The television and theater industry of the future is different. It is, in many ways, breaking away from the TV industry of the past.
PBS is primarily still going to show its miniseries and plays. And this fall, it will start showing a new series about quantum computing. Some productions are perhaps less plugged in to that future than others — the new “Howards End” series couldn’t be discussed in the time period we described because it takes place in the 1970s, while “Under the Dome” and “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” deal with the past.
Most of the new series for PBS on Friday night (the lineup of a network typically means that no major talk-show hits and some not-yet-minted hits are coming) have a peculiar twist — mostly they are set in the future, or have at least seen some futuristic elements woven into them. “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” “Strange Inheritance,” “Deadliest Catch,” and even the revival of “Nature” were able to capture technological change early in the game. Some of the topics were almost strange for TV — this is a zombie apocalypse — and others perhaps even less so — like the otherworldly “Bates Motel” (which is in its second season).
At its best, the new “Black Mirror” — a riff on classic British sci-fi — combines a sense of cultural the past with an uncluttered understanding of the future. The first episode in that Netflix series wasn’t set in the here and now, but set the main characters in the 2080s (it was called “San Junipero”). It was good because it was unexpected, and helped bring to mind real-life changes in the world, but also because the plots were innovative — a troubled man falls in love with the spirit of her lover after an accident. The second episode is set in the year 2022.