Utopia, Fox’s new reality series in which a group of people are put into a bare-bones camp in a remote location north of Los Angeles County to form a new society and “rethink all the fundamental tenets of civilization,” hasn’t even debuted yet and already the natives — who’ve been there less than a week — are at war with each other.
“Coming to the most basic decisions has been next to impossible for them” just six days into the experiment, EP Jon Kroll said this afternoon on a phone call with the media and Fox EVP Simon Andreae. “Agreeing on anything” is the Utopians’ biggest challenge to date. “I almost think we cast it too well,” Kroll said happily. “They are so incredibly different that coming to the most basic decisions has been next to impossible for them.” A week into the yearlong experiment, there already has been a movement by some in Utopia to secede from the union.
Already, many of the males in Utopia are battling for alpha-dog status, though one of the women is giving them a good run, according to the execs on the call, which comes ahead of Sunday’s two-hour series premiere. And if you guessed it was Hex, described by the show as a “headstrong hunter … six feet of twisted steel and sex appeal” whose “primary game is to bring lessons from Utopia back to Detroit, her hometown” where her status is “unemployed” — you get extra points for understanding the wonderful world of stereotyping that is reality TV casting.
The internecine warfare has been captured on cameras since the Utopians arrived at their new home six days ago – like C-SPAN. Except, of course, when Hex got whisked to the hospital last weekend, for what turned out to be a case of dehydration. That was off limits for viewing by even the experiment’s 24/7 livestream — which already is up and running — because the network and producers didn’t know if her condition was serious, Kroll explained. “We just want to be careful,” he said.
Hard to know how much of this is just hyperbole from studio executives who want big ratings when the show debuts.
Yet, this may have some potential as a reality-TV version of Lord of the Flies. What happens when you put a diverse group of modern-day Americans in a situation where they need to create things from scratch? They have all sorts of learned notions about society and how life should be lived but will be applying them in a new context. However, given the nature of reality TV, it is hard to know how much of the situation on-screen is engineered by producers. I, for one, would want producers to take a more hands-off approach and see what happens but I imagine they will be unwilling to do that, particularly if ratings need a boost.
A side thought: how far away are we from a TV version of The Hunger Games?