Jennifer Rathwell: The Queen Of Screen


Are You Watching: Fox's 'Utopia' Opens With Tepid Ratings

'Utopia' is turning out to be not much of a paradise for viewers

A happy silver rainbow over Utopia. Aww.

I had high hopes for you, Utopia. Maybe we all did—it is utopia, after all.

My television utopia is entertaining, slightly titillating without bordering on offensive or degrading, and definitely escapist fun. If I'm letting the dishes "soak" while I tune in, it needs to be really worth that hour I'm giving you while I should be filling out permission forms and making lunches.

So far, Utopia, you're disappointing, and your ratings are showing it. While it's not uncommon for ratings for a new show to dip a bit as the season really gets started, you're hanging out in the basement of ratings for shows.

The hubs and I eagerly tuned in based on our love of a much better-designed actual social experiment called The Colony that ran on Discovery a few years back. The inhabitants, total strangers, had to take care of themselves, build a society and a shelter, and deal with random threats thrown at them by the producers, including a group of "others" who would occasionally show up to raid camp. There was a heavy scientific slant, and a bit more talk about electrical and trenching than I wanted to hear, but you really got the sense these people were on their own.

Utopia is much more like a cross between Big Brother and Survivor, but with only the super embarrassing brawls and all of the ugliest human behaviour on display, yet none of the remotely interesting scheming. Frankly, America, your Utopians are making you look bad. And the much-vaunted "social experiment" of bringing strangers together to create a society of their own making is pretty weak, given that the location is an idyllic slice of California ranch land with a pre-built shelter, running water (all they had to do was run some hoses for plumbing), and easily connected power (solved in the second episode! Amazing!). Which leaves an awful lot of time for people to get drunk (on supplied as well as "personal item" liquor), get naked, get into fistfights and make inappropriate advances. (Definitely not appropriate for younger viewers and I would even hesitate to watch with a teen, because most of them are better behaved than the cast of this show.)

I was hoping for a little more work to be required, a little less stereotypical arguing (at least 10 of the 14 inhabitants have been labelled a "hothead" by another inhabitant), and a bit more actual danger or hardship that would force these people to actually work together instead of starting cutesy romances and arguing over the merits of quinoa versus canned tuna.

Asking two nights out of my week to follow the adventure is starting to feel like a heavy commitmentnot what I'm looking for in that golden hour I get to myself before bed. Given how much time and promotion (there's an app!?) went into this experiment, FOX may stick with it for at least a while longer. But will we do the same?

Utopia airs Tuesdays and Fridays on FOX. Plenty of other new shows coming up right awaycheck out our Fall TV Preview.