Hit or Sh**: Syfy’s INCORPORATED
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
Dystopia is to Syfy what the Crime Procedural is to CBS. Syfy has truly found its wheelhouse in the dystopian genre — but in our post-HUNGER GAMES, post-DIVERGENT,post-MAZE RUNNER society, is there really more to be said that hasn’t already been said a million times — and better? The complete overflow of dystopic films and novels has completely blended together — and INCORPORATED is the resulting Soylent-esque smoothie.
INCORPORATED takes place in a world where corporations have unlimited power. The year is 2073 and the world is divided into utopian “Green Zones” (for nice white people) and slummy “Red Zones” (everyone else). Our ethnically ambiguous, conventionally handsome protagonist Ben works relatively high up in Evil Corporation #1 — but what his coworkers and hot wife don’t know is that he’s secretly from the Red Zone. Ben attempts to climb the ranks to locate a missing young woman who I guess he’s in love with, or something? I don’t know. Blah blah blah, dystopia.
Coming this summer, from the creators of “YADDA YADDA ‘CHOSEN ONE’” and “MEH, CLASS DIVIDES”
Given how cliche INCORPORATED is, the first 15 minutes of the pilot are pumped full of more information than all the Lord of the Rings movies combined. We’ve got an opening text crawl laying out the basics of “red” and “green” zones, PLUS countless mysterious turns of phrase (people being sent to “The Quiet Place”), leaving even the most sci-fi versed viewers struggling to follow along. In terms of informational output, this pilot makes Webster’s Dictionary look like “See Spot Run.”
INCORPORATED does little to capitalize on its somewhat unique angle. The premise of “corporations with unlimited power” has a Trump presidency joke hiding in it somewhere, but I can’t even make one with what this show puts out. Nothing about the world building of INCORPORATED gives the indication that ultra-powerful corporations are in charge. It’s really just your garden-variety, futuristic dystopia where there’s one Big Bad Corporation that everybody works for and everything on earth is a touchscreen for some reason. There’s no excessive product placement, no aggressive branding . . . nothing that points to what a corporation with unlimited power might actually do. Other than one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it line about alleviating a famine with sterile seeds to protect a copyright, there’s no sense of “capitalist nightmare” outside the garden variety “white people live in nice place and minorities live in shit place” dynamic that virtually all dystopias have. Hell, WALL-E pulls off a better “evil corporation” than INCORPORATED does.
No, not Disney . . . Well . . .
The special effects are what really let INCORPORATED snuggle into that “Syfy Original Series” niche. I’ve watched a few of these Syfy pilots and I’ve honestly been brainwashed into finding the ‘90s-esque, doughy CGI a little bit charming in its cringiness, but I don’t think that’s quite what the creators were going for. Still, with all the effort put into designing these sprawling landscapes (the one featured at the top of this article is admittedly a little ooky spooky), you couldn’t come up with a better receptacle for your “club drug” than an inhaler? Seriously — all the Big Bad Corporate dudes go to a club in the Red Zone and take a drug called “blur” which . . . slows time down, I guess? They literally puff it from an asthma inhaler. It looks like they sent the PA to the CVS across the street from the backlot an hour before they shot. I get that the Red Zone is supposed to be kinda cheap and janky, but . . . c’mon. Also, money looks exactly the same as it did 60-ish years ago? Money doesn’t even look the same as it did 10 years ago.
…Or as it will look next year.
Hey, I got the Trump Presidency joke after all!
I never thought I’d say this, but INCORPORATED actually makes me miss VAN HELSING a tiny bit. VAN HELSING was a sexist nightmare, but at least it had some gnarly gore going for it and managed to make enough of a statement to piss me off. INCORPORATED is not unlike the nine-to-five jobs it strives to villainize: repetitive, boring, and leaving you counting down the minutes until it’s over.
INCORPORATED airs on Wednesdays on Syfy