Netflix just released one if its most mind-bending original series ever, and although Maniac may be a bit confusing at times, it is guaranteed to take viewers on a wild ride through a strange and inventive new world that is a lot like our own in many ways, but drastically different in others. As you are just starting the new sci-fi series, you will probably find yourself asking questions like where and when does Maniac take place? It takes a little bit of time to get a real feel for the show's strange new world, but as it goes on, you will likely realize that it is not too much different from our own.
The strangeness of Maniac kicks off right away, as we follow the potentially schizophrenic black sheep of his family Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) and the broke, drug-addicted Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) as they navigate this science fiction version of New York City. For the most part, New York City remains the same, but there are a bunch of striking differences. First, we learn about a new service of payment called AdBuddy, which basically brings those annoying Internet pop-up ads to life as actual human beings. If you are out of cash, you can signal one of these AdBuddies to pay for whatever you are trying to purchase at the price of having to listen to them pitch a bunch of products or services to you for some amount of time.
Through Owen's AdBuddy, we learn of a bunch of other strange services in the world of Maniac, such as the ability to sign up to step in as the spouse for a widow, or become a Friend Proxy, basically a mail-order friend. You will see more of these sci-fi services as the show goes on. There are also some out-of-the-ordinary things that are treated as normal in this world, like little sanitation robots that roam the streets cleaning up dog poo and other trash. But the most inexplicable comes in Episode 2, when one of Annie's friend plays chess against a talking koala bear puppet in the park and nobody seems to give it a second thought.
With all this bizarreness going on, you are probably wondering what the rules are in the world of Maniac. Well, all we really have to go off of is Netflix's official description, which says that the series is set "in a world somewhat like our world, in a time quite similar to our time." So basically, we are not in the future here — Maniac is set in pretty-much present day, in pretty-much New York City. It is really just a different dimension or timeline of the world, which led our present day to be filled with AdBuddies and sanitation robots and living koala bear puppets rather than the stuff we are used to.
So, yeah — this is not the future, it is the present. But as the series goes on, time and space are sure to be played with much more, so buckle up.