Bandersnatch, last year’s interactive episode of the anthology science fiction show Black Mirror, won the Emmy for best TV movie. That’s pretty great news, if you put much stock in the Emmys.
The Emmy Awards, created by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in part for the “image-building and public-relations opportunities,” supposedly awards outstanding achievement in television, which does not explain why The Big Bang Theory has 10 Emmys. It’s not a huge surprise that Bandersnatch won this award, as Black Mirror has dominated this category for the past two years, with wins for the episodes San Junipero and U.S.S. McCallister. What does feel significant about Bandersnatch’s Emmy win is less the quality of the show than the format the show was delivered in.
Bandersnatch was masterfully executed on a technical level. It was a story about a game developer in the 80s slowly losing his mind while developing a choose-your-own-adventure game. It was also presented to viewers as a choose-your-own-adventure game, letting users choose how the story went via prompts on the screen that you could select with your remote control or video game controller. Although it was a clever idea, it ended up being a victim of its own cleverness, too impressed with the initial conceit to do the work of creating a compelling narrative.
While it’s cool to see a video game presented an award from a nationally televised awards ceremony, I try to put things in perspective. While many talented actors, writers and directors have won Emmys, there are just as many missteps and confusing results. I only have to think back to last year for an example of the latter, where The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won the award for Outstanding Comedy Series over Barry, Atlanta, Black-ish, Glow, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Silicon Valley, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Mrs. Maisel is fine—my boyfriend’s mom likes it a lot. Fine is different from Outstanding, which pretty much every other nominee actually was. They don’t always pick the best stuff.