Monday, 13 October 2014

A eulogy: Utopia

So, they did it. They cancelled Utopia.

I found out in a Guardian article, and I have to express my sadness here. Don’t worry, I’ll keep my adulation as short as I can.

Let me start with the one good thing about this cancellation, which is the same ray of light we can take from Firefly’s demise: there has never been a bad episode of Utopia, and there never will be.

I’m rarely evangelical about television shows, but Utopia is in a different league. I was hooked from minute one, devouring the first three episodes like a drug addict shooting up, eyes wide and desperate for more. The acting was flawless. The shots were so beautiful that every scene could have been lifted from the panel of a graphic novel. The plot was daring, the script was inspired. I loved it utterly and completely.

The show follows a group of people brought together by their mutual love of a graphic novel, The Utopia Experiments. They know one another from a chatroom dedicated to the book, and agree to meet when one of their number claims to have obtained a sequel. The novel itself has a background of conspiracy theories and shady dealings: its author penned it obsessively in a mental hospital before committing suicide. When the group meet up, they discover that all the theories were right: there is something awful behind The Utopia Experiments, and now everyone is out to get them.

It’s violent, often shockingly so. Written by playwright Dennis Kelly, (author of, in an odd juxtaposition, Matilda The Musical), the script is unflinching and brutal, with perfect pacing and believable characters. It took risks (such as beginning the second series with a flashback episode which featured none of the characters we were expecting), and the acting was absolutely top-notch.

Oh, I can understand why they cancelled it. I can only imagine the amount of complaints that the violence must have received. But it was original and unexpected. It had three female protagonists, one over the age of 50 (if you don't think that's a big deal, name one TV show which can say the same) and I will continue to describe it to people as the best British TV show of the last ten years.

In short, Utopia made me glad to have paid my license fee. It was funny, political, thrilling, philosophical, and I will miss it. David Fincher is attempting to improve on perfection by creating an American version, and I wish him well.

Channel 4 has said:It’s always painful to say goodbye to shows we love, but it’s a necessary part of being able to commission new drama, a raft of which are launching on the channel throughout 2015.

Well, Channel 4, and all you Gods of television: I hope you come up with something half as good as Utopia, because we’ll be watching. With spoons held behind our backs.

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