Utopia 2020 is the American remake of British drama Utopia, which had an excellent – and surprisingly violent – first series, but then threw out any semblance of plot for the second series. By the way that ended – even with a cliffhanger – the expected drop in ratings led to its cancellation, even though a third series would’ve wrapped things up.
(Obviously, the US version is also just called ‘Utopia’, but, y’know, Google SEO.)
This time round, a young couple move into a new house, but it’s full of junk from the previous owner. The original series was based around a bizarre graphic novel with the same name as the series and centred around a girl called Jessica Hyde (Sasha Lane, in this case). In this case, they come across various pages of it in the house, and thinking if they can find more, they’ll make their fortune, especially since it’s the conclusion to another famous graphic novel, Dystopia.
Several characters within a particular group are interested and, once again, there’s a Wilson Wilson (Desmin Borges), the germophobe who always stayed off-grid and called himself by that name because he thought it was the most inconspicuous… even though it always seemed the complete opposite.
The original started off with one of many memorable scenes, as Arby and Lee overstayed their welcome in a comic book shop on the hunt for Utopia. If you didn’t comply with their demands, it didn’t end well for you. And if you DID comply with their demands, it STILL didn’t end well for you.
Here, the same group of main characters all meet up at a convention – Samantha (Jessica Rothe), Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop), Ian (Dan Byrd) and Wilson Wilson, finding themselves amongst others offering bids for Utopia, and for a number of those others who cosplay, they dress up as characters from it.
So, whereas the UK series started off with a bang and kept going, the US series feels very limp by comparison for the majority of the first episode, but in due course, it does start to hit home. I am obviously not going to go into details – especially prior to broadcast – but all I can say is that if you did enjoy the UK series, then you may not find enough to get stuck into with this series’ first episode. There are elements of violence, but no-one can perfect the weird and psychotic Arby like Neil Maskell in the original. Whoever Christopher Denham is, I can see what he’s aiming for in his character’s search for the manuscript, but it doesn’t come off anywhere near as well.
Oh, and despite John Cusack (Being John Malkovich) having top billing, he’s not in the first episode, but he is in it from the second. That, I can confirm. Well, that and the fact that similar to the UK series, this one is also presented in a 2.39:1 Cinemascope-style widescreen ratio.
After watching two episodes, the second of which recreates a very specific scene from the UK’s first episode, this is too much of a copy of the UK show for me, and based on these two, it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. I’d rather Amazon had taken the original cast and given us a continuation of that instead, since Channel 4 had cancelled it after two series.
Utopia 2020 streams from Friday September 25th on Amazon Prime.
The series isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, but you can buy the UK Series 1 and 2 on DVD.
Episodes 1 and 2 Score: 4/10
Series Directors: Toby Haynes, Susanna Fogel, JD Dillard
Producer: Huey M Park
Writer: Ryan Enright
US Adaptation: Gillian Flynn
Original Series: Dennis Kelly
Music: Jeff Russo
Dr. Kevin Christie: John Cusack
Samantha: Jessica Rothe
Becky: Ashleigh LaThrop
Ian: Dan Byrd
Wilson Wilson: Desmin Borges
Jessica Hyde: Sasha Lane
Arby: Christopher Denham
Grant: Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
Michael Stearns: Rainn Wilson
Thomas Christie: Cory Michael Smith
Alice: Farrah Mackenzie
Colleen: Jeanine Serralles
Lily: Hadley Robinson
Minion: Bernard Gilbert
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.