USA’s ‘Robo’-Call Talks The Talk

Related: Hack to The Future

USA hacker-slackerhit Mr. Robot is full of surprises, so it only made sense that the drama was a shocker at the Golden Globes Jan. 10, coming away with two prestigious prizes. Star Rami Malek was up for a SAG award for outstanding performance in a drama, which went to Kevin Spacey of House of Cards, but Mr. Robot grabbed three Critics Choice prizes, including best drama.

Creator Sam Esmail and the writers are at work on the new season, which is slated to air on USA this summer. Until then, many are catching up with the 10-episode first season, which sees a bug-eyed young hacker in a hoodie, played by Malek, thwart cyber attacks by day and launch new ones by night. The show is heavy on hacker jargon, monitor screens filled with indecipherable code. One staff writer, Kor Adana, worked in cyber-security before writing for television. Along with a few tech consultants, he makes sure the tech-speak is authentic for the small minority who might actually understand it.

One need not speak that strange language to enjoy Mr. Robot, which is as much about alienation, depression and addiction in the big city as it is hacker stuff. “It’s story and character,” said Chad Hamilton, executive producer, on the reason for the show’s popularity. “It’s that simple. There are character moments and story threads that people can relate to their own lives.”

Esmail initially saw Mr. Robot as a feature film, and has said the first season represents the first 30 minutes of the movie. (Appropriately enough, the show premiered at Austin’s South by Southwest film festival last spring.)

Speaking at the TCA winter press tour in January, Esmail said the Golden Globe trophy will stay out of the writers’ room. “We just won this massive award, which is humbling and flattering and obviously surreal,” he said. “But we try and keep that out of the room because, at the end of the day, it’s about telling the story, and that’s where our hearts are.”

Season 1 of Robot averaged 1.36 million viewers in the 18-49 group, and 2.74 million total viewers. On-demand usage of the show has doubled since the Golden Globe wins, USA says.

Hamilton acknowledges the pressure of delivering a standout sophomore season, but says it’s nothing new. “There’s always pressure—there was a lot of pressure in season 1,” he said. “We have a lot to live up to.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.