After less than a month on the air, Fox’s Utopia has announced how cast members will be voted off the show, changing a previously-announced format by adding the ability for viewers to nominate someone for eviction.
Before Fox’s press release came out, Entertainment Weekly published a story headlined “Fox shakes up ‘Utopia’: Castmates to be voted out.” To me, that read kind of like: NBC shakes up Biggest Loser: Contestants to be weighed! because voting was always part of the plan. The article says “producers have previously maintained that cast changes would likely happen along the way, only within the last week has the new format been decided,” and EW reporter James Hibberd told me that, “Regardless of what was said, Fox wasn’t sure what they were going to do, or when, until this week”; he later confirmed that he meant Fox executives.
Earlier this month, before the show started airing, Utopia executive producer Jon Kroll detailed the voting on Twitter; I summarized the process. What was announced today differs in two not-insignificant ways, which I confirmed with Kroll:
- Viewers now get to nominate someone. Previously, viewer votes would have only broken a tie.
- The person who’s evicted will be voted out by the cast, not chosen for eviction by the replacement cast member.
- The replacement cast member won’t arrive until the other person is gone.
This is how Fox describes the change:
“The replacement process begins this week when the Utopians are advised that they must nominate for exile two pioneers who have not pulled their weight. Meanwhile, between now and Saturday, Sept. 27 at 9:00 AM PT, UTOPIA passport holders also will have the opportunity to nominate a third pioneer for exile online at UtopiaTV.com. […]
Once the three pioneers – two selected by the Utopians and one chosen by passport-holding viewers — have been determined, the Utopians will then vote and decide which one will pack his/her crate and be exiled from UTOPIA forever. To find a replacement, two new pioneers — “Newtopians” — will be invited to Utopia, where they will spend several days vying for the open spot, with the 14 remaining Utopians ultimately choosing who will stay and who will go home. In the event a tiebreaker is needed, the votes of passport holders will break the tie.”
While this change does make the show a little more like Big Brother than it ever intended to be, it does offer additional hope that the terrible cast members can be replaced because viewer nominations will communicate something to the cast about how they’re being perceived. As I’ve written before, the problem with the show is not the format (which is more The Real World than Survivor) nor the production (which is generally outstanding), but that the show cast the wrong people.