Charlie Brooker claims Channel 4 ‘effectively cancelled’ Black Mirror

Screenwriter claimed there was a falling out with the British broadcaster over the cost of production per episode of the Emmy-winning series

Roisin O'Connor
Sunday 28 May 2023 15:32 BST
Black Mirror: Netflix releases season six trailer starring Aaron Paul

Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker has spoken about how his critically adored series came to move from Channel 4 to streaming giant Netflix.

The British journalist and screenwriter’s dystopian anthology drama has won acclaim from critics and audiences alike, as well as multiple Emmy Awards.

While the show initially launched on British broadcaster Channel 4, it later switched over to Netflix in 2016, after which it won the Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie for three consecutive years.

In an interview with The Sunday Times,Brooker explained how there had been a falling out with Channel 4 over the running cost per series.

“Channel 4 cancelled us, effectively,” the 52-year-old said.

He goes into further detail about the Channel 4 fall-out in Inside Black Mirror, the book he wrote with executive co-producer Annabel Jones.

The broadcaster apparently felt that Black Mirror was becoming too expensive to produce, prompting them to ask to see “detailed synopses” of each short film in advance. Brooker wrote that he thought this was “outrageous” at the time.

“When feedback came, we were told they weren’t very Black Mirror and they were no longer going to allocate the money for four episodes,” said Brooker.

Jones added: “We were trying to get a meeting to discuss why these ideas weren’t Black Mirror, so we could attempt to understand what the concern was.

“Given the show had won lots of awards and had been really positively received on the whole, it was strange. I think there wasn’t any clarity from the channel. We also felt unchampioned.”

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The duo were later given a budget to create a Christmas special, “White Christmas”, but were later told any future series would need to be a co-production.

Black Mirror switched over to Netflix in 2016

After Netflix began streaming the first two seasons in the US, providing a boost for the show’s popularity, Channel 4 was apparently still reluctant to strike up a creative partnership with the service if it could not see the episode briefs in advance.

“We realised this was not going to happen with Channel 4,” Jones wrote. “We had to push ahead and do this deal with Netflix.”

The Independent has contacted Channel 4 for comment.

Earlier this month, Netflix teased the forthcoming sixth season of Black Mirror, which will star an ensemble cast including Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul, plus Salma Hayek, Schitt’s Creek star Annie Murphy, Michael Cera, I Will Destroy You’s Paapa Essiedu, Himesh Patel and Ben Barnes.

“Charlie has such a fascinating mind,” Paul, who plays an astronaut in the 1960s in the new series, told The Sunday Times. “He comes up with such unique stories that stand on their own, but within the world of Black Mirror.”

Brooker told Netflix site Tudum of the new season: “I’ve always felt that Black Mirror should feature stories that are entirely distinct from one another, and keep surprising people (and myself) or else what’s the point? It should be a series that can’t be easily defined, and can keep reinventing itself.

“So partly as a challenge, and partly to keep things fresh for both me and the viewer, I began this season by deliberately upending some of my own core assumptions about what to expect.

“Consequently, this time, alongside some of the more familiar Black Mirror tropes we’ve also got a few new elements, including some I’ve previously sworn blind the show would never do, to stretch the parameters of what ‘a Black Mirror episode’ even is.”

Read more about the sixth season of Black Mirror here.

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