It's a reminder we all need from time to time: follow your heart, gut, balls... whichever part of the body you use to personify your gumption and personality. Writer Dennis Kelly clearly followed his, and the result has been six weeks of Utopia on Channel 4.
What a great show. I consider myself a battle-hardened viewer of unpleasant material, but Episode One managed to leave even me disturbed. I love to be disturbed. That episode felt like a real statement of intent, intended to drag people in (although it may have equally turned off the faint-hearted), and which actually meant Utopia never had to be quite so extreme again. The threat was always there and that was sufficient, give or take the odd school massacre or child watching its mother get shot in the head.
Beyond the jolting violence lay plenty of other treats. Utopia looked fresh (thanks to the stylised widescreen work of directors Marc Munden, Wayne Che Yip and Alex Garcia Lopez, not to mention everyone else involved on that side of things), sounded fresh and brilliantly ignored several TV rules. The whole thing felt like a beast unbound, in a world where anything could happen. That's rare enough in film, let alone the more constrained world of TV.
Those who switched off early, perhaps assuming Utopia was just going to be a load of shooting and torture, missed out on a Huge Underlying Question worthy of Russell T Davies, along with a conspiracy plot which kept unfolding and surprising. Among an ensemble of strong performances were two actors who absolutely demanded you keep your eyes on them. You couldn't not watch Arby (Neil Maskell) and Jessica (Fiona O'Shaughnessy), seen in the photo above. Two amazing examples of character and actor blending in an utterly compelling way.
Regardless of how well Utopia did in the ratings, I can confidently predict it will reach countless more people via 4OD (as I type, all six episodes are still available to view), DVD and Blu Ray. Its place as a cult classic is already assured.
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