Before its release, the new Hulu show Dimension 404 was broadly likened to the speculative anthology series Black Mirror, which, it turns out, is a bit like comparing The Twilight Zone to Are You Afraid of the Dark? Yes, like the Channel 4/Netflix show, Dimension 404 consists of individual stories loosely inspired by technology. But while Black Mirror is steeped in a fingernail-gnawing sense of foreboding, Dimension 404 is jauntily light-hearted and stuffed full of special effects and recognizable faces. This isn’t television born out of anxiety about the internet so much as high-gloss content born from the internet itself, chock full of nostalgia, splashy visual tricks, and affirmation.
That’s largely because Dimension 404 is created by RocketJump, a production company co-founded by the gamer and VFX artist Freddie Wong, and best known for the web series Video Game High School. That it was able to attract the kind of ensemble cast that it has—Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland, Glee’s Lea Michele, and Community’s Joel McHale, among others—is due to its concept, which is terrific, if wholly unoriginal. The zany, retro opening credits (narrated by none other than Mark Hamill) announce the show’s terrain: an alternate reality located “in the darkest depths of cyberspace … home to wonders unseen and terrors unspeakable.” A technologically savvy and inventive Twilight Zone could be a winner, but Dimension 404 isn’t interested in the psychological machinations that make other works of speculative science fiction so engrossing.