugh, keep you consistently engaged, while all the while tugging at your heartstrings. It’s a balance that not every comedy has, or is able to maintain.
The best thing about the show for me is the world that Greg Daniels and Co. created. It’s awe-inspiring. The amount of detail and thought that went into creating every aspect of it continually impressed me as the show went on. It is truly a living and breathing, entirely fleshed out world and society. All the way down to the incredible art direction and production design. From the broad strokes to the minute details—everything was crafted with love and attention. It’s just pure fun watching and learning about this world. The show itself takes place a few decades in the future. While it is a work of science fiction, the realities of it all are eerily close to where our society may end up. Virtual heavens riddled with microtransactions, to avatar-based romance, and corporations owning everything. That’s a good chunk of the world-building fun though. Seeing the writer’s creative take on how a world like this evolved, and how it continually supports itself and changes.
In addition to all of that, the show asks a lot of interesting questions—both from a logistical and philosophical standpoint. How do a world and society function with a good chunk of their dead still “living” and able to communicate from their great beyond? What are the religious/faith-based implications of being uploaded forever? What about whatever really comes after death? Then there’s the thematic weight placed on the ideas of economic class and consistent information gathering. Needless to say, Upload has a lot of things to say. There is a tremendous amount of depth to all of the fun and dramatic shenanigans going on throughout the show.
As mentioned above, Robbie Amell plays the role of Nathan. It’s good to see Amell in more leading roles—something he’s clearly suited for, not to mention his great comedic timing for a show like this. As a character, Nathan is a very likable lead. It’s good fun to see him learn and adapt to his new life as an Upload while learning the many extreme contrasts it has to live an actual life in the real world. One key part of the story is how he starts to take a liking to his Angel. Angels are essentially personal assistants to Uploads (the people uploaded to “Heaven” before/upon their death).
In this case, Nathan’s Angel is named Nora—who is played by the other lead of the show: Andy Allo (Pitch Perfect 3). A relatively unknown name, Allo excels in the role of Nora. A ton of the emotional weight of the show rests on her shoulders, and she handles it with ease. Her chemistry with Nathan is palpable, and the two are great on-screen together. Nora isn’t an Upload herself though, and Nathan isn’t the only aspect of her life. She resides in the living world, working from a computer in a corporate office to aid those in heaven—as she just tries to make ends meet. She also has her father to worry about, who would rather die a normal death to join his wife in the great beyond. A choice he prefers over going to the fake virtual heaven that she works for.
Alongside Andy Allo, most of the additional cast members are relatively unknown. Which makes it pretty impressive that they are all at the top of their game, with not a single weak spot in sight. Well, mostly—there is one character that is aggressively cringe-worthy and out of place, but their screen time is thankfully minimal and short-lived. As for the rest of them? Allegra Edwards (Briarpatch) is fantastic as Ingrid, Nathan’s obsessive and selfish girlfriend. She’s perfect in the role, and splendidly embodies the character that we love to hate. Zainab Johnson is the perfectly sassy and hilarious co-worker to Nora, while Kevin Bigley is the eager Upload who quickly befriends Nathan, and Owen Daniels is the AI Guy that appears throughout the virtual heaven. While there’s plenty more to list, the important part to take away? The supporting cast is great, and they play a key role in breathing life into the intricate world presented by Upload.
Upload is an impressive show, one that I think will be one of Amazon Studio’s top showcases. It’s funny, engrossing, and emotional—all while being held up by its incredible cast and inventive and devilishly smart creative team. Even with all of that aside, the world they created is worth a look all on its own. The show is yet another impressive addition to Greg Daniel’s already monumental resume—and honestly, all I can ask at this point is for him to keep them coming.
You can catch Upload when it premieres May 1st, exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.