What would happen if you took the USA Network TV show formula, added some heft, gave it a European feel and an indie sensibility, and brought in an eclectic techno-synth score and grounded it with a terrific performance from Rami Malek and rounded it out with a name actor like Christian Slater?
You might just get one of the best shows in the summer, a show called Mr. Robot that officially not even Christian Slater can kill, as it was renewed for a second season before the pilot even aired.
That pilot, by the way, is very, very good, and not in the way we’ve come to expect from the USA Network (light, breezy throwaway procedurals with incredibly attractive casts). In fact, it’s lead character, Elliot (Malek), is the anti-USA Network: He’s withdrawn, weird (and not weird-funny) and bug-eyed in a strangely magnetic way.
As you may have guessed by the picture, he plays a hacker. He has acute social anxiety disorder, suffers from delusions and paranoia, and here’s where the USA Network element comes in: He’s a vigilante who hacks your shit, unearths your sins, and dimes on you. That element will probably provide the show with some self-contained episodes, but the running storylines that acts as backdrop to the series is what is so compelling about the series (so long as they don’t ultimately Burn Notice it into obliteration).
Elliot has a day job as a computer programmer for a company that protects other companies from cyberthreats. Their biggest client is a huge, evil conglomerate that Elliot loathes. However, there is a cyber-anarchist group — led by Christian Slater’s Mr. Robot and another hacker, Darlene (Carly Chalkin, i.e., Dalia Royce from Suburgatory) — that’s attempting to dismantle the conglomerate as a step toward redistributing the country’s wealth (timely!). Malek is brought into the anarchist group because he has access, and also because he believes in the cause.
There’s also a potential love interest in Angela (Portia Doubleday), a childhood friend and co-worker who is currently dating a cad; a therapist dealing with her own problems with loneliness (Gloria Reuben), and a cute dog, which either the USA Network added or it’s something that creator Sam Esmail brought in for adorable levity (whoever is responsible for it, I think it’s going to work).
Niels Arden Oplev (the original Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) directed the pilot, and he has the perfect sensibility and resume to get a show about a misfit anarchist hacker off the ground. Meanwhile, Esmail — who originally conceived the idea as a movie but got carried away with it — is already grabbing headlines. The novice television writer was not only entrusted to run the show, but before the first episode even aired, he was signed to an overall development deal with Universal Cable production because they clearly saw something in the series that suggested Esmail could become the next big television showrunner. Based on what I saw in just the pilot of Mr. Robot, I can see it, too. It’s awfully hard to miss.