C4’s Blackout: Disastrous Cyber Attacks CAN Be Funny

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Tom Brewster considers the cybergeddon dystopia of Blackout, which shed little light on what a serious cyber attack would do but inspired mirth nonetheless

If Channel 4’s ‘Blackout’ show from last night isn’t handed a British Comedy Award, then it will be a travesty. The “drama” sought to give us all the willies about the potential for a cataclysmic cyber attack that takes the power grid down, causing the titular eponymous  blackout.

I’m guessing it wasn’t supposed to inspire the LOLs, but the show had some bonafide comedy gold, which was wonderfully supplemented by some very informed viewers on Twitter. Let’s go through the best bits.

disaster apocalypse, storm wind hurricane city © shutterstock Nejron PhotoCYBERGEDDON!!!!

The opening stages set the scene, with a radio presenter describing a “cyber attack” as if it were some esoteric act of sadomasochism. Does the show bother to explain this “cyber attack”? No. No one describes what actually happened, leaving viewers… totally in the dark (BOOM BOOM!). Normal people are too fick to unnerstand, innit?

As chaos consumes Britain, the show then follows a set of characters, from a hapless toff father (“We could’ve gone hunting if we lived in the countryside like I wanted, but mummy wanted to stay in f*****g Homerton,” he tells his poor, terrified kid towards the denouement), to a mother and a child trying to get to Sheffield with the assistance of an ex-convict. My favourites, though, had to be a couple of lad-banter types who try to siphon off some petrol from a tanker, only to set their own car and the tanker on fire, the latter subsequently exploding, leaving one of them to eruditely note: “F*****g mental!”

All these histrionics didn’t go down well with some cynical viewers, who only suspected some corporate conspiracy lay behind the plot…



So there you have it. Generator manufacturers and Halfords spies have covertly infiltrated Channel 4 and are feeding us subliminal messages via our TV sets. First the NSA and now this. What next? Nestle and Google transmitting signals to our tiny minds forcing us to eat Kit-Kats?

Is it real?!?!!?!?

Blackout’s mix of found and real footage really spooked a lot of viewers. Some were so convinced they believed it was real, despite the fact they were watching a TV set, or some other device that was powered by electricity (unless they were smart enough to invest in a battery-powered TV).

Trev and Lewis here were sure it was a documentary…



Elliot, meanwhile, was sickened, just SICKENED, by the way these people were acting…


These people, hey Elliot? These bloody actors, beating one another up in their fictional set pieces? Absolute outrage mate. Sam Robinson has the right idea – bloody shoot them all:


Meanwhile, Holly hadn’t paid much attention to fact that much of the footage was taken from the London riots…



Much of Blackout begs the most pertinent existential questions. Like would you, if there was nothing else going, eat dog food?

But, quite rightly, most viewers were concerned about the lack of Wi-Fi that a blackout would bring upon us, and all the concomitant horrors that would subsequently rain down upon the nation.


Stuart here ponders the worst possible outcome…


And Nat the nihilist just doesn’t think he could take it…


Power down, but smartphones survive

Obviously this piece was a gem of directorial and scriptwriting brilliance. One master-stroke was to make sure you were scared by having a lot of characters make it known that “things are getting genuinely scary now” or “it’s really scary”. But there were a couple of gaping plot holes in Blackout.

Viewers were understandably baffled by the long battery life of the phones and cameras the characters were using, or the fact that broadcasts were still going out that may have been reliant on the grid…


Others took the show’s commentary on power infrastructure very seriously though. Hyundai got in there with the PR message…


Terry thought it proved those windfarm naysayers were just crazy fools (although, Terry, I’m fairly certain windfarms feed into the grid, which was taken out as a whole)…


Jack Johnson (shouldn’t he be twiddling a guitar somewhere?) provided us with this terse truism that really summed up most people’s feelings…



And for all its good intentions (this surely wasn’t some protracted piece of scaremongering? Say it ain’t so!), people didn’t quite get the message on how to survive after a big old cyber strike.

I was particularly concerned for people who still wanted to go out and buy candles, even though one of the major fallouts of the attack was the spread of fires from, you guessed it, excessive use of candles…


Don’t do it Lauren! Anyway, at least you weren’t just taking the mick like others were…



Anyway, Chris spoke for all of us with this little note…


Anyway, the overall message here is that a catastrophic cyber bomb is going to land imminently and we should all get the tin foil hats out to direct any denial of service attacks away from our puny brains and stock up on supplies. Advice? Just stay at home. And please, please, please do not buy candles.

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  1. Ha, nicely skewered, Tom. Hyundai is, of course, the vehicle manufacturer of choice for that other sober, realistic drama, ‘The Walking Dead’, so they’re obviously looking out for black swans :)

    PS – shouldn’t you be wearing a tinfoil hat in your mugshot?

    1. Tinfoil hat? srsly? You do realize that the gubment has been forcing the manufacturers to put nano chips in the tinfoil because they were having problems with their satellites reading your mind.

    1. See Tom, We warned you it was dangerous.

      In strict (old-fashioned) English, “titular” means “nominal” or “having the title but no power” (Queen Elizabeth is – kind of – titular ruler of Great Britain).

      “Eponymous” means “the person or thing in the title”.

      However, “titular” has been so widely used for the latter meaning that it has entered several dictionaries (and Tom’s speech). Our use is defensible, but we enjoy correction.

      Peter Judge

  2. I was one of the lad banter types starring in this and I can confirm that the humour in blackout… Was ment to be funny.

    This review is the best I’ve seen, made me proper belly laugh…. Brilliantly done :0)

  3. I was one of the lad banter types starring in Blackout and I can confirm that some of it was indeed ment to be comedic.

    this though is the best review I’ve read. Brilliantly done made me proper belly laugh