Oh Utopia. I’ve followed you from before the first episode aired. Eagerly waking up early to log on to the live feeds and watch what was happening in the wonder-filled compound. I quickly signed up for a passport, and downloaded the app to my phone. Not only that, but I convinced others to give you a try, and they were hooked too. It was a magical time before the first episode. A time of rose colored glasses, hopes, and chickshaws.
But then, the first episode aired. It was clear that this show wasn’t going to pull the numbers that were hoped for. It tarnished the “utopia experience” in a way that I never thought was possible. Now a month later, the time has come for us to bid adieu. With your average ratings of just 1.8 million viewers, the loss of one of your nights, and the steady decline of the show, we all know that you are not long for this television world. But before we finally part ways, let us go over the top five things you did right, and the top five things that were very wrong.
Top five things that Utopia did right
1. Connected viewers to the show in a unique way via live feeds.
By being able to view the live feeds any time we wanted, we were able to become super invested in the cast in a way that has never been done before. We were able to see what was really happening in Utopia. Who was honest, who lied, who hooked up with who, and most importantly, we got to watch cute animals. It truly was a neat way to present a show.
2. Editing of the show was honest and fair
Utopia was edited in such a way that no one was shown in a way that was any different than they were really behaving. Bella really did talk to herself and come off a bit crazy. Aaron really was sneaking behind their backs to cut deals. Red’s fits were the real deal, and Bri’s laziness wasn’t editing magic. She really is just that lazy. No one was portrayed negatively, and no one person received more air time than anyone else.
3. Allowing viewers to interact with the Utopians
Who wouldn’t want to go to the set of their new favorite show and hang out with the cast? By allowing viewers in, they became even more invested in the show which guarantees at least a few viewers who will watch religiously. Plus it was a genius way to make the Utopians accountable for their actions, finances, and public appearances. It forced them back from the mentality of “it’s just a show, they’ll edit it” to “holy cow. My mom watches this.”
4. Round the clock watching of the animals
Let’s face it. Bri is not the most competent person around when it comes to the welfare of farm animals. Sure, she may be a vet assistant, and have some experience with treating animals. But she doesn’t understand the basic needs of cows, chickens, or really anything that doesn’t bark or meow. By having the vets always on call, you guys rocked it at saving some of the most beloved cast members of Utopia, the cows and chickens.
5. Offering paid and free Passports to the viewers
By giving us the option of paying for more live feeds, it made us further invested in the show. Once you pay for something, you own a part of it. Instead of forcing us all to pay just to watch the feeds, you gave the option of having two live feeds. Sure, you still had to sign up, but you still got to experience more of Utopia. Even without the paid passport, a free holder is able to vote, share comments, and interact with the show. You understood that some of the viewers might not be able to afford the paid one, and still gave them more.
Five things Utopia did wrong
1. People were allowed to leave the show
Utopia was supposed to be a place where people would go in, have conflicting views, work through them, and show us that we all can live better. Alas, it was too good to be true. You allowed people to leave because they got upset and the rest of the group decided they couldn’t handle them any more. Now, a few left due to medical reasons and came back days later, with the exception of one. That’s totally understandable. You can’t just let people die in there, or have to make the choice between a show and their health. But not coming back because the group doesn’t want to deal with it anymore? That’s super not cool.
2. The live feeds
A positive, and a negative. Unfortunately, if you did not watch the live feeds, when the episodes rolled around you just got the jist of what had been happening in Utopia. The episodes showed things that had happened in the past week out of order, which frustrated some live feed viewers. There was no connecting thread among the episodes to keep one coming back to see what was going to happen next. Basically, the episodes were just a really long recap.
3. Allowing the Utopians to vote on who stayed, and who left
By giving the Utopians this control, you basically guaranteed to lose a fair amount of viewers. You gave us power by telling us we could vote for who left, and we voted. We made our choice loud and clear. When time came for that person to be voted out, we found out that really, the Utopians got to say who was going to go. As for the new comers, you like to tell us those polls are to gauge who is going to stay, but then you let the Utopians pick. Where is the surprise for them? Where is the natural conflict from them being forced to get along with a new person we picked? There will be none soon, as the party crew will grow larger, and the working crew smaller.
4. Two episodes a week
I’ll be the first to admit that I was super excited that there was going to be two episodes a week the first week. However, after that first premier week, watching Utopia twice a week felt a bit forced. Sure, it was fun, but there are other things on Tuesday that I would much rather watch. The show just didn’t hold my interest when put up against other big name shows during prime time. Should have just gone with an hour and a half slot on Fridays to keep the interest and be able to flesh out the show. Plus, it would have given you more editing time.
5. Too much public interaction
Another positive and negative. Being able to go to Utopia is a great idea. Interacting with people you’ve been watching, being able to taste a bit of how they live, taking home a piece of Utopia…it all sounds so idealistic. However, this was supposed to be a show that created a new society from the ground up. How are they going to be able to do that when all they are focused on is becoming famous, making money, and looking good for the people outside the gates? Sure, a little interacting with the outside via doctors, vets, delivery people, and those who can barter like the bee keeper are good. Keeps them a bit grounded that people are watching, and it’s not Survivor. But when too many people go in, all that “Let’s restart society!” cheer goes out of the window. How are you to build a new world, when you can’t leave the old one behind?
I truly did have high hopes for Utopia. It was a show that held such promise for me, was interesting on a sociological level, and just plain fun. After every episode that aired, I just found my little balloon of happiness for the show deflating. The live feeds were great to watch, when there was time. Not being able to keep up with the feeds, and then watching the episodes made everything feel lack luster. On the other hand, watching the live feeds, and then watching the episodes made everything feel rushed, misplaced and just not good. Utopia, oh, Utopia. You had two nights a week, now you are down to one. I am honestly not sure how long you will keep limping along. Just know, you will always hold a spot in the reality shows section of my heart.
Bonus Thing Done Right:
Dan Piraro as the narrator. That man is just so dapper and a refreshing change from the typical show host.