TV Review: ‘Dark Net’

Dark Net TV Review Showtime
Courtesy of Showtime

Without sounding too judgmental about it, “Dark Net” – an eight-part Showtime documentary series – is built around a not-terribly-illuminating premise: That there are all kinds of unorthodox, fetishized relationships out there, available to anyone with a good Internet connection. The temptation, of course, will be to gawk at those profiled within the show, which spans the globe pursuing the unusual, from a dominant-submissive pair – living in different cities and mediated online – to Japanese men attached to a virtual girlfriend named Rinko. While some of it is interesting in a circus-sideshow manner, it feels like a late arrival to the “Catfish” party.

The premiere certainly crams a lot of different stories into a single half-hour, cutting back and forth among them. In addition to the master and slave, there’s a woman who was digitally stalked by a former boyfriend – who posted revenge porn pictures of her – and the aforementioned subscribers to LovePlus, which can’t help but evoke the movie “Her” with its adherents escaping into a strange fantasy in which they interact with Rinko as if she were a real girl, even taking her on dates.

Part of the program’s pitch is that it comes from Vocativ, which, per the press notes, “applies exclusive proprietary technology to search and monitor the deep web” – that is, vast recesses of the Internet that fall outside the reach of regular search engines. But there’s still something of a “So what?” quality to much of that, since it hardly comes as a news flash that the Web has become a means for people to engage in all sorts of fantasies without leaving the comfort of their homes.

Stylistically, “Dark Net” would also benefit from relying less on a cinema-verite style, incorporating some third-party voices beyond its omniscient narrator. Instead, the show seems content to simply present these specific case studies, then essentially dare its audience not to look down on uses of the Web the press materials characterize as “surprising, disturbing and seemingly inevitable.”

Granted, the show fits reasonably well with the lurid niche that Showtime has sought to carve out with its late-night reality fare, from “Gigolos” to “3AM,” built around the premise that all kinds of strange stuff is happening out there, and offering a glimpse into worlds with which relatively few are familiar. Yet other than acknowledging that these subcultures exist, what “Dark Net” doesn’t do is shed much light on them.

TV Review: 'Dark Net'

(Series; Showtime, Thur. Jan. 21, 11 p.m.)


Produced by Vocativ and Part2 Prods.


Executive producers, Danna Rabin, Vivian Schiller, David Shadrack Smith; series producer, Rebecca Ratliff Cameron; supervising producer, Lindsay Washick; series director, Peter Richardson; supervising editor-writer, Jeremy Siefer; music, Justin Melland. 30 MIN.


Narrator: Lauren Terp

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  1. The victims were the good people that are making the world better ( via tech companies hiring Autistic people ) that they mixed with people into a series based on glorifying their deviate activities, then adding graphic nudity. The people who were filmed thinking they were doing a good thing were horrified when they seen this presentation with their family & friends. They were not told this was going to happen. Shame on Showtime, and more shame on that film company that were in my home. You know who you are.

  2. Spike says:

    I think the thing that turns me off about this series, is it plays up to the victims too much. Fundamentally, everyone is responsible for his/her actions and needs to face the consequences of those actions. “Woas me! I got caught up in a cult and cut my family off…. booo hooo.” Suck it up cupcake. Adapt or die.

  3. Jill Ronstaube says:

    Finally someone has exposed the fact that there IS a dark net. Most of the population is unaware that such a thing exists. It’s a cautionary story of where we are in technology, and where we are headed. Sadly, safety on the net is secondary to the race to create new applications for web usage.

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