Alibi V.25 No.47 • Nov 24-30, 2016 

Idiot Box

Company Man

“Incorporated” on Syfy

In a timely bit of programming, Syfy’s newest series “Incorporated” is set in the year 2074, a dystopian future world in which global warming has reduced most of the world to an impoverished husk and international corporations have been given unlimited power to rule over us 99 percenters. ... Debuting mere weeks after one-man corporation Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, “Incorporated” feels like an ominous predictor of things to come.

Hollywood superstars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are the executive producers behind the series, which was created by the Spanish writing-direction-producing duo of David and Alex Pastor (Carriers, Self/Less, Los Ultimos Dias). That’s enough weight behind the camera to give “Incorporated” significantly more heft than Syfy’s average shot-in-Canada cheese.

In 2074 the world is divided into a series of zones. In the Red Zones, food is scarce, illegal activity is rampant and everyone lives in a Escape From New York-meets-Johannesburg slum. In the Green Zones, however, everyone works for one of the corporations, communities are heavily policed and everything looks like it’s popped straight out of an Apple commercial. Our protagonist in this bifurcated world is Ben Larson (Sean Teale from “Skins,” “Mr Selfridge” and “Reign”). Ben seems like the perfect corporate drone. He toes the company line, is married to an WASPy plastic surgeon and spends all his time trying to climb the corporate ladder.

But Ben’s got a secret. For starters, his name isn’t Ben: It’s Aaron. And it seems he’s engaging in an elaborate, long-term ruse, worming his way into this major corporation so he can find a missing girl. The mystery behind Ben’s motivations form the backbone of the show.

Unlike most other Syfy series, “Incorporated” prefers drama to cheap CGI action. We get some interesting cityscapes, a lot of self-driving cars and a wealth of wearable tech. But this styled-down cyberpunk thriller spends most of its time locked inside glassy, impersonal office buildings. The pilot takes its sweet time laying out Ben/Aaron’s predicament, hinting at a deeper universe but giving us only scraps of information. Lingering in the background are several seemingly important characters. Theo (Eddie Ramos) is a scrappy street kid who happens to be the brother of the woman our protagonist is risking it all to find. Elizabeth (British legend Julia Ormond) is a powerful corporate executive and the mother to Ben’s wife—and, let’s assume, the reason he married the plastic surgeon. (The higher he climbs in the rigidly structured corporation, the more information he has access to.) Finally, we have Julian (Dennis Haysbert from “24”), the company’s very scary head of security who’s always looking for infiltrators and corporate spies to torture.

“Incorporated” is a bit too self-serious for its own good. It doesn’t need to reach “Z Nation”/“Aftermath” levels of silliness, but it could be less grim and stiff-jawed all the time. It could also be more forthcoming about its plot. It’s difficult to get emotionally involved in Ben’s predicament, particularly when we know so little about this girl he’s spent the last six years trying to save. Still, it’s an intriguing premise, and the network should be applauded for moving toward less Sharknado-esque fare.

“Incorporated” premieres Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 8pm on Syfy.