Puking pioneers, drunken fistfights and a plan to turn chickens into farm slaves… oh, my!
UTOPIA — Fox’s big budget “social experiment” — could possibly be the most compelling, must-see reality program ever.
Just not in that high-production, cinematic, Mark Burnett kind of way.
This $50 million TV event — which many expected to be a mashup of SURVIVOR and KID NATION — is actually more like a batshit crazy, outdoor version of THE REAL WORLD (with more nudity and fewer twenty-somethings).
But that is a huge part if it’s appeal.
The setup couldn’t be simpler: 15 strangers — including an ex-con (Dave), the world’s most annoying survivalist/prepper (Bella) and a hot-headed contractor who can’t hold his liquor (Josh) — spend one year attempting to start their own society on a secluded campground in Southern California.
“What could possibly go wrong?” you ask.
Well EVERYTHING, as it turns out. And that’s just what Fox was hoping for.
The unpredictable, anything-goes nature of UTOPIA — and its cast of crazies — is precisely what makes it so hard to turn away from.
And, as an upland bonus, UTOPIA is also one of the season’s most unexpected new comedies.
Be honest — who didn’t laugh out loud when Bella began to explain how building a “chicken tractor” to work the farm was more important than equipping the living quarters with electricity or running water?
My wife gave up and threw in the towel after 15 minutes. But this is not a show for people who watch DOWNTON ABBEY.
By the end of Sunday night’s two hour premiere, I was completely hooked.
Here’s 11 reasons why:
1. HEX THE HUNTRESS: The first pioneer to arrive at UTOPIA is carrying a bow and arrow to shoot for food. She calls herself “six feet of twisted steel and sex appeal” — but ends up projectile vomiting (thanks, FOX, for the graphic images) on her second day and is rushed to the hospital with what appears to be alcohol poisoning.
2. NO ONE GETS ALONG: Within the first ten minutes, former drug dealer Dave — who was recently homeless — has a meltdown that would make any toddler proud when the team is forced to downsize all of their belongings into one small crate. Later, Aaron (a chef by trade) basically threatens to kill “backwoods hillbilly,” Red. (Spoiler alert: no one dies…yet)
3. THE BAR IS OPEN: Producers didn’t leave their cast with toilet paper or bug spray, but they made sure to have enough booze on hand to instigate plenty of fistfights and inappropriate sexual advances.
4. CLOTHING IS OPTIONAL: The female pioneers are putting impure thoughts into the head of pastor Jonathan by parading around the compound as if it is some sort of nudist resort. Will the weeping father of two become the Tantric sex partner Nikki the “yoga doctor” is so desperately looking for?
5. NO ONE IS AFRAID TO GO TO HELL: While Jonathan attempts to lead a quick prayer before the group’s first meal, Josh keeps interrupting and asking for someone to pass him food. We later discover that several other community members — including atheist Hex — have very strong (and differ) religious beliefs.
6. CHICKEN…IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER: One of the birds presumably intended to supply eggs for food is found dead just hours after cameras begin to roll. Was it suicide? We’ll never know, as Red bucks health warnings from chef Aaron and proceeds to dismember the bird on camera then cook up his “1/15” share of the community property.
7. YOU NEVER KNOW WHO WILL HOOK UP WITH WHO: I wasn’t shocked to see polyamorous “dancer” Dedeker kiss her boyfriend, her other boyfriend and her girlfriend goodbye as she left for her year in UTOPIA. But who expected pregnant Amanda– a behavioral specialist from Seattle — to suggest that she is in a relationship with another woman. During a conference call with reporters this week, the network’s head of alternative programming boasted the show has “a major undercurrent of physical and sexual and romantic attraction, and people seem to be trying to pick who might be their partner in Utopia.” He also noted, “more than one is bisexual or poly-sexual, so it’s not an easy environment to navigate.”
8. RED: The people of Kentucky must be so proud to have this toothless handyman (real name: Arthur Van Winkle) furthering stereotypes about their state. He is easily the loose cannon of the group and had one of the best lines of the premiere: “I can’t fix stupid and there’s a whole lotta stupid around here!” Fun Fact: This is not Red’s first time on reality TV. He appeared in October 2013 on Discovery channel’s BLUE GRASS BOYS, where he listed his occupation as a marijuana grower.
9. LOVE IS IN THE AIR: It took just one night for the first Utopian romance to heat up. Veterinary aide Bri, 20, and musician Chris, 25, decided to get busy underneath a blanket — just a few feet away from their fellow pioneers. Way to keep it classy, guys. Am I the only one who wonders if producers supplied them with condoms?
10. MR. MUSTACHIO IS IN DA HOUSE: Nothing says “we don’t take ourselves too seriously” like the hiring of newspaper cartoonist Dan Piraro as your host and narrator. If this show is a hit, I predict the handlebar mustaches will be all the rage for the first time in about 70 years.
11. IT’S ALWAYS ON! Can’t wait ’til Tuesday night for another fix? You can tune in to a raw feed of the action as it happens, 24 hours a day, at UtopiaTV.com.
UTOPIA airs Tuesday and Friday at 8:00 PM on Fox.
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