Hulu’s newest series, Dimension 404, is a science fiction anthology series – in the vein of classics like The Twilight Zone and the more recent Black Mirror – with a comedic edge. It would be easy to write this show off as a modernized ripoff of The Twilight Zone, but that’s doing Dimension 404 a disservice.
Sure, there are similarities between Dimension 404 and The Twilight Zone, but since when has it been a bad thing to tell science fiction anthology stories? That’s really where the similarities end. Yes, Dimension 404 has a narrator (played with a sharp wit by Mark Hamill). And yes, Dimension 404 tells mainly speculative future stories that have some kind of “moral” and a plot twist about halfway through the episode. But that’s just a pretty common way to set up 42 minute short films (which is essentially what this series is.)
What makes this unique is its desire to embrace what it is. There’s something genuinely silly about some of the premises in many speculative future stories, so why not enjoy that? Dimension 404 isn’t exactly a parody of science fiction anthologies, but, rather, a love letter to science fiction anthologies – with its tongue firmly in cheek.
For example, the third episode (my personal favorite) is about time travel. But the whole thing centers on a young woman remembering a ’90s cartoon from her childhood. The episode centers around the importance that cartoon had on her life, and how it would affect the future. Naturally, there are some time travel shenanigans that happen, but at its core, it’s a very silly premise. And the episode has a lot of fun with it, calling upon many of the staples and tropes of both ’90s cartoons and time travel stories. At no point does it take itself seriously – it’s silly and it knows it, and that’s what makes this show fun.
The other two episodes currently available take similar routes. Episode 1 revolves around a dating app and episode 2 revolves around a new innovation in cinema. Both premises alone are silly, and the show knows it and has fun with its silliness. Everything is exaggerated and sort of goofy, but that’s where its charm lies. While other shows opt for a more serious approach, Dimension 404 embraces its campiness and just has fun.
The writing for the episodes is clever. The characters are a bit stereotypical, but that’s only to be expected when you’ve got roughly 40 minutes to tell a complete story while introducing and explaining the various science fiction elements. The characters aren’t really the important part. They’re stereotypical so the audience can immediately envision themselves as the character. With the main character of each episode essentially being an audience surrogate, the show is able to throw these odd twists at the audience in the same way that The Twilight Zone did.
Is Dimension 404 as good as The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror? No. But it’s not trying to be. Dimension 404 is trying to be a fun, somewhat campy send-up of science fiction anthology shows. And in this sense, it succeeds. It’s directed and written well, clearly possesses a hefty production budget, well acted, and, most importantly, fun.
If you like your science fiction to not take itself too seriously, Dimension 404 is definitely for you. With lots of well-known names popping up in episodes (episode 1 features Joel McHale and Lea Michelle, episode 2 features Patton Oswalt, and episode 3 features Utkarsh Ambudkar), Dimension 404 offers a mix of comedic talent, fun science fiction ideas, and entertaining visuals. It’s a fun time.
(4 out of 5 wands)
Dimension 404 airs Tuesdays on Hulu.