Fox’s Utopia begins streaming today from southern California, as 15 people–including a pregnant woman–leave sequester in a hotel and move onto a five-acre site, where they’ll attempt to create a new society over the next year. The actual series will debut Sept. 7 after football, and it will air twice weekly after that, on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Unlike Big Brother, there is no real game or rules, though people will leave and go as the result of peer and viewer votes. Also unlike Big Brother, the live feeds are free, sort of: two HD streams are free, but Fox is offering a “premium passport” with four live streams with no ads and access to live chat for $5 a month.
Fox’s web site for the show is very strong for a series that has not yet aired, building interest by revealing behind-the-scenes details on a well-designed platform. This is how you sell a new show to a broadcast audience (not by ignoring it, ahem, ABC). Just look at how they’ve explained that that it’s “Unlike Any Other Show” in conversational language; at one point, the site’s writer calls the concept “madness.”
The first 15 cast members have been revealed, and you can meet them in the video below: “I’m a goddamn patriot”; “put God back at the center, where he belongs, in society”; “I’m polyamorous”; “I’m a sexy beast”; “I’m a raw vegan chef”; “I’m a backwoods hillbilly.” At first glance, especially with these introductions, the cast seems highly annoying and abrasive.
That also makes sense, however; this is a broadcast series that will take two hours of prime-time a week but does not have all of the usual things we expect from a broadcast series, primarily challenges and a strong game component. It’s going to live and die by the storytelling and the characters, so, I can understand why the network would cast big personalities, and I just hope they prove to be more complex than their one-note, obnoxious introductions suggest.