It’s never easy when an ongoing television show that has garnered a small yet loyal audience is suddenly put up on the chopping block: Just ask this onetime fan of My So-Called Life or Homefront, two exceptionally well-conceived and executed shows that met their respective demises prematurely by overanxious Hollywood exec’s whose tastes ran more towards ratings bonanzas such as Full House and Yes, Dear. Sometimes, when art meets commerce, it can be a pretty ugly picture indeed.
Our respected cousin in all things pop culture – the vaunted Hollywood Reporter – just announced a perfect example of the above with their news that fan-fave show Utopia was not much longer for the territory. The show about – among other things – a pandemic and conceived from a British show by the same title by scribe-extraordinaire Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) ran but for one lovely season after a long, six year road to even getting to the screen.
Premiering on September 25, Utopia launched with a brilliant cast – John Cusack, Ashleigh LaThrop, Dan Byrd, Desmin Borges, Jessica Rothe, Christopher Denham, Rainn Wilson and Sasha Lane were among the regular cast members – a clever wordsmith in the form of Gillian Flynn (who wrote all eight episodes of the series) and a bevy of super-talented directors (Toby Haynes, Susanna Fogel, Courtney Hunt, J.D. Dillard). Utopia had everything going for it, in fact; everything that is except for luck.
Originally conceived by Flynn for HBO and poised to serve as a collaborative reunion between director David Fincher (Zodiac) and writer, the drama ultimately landed at Amazon sans Fincher where it was greeted by more brickbat bouquets than salutary warmth. And, though it had a strong and early following, it was not enough to push it over the hill for a coveted sophomore season: Rotten Tomatoes.com posted a dismal 51 percent rating from critics.
Critics aside, the show will stand as a creative and sly reference point to the times we currently find ourselves in even as it joins the ranks of other television stories cut prematurely short. From at least one Utopia fan (this guy), may I bark a belated “thank you” to Gillian Flynn and company for trying something a little different and a little more memorable than the so-called “usual suspects.” Utopia will live on in our hearts and imaginations, the true indicator of the fans knowing a good thing when they see it, even when the studio execs can’t quite see past their Alka-Seltzer.