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Tuesday 19 February 2013

Television on Tuesday: Utopia - a quick review

Utopia is a soon to be finishing six-part British series that aired on Channel Four. I've just watched the first two episodes last night online and was moved to write this little review about my immediate thoughts.

At first impressions, it seems like it should have all the qualities that would make it, if not universally popular, then at least the sort of thing that is normally popular with me. I do like a twisting plot, characters that have a bit of substance about them (and are well acted), a bit of conspiracy, and some good old thrills and shocks. Now, while Utopia does have all these things, it still left me feeling rather empty. I wondered why?

The plot of the series seems like it is a homage to various British comic book series (the likes of Warren Ellis and Alan Moore spring to mind) and visually it seems setup in mind of large comic book panels with lots of one colour repeatedly being used (yellow, blue, purple, etc). That the entire programme begins in a comic book store (above, and note the name! very Alan I thought) and is about, indirectly, an 'insane' comic book artist is also no surprise.

So, it's got all this going for it. I thought the main protagonists extremely well-developed and well acted (especially enjoyed Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), but after watching the two episodes I had very little that really stuck with me. It all seemed very derivative and manipulative. 

Indeed, perhaps due to its relation with so many other similar conspiracy thrillers (of various formats) I was able to predict most of the major events in both episodes (and minor, I called the 'mission accomplished' line five minutes beforehand) and not that I normally watch a programme trying to 'figure it out'. I enjoy a good film noir and let it take me along for the ride, I don't analytically observe and try and solve the mystery as if a type of puzzle. Anyway, that I fell into this mode with Utopia and was almost always correct in my guesses, I took for my boredom with the not-so-twisting plot. I'm really not one for mysterious all-powerful ex-government organisations that can kill indiscriminately and operate beyond the law (bored by Bourne).

Mostly what annoyed me was the predictably graphic, but not very graphic, violence. Violence used merely as a titillating shock is extremely repugnant to me. I'm not offended or disturbed by it (perhaps I should be... just another desensitised adult...) I just find it really rather lazy.

Would I watch any more? Probably not, but I wouldn't go out of my way to avoid it either. Could have been so much better.