On Tuesday, Channel 4 debuted Utopia, a trendy conspiracy thriller from Spooks producers Kudos, and their slick, high-concept fingerprints are all over this one. So, there’s this comic book called The Utopia Experiments, and it turns out it might be a clue to some big global disease thing.
A bunch of fans who meet via an internet forum devoted to said comic are trying to uncover the mystery, whilst some mysterious bastards are killing them off. Will this be another decade-long Kudos success story like Spooks, or a one-series failure like Outcasts? Let’s guess! (But watch the episode on 4OD first, I’ll probably spoil something.)
Utopia – More Ambitious Than Curtis From Misfits
I’ll give Utopia this: it feels like an ambitious project. The direction is wide and cinematic, huge cast, ambitious ideas, stylistic touches like on-screen internet chats – if you think British drama is too grey and formulaic, this should calm you down. Even better, it doesn’t annoy me by trying too hard to be hip either.
The cast are all strong – geek-show fans will spot Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (aka Curtis from Misfits), playing yet another calmly intense character. He may be typecast, but at least it’s a type he does well. I did sometimes struggle to distinguish all the dark-haired white male characters – especially when one of them suddenly stabbed the other towards the end – but there aren’t any weak links in the talent.
Especially enjoyable is Wilson Wilson (Adeel Akhtar of Four Lions) as the comedy geek character who appears in all these things. Again, predictable type, but still funny when done well.
Utopia – More Not-Dull Than Jack The Ripper
It’s the first episode, so it’s all set-up, but it’s much more engaging, eventful set-up than many tedious pilot episodes – Ripper Street being one recent dull example. Still, the constant exposition and sudden stabbing didn’t give us much chance to engage with the characters. So far, Utopia is a show I’m appreciating and intrigued by, rather than actually caring about.
Don’t get me wrong, my intrigue is real, and enough to get me back for later episodes. But eventually I’m going to need more than just “Hmm, how interesting” to get through an hour plus adverts.
But this is all “Depend what happens next…” conjecture. The first week alone is impressively made and acted, with a clever-looking plot, and we could always use more of that on television. Looking forward to next week’s Utopia, hopefully someone will cry so I can understand them.