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Having spearheaded long-running shows such as The Office (US), Parks & Recreation and more, TV juggernaut Greg Daniels knows his way around a good cliffhanger; that much was very evident during the emotionally charged season one finale of Upload in May of 2020.
What Daniels wasn’t anticipating was leaving fans hanging for nearly two years. While he enjoys teasing fans in such a way, his use of the cliffhanger in this instance might have been more strategic than one might think.
“I think it helps get you a season two, because even the executives don’t have a sense of closure yet, and they want to see what happens next,” Daniels jokes. “I think we’re planning on more seasons than this, so hopefully we’ll have a third one as well.”
Season two of the Prime Video series, which stars Robbie Amell, Andy Allo, Kevin Bigley and more in a sci-fi comedy set in the not-too-distant future where humans are able to ‘upload’ themselves to a virtual afterlife of their choosing, has been a “long time coming”.
While it’s taken a while to bring this next batch of episodes to fans, largely due to editing and visual effects (“I really can’t wait for people to see it”), the journey between seasons was a lot shorter than the period it took from conception to its premiere in 2020, with Daniels previously noting Upload is based on an idea he had while writing for Saturday Night Live in the late ‘80s.
Once season one was out of Daniels’ head and into the world, it allowed him to take a step back, breathe and approach its follow-up a little differently.
“When it’s just your own project that you’re desperately trying to get funded, you don’t have that many things to bounce off of,” he tells, “then, once it turns into something, you start working with the cast, and you realise that each of them is different than how you imagined the character, but they bring in all these cool new things, and you want to adjust things and write towards that.
“You realise the audience has seen something and has responded to this part of it, so it becomes more of a conversation than a monologue once it’s aired. The team gets better at it.
“We did season two with the same team in Vancouver, and it’s the same line producer, the same cinematographer, and same production designer, and so the crew is kind of operating on all cylinders, and the cast knows their characters better, and it just kind of finds its own rhythm better.”
Season one is a melting pot of creativity, toeing the line between comedy, sci-fi, romance, mystery and more and Daniels says that season two is “the same big genre mash”.
“I’m curious to see what people think, because to me it’s sort of very similar. We’re pursuing different experiences for the different characters.
“There’s a lot of different things happening in different people’s lives, and the world is expanding. We’re seeing different parts, and the tech companies rolling out new features that are designed to separate the poor Uploads from their paychecks or their savings, but it’s not like one of those shows where season two is suddenly 100 years earlier or whatever. I think that people, if they want to start watching now, if they haven’t watched season one and they just want to start watching, they’ll just roll right into season two, and it’ll just feel like a continuous story.”
Despite well-rounded characters and heartfelt storylines keeping Upload’s mashup of genres grounded, comparing this offering to The Office and Parks & Recreation, both of which he co-created, is somewhat of a futile task.
“The whole landscape’s changed,” he enthuses. “It’s very hard to compare a streaming show that maybe has 10 episodes every couple of years to a show that had 25 episodes a year for years and years. It’s a little bit of a different genre, so I love Upload, and I also really like the show Space Force that I do on Netflix. They’re just different from The Office and Parks, and I feel like for me as a writer, I have different phases.
“I did The Simpsons and King of the Hill – that was like my animated phase, and then I had the mockumentary phase, and now I’m kind of in this science fiction phase. It’s hard to compare. It’s like comparing your children. Which is your favourite child?”
‘Upload’ season two is streaming now via Prime Video
LEAD IMAGE: Greg Daniels (Creator and Executive Producer) and Robbie Amell (Nathan Brown) on the set of ‘Upload’ season one