Fox’s new reality show “Utopia” turned a good concept into trashy television within the first 20 minutes of the pilot episode. The show is designed to document 14 individuals spending one year to create a new community from scratch.
The members of “Utopia” must decide on their own form of government, generate their own electricity, and decide how to farm the land and use the few animals that they were provided.
When I heard about the idea, I was excited to see how the show would play out. It reminded me of 2007 CBS show “Kid Nation.” While watching that show, I was a kid myself, and loved seeing them create their own government and lifestyle free from adult influence.
If I were a member of “Utopia,” the first thing I would do is get to know people and come up with a plan. Any logical person would want to enter a new world on good standings with the other members in the group. That’s why I was floored when 10 minutes into the show, one member started complaining and swearing at everyone else. Naturally, the entire group ended up screaming at each other when they didn’t even know each other’s names.
After that blew over, I thought “OK, now they’re going to get down to business.” Instead, most members decided to go skinny-dipping while a few searched their commune to get ideas for improvement.
As night fell on the first day, the group decided to party, resulting in sexual harassment, fights and alcohol poisoning. I’m going to remind you again: this is the first night of a year in a community which has yet to be created.
The next morning, one of the girls woke up extremely sick from her wild night. This is when I realized the group is not as cut off from the world as Fox wants you to believe. The group has one phone, which at the beginning of the show, viewers were told was uncharged until electricity was generated. Somehow, the Utopians were able to call an ambulance and get the girl to a hospital although they supposedly didn’t have a working phone.
Maybe the large amount of immediate conflict was due to the wide variety of people who were cast to join the community. Among the 14, there is a pastor, a polygamist, a yoga instructor, a pregnant woman and a homeless ex-convict. The casting itself screams drama, which, to me, seems like a way to make the show much less about the community and more about the fighting. If you asked me, I would say that most of the show is probably scripted, but I have no way to support that claim.
Utopia has been on for no more than five episodes, and already the show is losing viewers. Unlike the first episode, which garnered a 2.0 Nielsen rating, following episodes were not broadcast after an NFL game, and ratings quickly dropped.
I will admit I have a weak spot for reality television, but the concept of this show had so much more potential than what it was made to be. If the focus had stayed on creating a new community it could have been enjoyable. I’m sure at some point in the season the cast members will need to buckle down and figure out how to work together, but I will not be sticking around to watch. From the first episode, I don’t see that happening without some over exaggerated drama that leaves viewers rolling their eyes.