The Real ‘San Junipero’: Here’s the Experiment That Inspired the ‘Black Mirror’ Classic

One of the best "Black Mirror" episodes ever made might not have existed had it not been for this BBC docu-series.
Black Mirror
"Black Mirror" episode "San Junipero"
Laurie Sparham/Netflix

San Junipero” is widely regarded as one of the best “Black Mirror” installments in the show’s history (IndieWire ranked it #4 on its ranked list of every episode), but it might not have been made had it not been for a 2010 BBC documentary series entitled “The Young Ones.” Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, “Black Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker revealed “The Young Ones” was his main inspiration for the episode, which Brooker has sole screenwriting credit on.

“The Young Ones” is a three-part documentary series that focused on a psychological experiment in which a group of six celebrities in their 70s and 80s moved into a house redecorated to look like it was from the 1960s. Not only was the house designed to evoke styles from the era, but everything from the music to the cookware and other household items were from the 1960s as well. The experiment was created to see what effect returning to a 1960s way of life would have on the elderly participants.

“It was like they threw their walking sticks away,” Brooker said of the experiment’s results, amazed how youthful the six cast members became by just living in a space that channeled the aesthetic and culture of their youth.

The basic premise of “The Young Ones” gave Brooker the idea for “San Junipero.” The episode takes place in a simulated reality where the deceased can live and the elderly can visit. Brooker designed the setting to resemble 1980s-era California, a choice influenced by the results he saw happen in real life on “The Young Ones.”

“San Junipero,” starring Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, debuted October 2016 on Netflix as part of the third season of “Black Mirror.” The episode was mentioned on various lists of the year’s best episodes, including IndieWire, Variety, The Guardian, and Entertainment Weekly, and it won two Primetime Emmy Awards, one for Outstanding Television Movie and another for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special categories.

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