I am going to have to ask you to stop watching BuckWild. Stop watching Dance Moms. Stop anything with Charlie Sheen in it. Just stop. You’re better than that.
It’s not that I am staunchly against the content or unsatisfied with the lazy production or how “real” a reality show is, there are many aspects of tv that people may or may not enjoy so watch what your heart desires. But I am fed up with television being considered and practiced as a waste of time and a distraction from the human condition when it can be so much more.
I would like to advocate for your time, for you. Yes I realize there are probably better things to do with your time than watch tv, but let’s be realistic, 99% of people watch “tv” whether that is online, through cable or at their doctor’s office. And viewership needs to be further defined: pulling up a 15 min TED talk about brain development could not be father away from plopping down in front of the tv for a 7 hour Next Top Model Marathon with your best friends Ben & Jerry. So let’s do it responsibly and in a constructive way. What is important is how we choose to watch: this is not to say we should all only be watching the discovery channel and natgeo: yeah, those programs are “educational” but unless you like camera porn (like me), nature documentaries are only going to be entertaining for so long. So here goes.
There is something special about fiction that allows us a sense of justice or satisfaction from a reality that does not exist.
Maybe it could exist?
What if I was in that situation?
From everything I have learned, is this how it would play out?
Fiction is an exploration of our imaginations, a testing ground for the “what if?” and our motivations for doing so. My favorite example is sci-fi because not only do we look into the possible future, we predict what that may look like and then the predictions become the blueprint, or subsequently a warning. Similarly, historical fiction looks back to our past and “modernizes” the message to our delicate 21st century sensibilities. With the numerous revamps and retellings of classic stories being manufactured by Hollywood, it’s not difficult to see how this process can easily go overboard with too much invested into lens flares and 3D.
So finally this brings us to the inspiration for the inception of this column, a little British series called “Utopia”. Before seeing the first episode pop up online, I had heard nothing about this show. Reading the tagline goes much like starting any other show:
When five strangers from an online comic book forum agree to meet after gaining possession of the original manuscript for the cult graphic novel ‘The Utopia Experiments’, they find themselves pursued by a shadowy organisation known as The Network who are in pursuit of the manuscript – and they are prepared to kill to track it down.
Ok cool. Comic book, shadowy organization, …prepared to kill for it. Seems unique with just enough to hook me in to what must be another scifi procedural. Then the first scene:
(I can tell you they do not walk out to continue their search peacefully)
….where is she? This show is not like others and it could not be more refreshing. I immediately felt shocked and riveted after the comic book store scene, and that’s where the show starts.
Utopia has succeeded in melding together a story that is disconcerting, foreboding and confident with a mix of technical prowess, bold choices and a chilling soundtrack. The characters are superbly acted and not halfbaked: one moment they are built up only to be tore down by the next episode and the viewer never knows who to trust fully. Sprinkle on top a few truly horrifying scenes and strikingly beautiful camera work and you have the formula to keep me up all night thinking about this show. More specifically, I have never seen editing in a show like this before: smash cuts from intense, uneasy, electronically scored violence to palatial, serene, environmental vignettes.
I wish I could send you to Utopia on Channel 4’s site, but unfortunately only UK residents can stream the episodes (lame).
Without spoiling one iota of the story, Utopia excels in asking the hardest of questions and then giving you the tools to decide for yourself. Hopefully it gets ported to American tv soon, but until then do everything you can to see this show! I cannot recommend it enough. Scour the internet; you can’t regret it. And its gotta at least be better than Honey Boo Boo, right?
Leave me a comment; I’ll reply.