Utopia, Fox’s new reality series in which a group of people are put into a bare-bones camp in a remote location north of Los Angeles County to form a new society and “rethink all the fundamental tenets of civilization,” hasn’t even debuted yet and already the natives -- who’ve been native less than a week -- are at war with each other.
“Coming to the most basic decisions has been next to impossible for them” just six days into the experiment, EP Jon Kroll said this afternoon on a phone call with the media and Fox EVP Simon Andreae. “Agreeing on anything” is the Utopians’ biggest challenge to date.
“I almost think we cast it too well,” Kroll said happily. “They are so incredibly different that coming to the most basic decisions has been next to impossible for them.” A week into the yearlong experiment, there already has been a movement by some in Utopia to secede from the union.
Utopia is like Congress. Only with hotter members – and less clothing.
Already, many of the males in Utopia are battling for alpha-dog status, though one of the women is giving them a good run, according to the execs on the call, which comes ahead of Sunday's two-hour series premiere. And if you guessed it was Hex, described by the show as a “headstrong hunter … six feet of twisted steel and sex appeal” whose “primary game is to bring lessons from Utopia back to Detroit, her hometown” where her status is “unemployed” -- you get extra points for understanding the wonderful world of stereotyping that is reality TV casting.
The internecine warfare has been captured on cameras since the Utopians arrived at their new home six days ago – like C-SPAN. Except, of course, when Hex got whisked to the hospital last weekend, for what turned out to be a case of dehydration. That was off limits for viewing by even the experiment’s 24/7 livestream -- which already is up and running -- because the network and producers didn’t know if her condition was serious, Kroll explained. “We just want to be careful,” he said.
Death will not be televised in Utopia.
Other interesting early developments include a bromance developing between a guy described on the call as “our hillbilly” and a thirty-something former drug dealer who has been in and out of prison since he was a teen -- and also is debating whether he will be baptized by the resident pastor.
Utopia is shaping up as such an Inferno that one participant already has been booted, for violating The Rules when she smuggled a smartphone into the “location” to which they were all brought and sequestered before entering their new environment. Seems she used the device to look up who the other Utopians were. Andreae explained her research would have wrecked the show's important First Impression sequence, in which the Utopians are unveiled to each other at the site and check each other out. By smuggling in the phone, she'd violated the contract all the Utopians had clearly explained to them and signed, and violated “what we felt was creatively important for the show. So, we sadly let her go,” he said.
Contract hanky-panky will not be tolerated in Utopia.
Another Utopian almost was banished by his fellow citizens before the TV broadcast starts, the execs mentioned, for apparently being the biggest heel at camp – and the bar appears to have been set pretty high. But he apparently survived after he “faced the music,” reporters on today's call were told. No, there was no music, in anticipation of your question.
Once a month, the happy natives of this Brigadoon of Broadcast will have their peace disturbed when Utopian wannabes show up, and viewers at home get to participate in a whirlwind election process, in which some of the locals get the hook and some of the wannabes get invited to join the clique.
Utopia is like high school.
Asked how they expect to hang on to viewers for a solid year on a show that has no singing competition, no cooking demonstrations, no prizes, and no wife-of-CEO Den Mother, Andreae likened his show to a serialized primetime drama or soap. He added that already there is “also a major undercurrent of physical and sexual and romantic attraction, and people seem to be trying to pick who might be their partner in Utopia,” noting giddily that “more than one is bisexual or poly-sexual, so it’s not an easy environment to navigate.”
Utopia is a very long spring break in Daytona Beach.