Charlie Brooker only reached the terrestrial channels in recent years, and he's being juiced from every nozzle. As well as 10 O'Clock Live at the moment he's got Why TV Ruined Your Life on BBC 2 and it's exactly the same as his forever-definitive Screenwipe programme. The episode of Why TV Ruined Your Life I watched today had a brief review of a programme from 1998 called Killer Net. Killer Net had a weird premise and I had a few hours to waste, so I scuffled around for it and gave it a watch.
Its backdrop is the insistence that all students are cool (they're not; I'm one). Three students -- psychology, law, and nursing -- live together in a flat. Leading the cast is Tam Williams, a pretty and floppy-haired actor who didn't get anywhere with Killer Net, which is surprising; because although he does little other than frown, he's easily convincing as Scott, a psychology student who starts playing a computer game called Killer Net. The concept of the computer game is both outdated and ahead of its time. The player has to stalk, kill and dispose of women. The uniqueness comes from the fact that the game is set in Brighton, where Scott is playing it, so he can visit the real locations himself and plan the perfect murder. Creepy.
Inevitably, one of these murders happens for real, and it transpires that the computer game, Killer Net, is the tool for a serial killer who uses it for perfect murders.
Despite this orrible concept, it's not really as orrible as it sounds (except for the pointless finale). It's not grey. It's not Jimmy McGovern. And when the police keep getting confused between the game and real life it's really funny.
The cast includes the memorable Mark Tandy, the unmemorable whatsisname, and a member of Blur who overcompensated for his crap acting by doing too much of it. But most significantly, Killer Net introduced the cool, gangling and sinister Paul Bettany to our screens. It was his big break. Without Killer Net we wouldn't be doing the pretentious slow nod of approval whenever his confident and enjoyably dramatic presence lopes about in modern films.
The plot of Killer Net has more holes in it than the Holy Ghost, but it's still gripping. It's a naïve and conscientious story with a simple message that explains its unpopularity in the 21st century -- not only are computer games sick and wrong, but computers full stop. Luddites will never win, sorry. Labelling yourself anti-computer is stupid, and I’m surprised they commissioned it. The series ends with the young protagonist heaving his computer from the top of a high building. These days his computer would be so thin it'd probably float to the ground and soften its landing with the new pillow app.