The Fall Of Utopia
I loved the FOX Series Utopia. I checked the websites, I watched the livestreams and I made sure to watch every episode as soon as I could. So when FOX abruptly cancelled the show, just a couple of months into the yearlong “experiment,” I was devastated. Over time, I’m sure I’ll recover, but I have given thought to the show’s unfortunate demise.
FOX was overly ambitious with this show. They plugged it as a yearlong experiment, there were ads everywhere, and they even set up a live stream into a five acre plot of land. So with that much backing, why did it fail? The problem was the lack of competition. There wasn’t a lack of drama, but there was a lack of urgency. There were no real consequences for failure on the part of the settlers. Early on, one of my favorites (Huntress Hex, what can I say? Gotta root for the Motown Katniss.) got dehydration from a night of excessive drinking. What happened? She was taken to an outside hospital and given fluids until she was better. This kinda makes their “experiment” look more like a summer camp. In fact, the constant contact with the outside world made most of utopia feel like an adult summer camp.
And the drama? Well, unfortunately, each week wasn’t able to give the initial two episodes worth of material to air. So they cut back to one. Still, there wasn’t enough drama to keep the viewers hooked. Why? No competition.
Since my wife is a major Reality TV, I’ve seen more than my fair share of shows. The successful ones focus on competition, drama and sex. If you’re lacking one aspect or another, you try to beef up the others. Jersey Shore had no competition that I’m aware of, but it lasted because it had drama to spare. Big Brother and Survivor are still on the air today because they get a good mix of all three. FOX’s cancelled show, “I Wanna Marry Harry,” which I reviewed a while back, tried out a Joe Millionaire style deception, but lacked a focus on competition and drama, focusing it all on, “hey is this guy Prince Harry?”
So while Utopia had the drama (in moderate doses) and sex (a bit in the beginning that quickly tapered off), there was no real competition. So what happened? It fizzled. How could Utopia have been a success? I’m glad you asked. I’ve got an idea about that.
Falcon’s Reality Show Proposal (Work in Progress)
In the beginning you set up an odd number of people in a clearing with two stacks of equipment. No established settlement to just move into. You start with a socializing bit where we get to know everybody there. Next there’s an event. The winner and runner-up of the event become settlement leaders. The loser (worst of the bunch) is gone, right then and there. Once the two settlement leaders are chosen, they choose settlers for their settlements.
Now that the two settlement groups are chosen, there’s another quick event, a test of team work to determine who gets the better equipment stack. The better equipment stack has a few amenities that make surviving a little bit better. The teams get their equipment and split to go to settlement areas (Probably guided by a host). There they have the rest of the equipment needed to set up permanent structures and a full settlement. By now the day is mostly over, so they have very little time to set up a place to sleep for the night.
Maybe I’m a sadist, but I think neither side should have the ability to make fire yet. It would make an interesting event the next day or two later. The Quest for Fire. Once they get to set up their settlement, it’s up to them to get everything running. They need a system of government, permanent structures, food prep and a source of clean water. Not to mention a toilet of some sort.
Now that you have two separate groups, you have two separate sets of drama, different problems.
So what now? Now you have competitions that pit the settlements against each other. What do they win? More supplies, maybe food, maybe tools, what have you. Maybe even a new settler. After some time, once the settlements reach a certain point or the appropriate number of people have been added, you start getting rid of the weakest members. The losing settlement loses a member after each event until there’s only enough people left for one settlement.
Now, instead of getting to keep their established settlements, they have to salvage as much as they can from each settlement and bring it to the first area where the competition started. (This is also where all the other events would have been held.)
Now they reveal the prize to the settlers. Up to now they haven’t known they were going to compete for a prize, they’ve gotten rid of the weakest people and now only strong competitors are left. Now, not only do they have to keep a settlement going, but now it gets a bit Survivor-ish. Now they all vote to see who gets eliminated. The bottom two compete to see who stays. In the end, the top three compete to see who wins the prize. The winner of course wins the prize, the bottom two get the opportunity to come back and head up the two teams for next season.
That reality show just kicked Utopia in the ass.
So, what do you think? Do you have a reality show idea? Did you love or hate Utopia? Let me know in the comments.