"People talk of Utopia in the present tense when they discuss it."
March 20, 2017 9:17 AM   Subscribe

British conspiracy thriller Utopia [ previously / fanfare ] aired from 2013-14 and won an International Emmy for Best Drama. The Media Experiences project recently released the results of their production & audience research [pdf] into the cult drama. Drawing on over 70 interviews, the report highlights the show's transgressive aesthetics and its moral questions as appealing to an international audience that's remained in ongoing conversation with the show and its themes. In illustration, fanmade video essay "Utopia: Reinventing Onscreen Violence" analyzes how the show disrupts usual cinematic narratives of violence and stokes anxiety by disorienting binaries. (Links contain graphic violence & spoilers for the entire show.)
posted by mixedmetaphors (12 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Very interesting research into a fine tv series.
posted by doctornemo at 10:46 AM on March 20


Yeah, I enjoyed the video. I thought the series devolved from, like, the best thing ever into pretty stock scifi tropes even during the first season. The music was always amazing.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:24 PM on March 20


Even if you never watch this series. Do yourself a favor and watch that opening sequence in the Comic Book shop. It's epic.
posted by Fizz at 1:09 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]


A comic I created is in that scene. :-)
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on March 20 [13 favorites]


Just a couple of days ago out of nowhere the thought came that I need to revisit this show, and I posted that on Facebook, though I doubt any of my friends who haven't already seen it will bother with just my urging, so maybe some of the stuff here will help interest them. Thanks.
posted by old_growler at 3:24 PM on March 20


I binged the first season. I didn't hate it, but I felt that it was entirely driven by twists. It seemed like every character's primary motivation was "do something the audience won't expect." As a result, I wasn't attached enough to anyone to wonder what happened to them in Season 2.
posted by justkevin at 3:25 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]


Watching the first season I convinced myself of conspiracies, connections, and schemes that actually weren't part of the plot.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 3:34 PM on March 20


Who is streaming Utopia these days? I've heard so much about the series and haven't been able to find a way to watch it.
posted by emelenjr at 4:01 PM on March 20


An incredible series that was impossible to show people because no one over here streams it and the import discs won't play.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:03 PM on March 20


@emelenjar, I haven't seen it streaming anywhere lately. You can get the two series combo on a non-U.S. DVD on Amazon cheap, then just rip it and play it however. Or you can see if it fell off the back on an internet somewhere via torrent. Not that I would ever advise that. It looks like it _may_ be streaming here, but I cannot tell since I am not in the U.K. and it won't work for me.
posted by old_growler at 4:05 PM on March 20


This show petered out extremely quickly for me, after a fairly strong start. I think I packed in in about two thirds of the way through season 1. Soundtrack was well Mexico, however.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:43 PM on March 20


I think what was remarkable about Utopia is the emotional and aesthetic response it can elicit in some people - this is why the fans are so passionate about it. Certainly at the time it was made it summed up a lot of what the world felt like for a number of people, and the moral ambiguity-verging-on-inversion along with the violence and casual cruelty amplified that. In a lot of ways it reminds me of [Blue] Jam in that way, although the latter's sketch format meant that it was a lot purer in its aim while at the same time being more alienating. Utopia was quite beguiling in its beauty and its serviceable thriller plot, but the plot was a delivery mechanism for the emotional and moral world.

Another thing it reminds me of is Kid A by Radiohead, perhaps oddly, perhaps not.

The first episodes of both series were extraordinary - the 70s episode most of all. I'd have liked an entire series of those sociopaths, but never mind. I agree that both deflated somewhat after those initial bursts, but then, as I say, it wasn't the plot I was interested in - that was just a pretext.

They made the same mistake that the makers of Akte Människor did, of ending the second series on a dramatic cliffhanger in expectation of a huge third series that never arrived. It seems like resources that might have been used for the third season of Utopia were directed towards Humans, the English language version of Akte Människor. I must admit I don't rate Humans anywhere near as highly as the other two series, though.
posted by Grangousier at 3:38 AM on March 21 [3 favorites]


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