It’s only five weeks until Christmas, and I suppose we’re all thinking about what to buy mum, and our partner, and the kids, and weird Uncle Billy, the one who smells of Swarfega and rice pudding.
Many of us will not be able to face a trip to the shops, being pestered by Santa-hatted shop assistants and having our eardrums assailed by Wizzard, Slade and other glam rock titans of the 1970s (except Gary Glitter, obviously, no one wants to hear Another Rock ’n’ Roll Christmas these days).
And so we will sit on our sofas, or propped up in bed, looking online for those ideal gifts. And to which website do we turn? Amazon, of course.
In 2014, the company brought in more than £5bn worldwide, and in the UK last Christmas, it took one in every four pounds spent on entertainment goods, controlling more than 25 per cent of the music, games and DVD market*.
In the process, we give Amazon all sorts of information about ourselves, not just credit card numbers, and our addresses, but we tell them what we do and don’t like, we reveal our prejudices. They then use this to guide us to new purchases, tell us what we would like to watch, and generally ‘monetise’ our information.
So it’s curious, then, that this global behemoth, which controls so much of our personal information, should be the place to go for a new tech-thriller, based on the paranoid idea that big business is out to get us.
Mr Robot first aired in the United States on the USA Network, but is only available here via Amazon’s Prime video streaming service, with all episodes available at once.
Rami Malek plays Elliott, a troubled genius who works in cyber-security by day – protecting the interests of big business – and hacking at night, peering through the net curtains of binary code at people’s most intimate secrets.
Before long, he is recruited by fsociety, a shadowy group of hackers dedicated to bringing down capitalist overlords.
It’s a terrific watch, low-key, almost monochrome, and features Christian Slater chewing scenery as the lead hacker.
Elliott has mental health issues, however, so we constantly wonder if we can trust him, or whether the whole thing is unravelling in his head, and Malek plays him with a kind of bug-eyed, high-strung intensity.
Amazon must be aware of the irony, but it seems that, by getting exclusive rights to shows like this – and others, such as Transparent and Extant – their world domination can only grow.
*Figures from Kantar Worldpanel, via techweekeurope.co.uk