Why have Channel 4 cancelled Utopia?

[Aiden Perrins | Contributing Writer]

And will an American remake work?

Utopia was a groundbreaking British drama with it’s colourful style contrasting it’s dark and edgy content. It is one of the boldest conspiracy thrillers we’ve seen on TV for a long time. This week it’s third series was cancelled by Channel 4 sparking outrage from fans on social networking sites such as twitter.

User @ShuanLadd said: “Cannot believe Channel 4 cancelled Utopia. The worst decision ever, surely? Incredible, incredible series! Totally baffling,” and @JamesDelingpole commented: “OK. Channel 4 commissioning ed w*****s: which one of you cancelled Season 3 of #Utopia? (Insider info gratefully received, in confidence).”

The problem seemed to be that although the people who watched the show loved it, there didn’t seem to be that many of us fans out there, with only 650,000 watching the second series of the show. Despite the fact that the first episode of series two, a 1970’s flashback episode, could well feature in a top 10 list of TV events this year.

Perhaps what makes the news of Channel 4 cancelling Utopia more surprising is that a couple of months ago US channel HBO thought it was so good that they decided to remake it for American TV, with Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn teaming up again with director David Fincher (who also worked on the Netflix political drama House of Cards, which also came from England originally) for the project.

Transatlantic TV remakes

Typically the US have tried to remake British sitcoms with only The Office really catching on over there, with many failures such as The Inbetweeners and The IT Crowd. But adapting a British drama for US audiences, especially such an iconic one like Utopia, will be a completely different task for them. When I watch Utopia it is difficult to imagine the dry humour, which seems so important to the tone of the show, being done in the same way across the pond; but with David Fincher directing it has grabbed my attention and is definitely something I will have to watch.

A Channel 4 spokesperson talking to denofgeek.com said: “It’s always painful to say goodbye to shows we love, but it’s a necessary part of being able to commission new drama, a raft of which are launching on the channel throughout 2015.”

One of the new shows coming to Channel 4 is a remake of a Swedish drama called Real Humans, a sci-fi political drama about humanoid robots, and the relationship between them and real humans. This all sounds like something we’ve seen before many times. In the comments section of denofgeek.com one user named EVILBEAR said: “I JUST REMEMBERED THAT MADE IN CHELSEA IS MADE BY C4 AND THIS HAS WELL AND TRULY ENGAGED CAPSLOCK.”

There are many users begging for Netflix or Amazon to pick it up, much like what happened with Arrested Development – the TV show which really jump started Michael Cera’s career and catapulted Jason Bateman into the thoughts of film casting agents rather than just continuing with his TV work.

The backlash caused by this cancellation rings bells of Joss Whedon’s Firefly back in 2003. This was another sci-fi drama with a cult following who resented Fox when they cancelled it after just one season, although they did eventually convince Universal Studios to make the film Serenity. The fans of Utopia only have an American reboot to hang on to instead of a film but hopefully that will be good enough to keep us happy.

What went wrong?

Everything about Utopia seemed to have all the signs of a great TV series. With Neil Maskell in what could be a career defining performance for him as the psychopathic Arby, with his limp and signature catchphrase “Where is Jessica Hyde?” Also, Alexandra Roach portrays the sarcastic yet charismatic Becky as if she’s been playing that character all her life.

The writing of Dennis Kelly is also a great influence on the style mixing dark and quite evil plot lines with light hearted and sometimes quite funny dialogue. Not to mention that Kelly had revealed he already had plans for a third and possibly a fourth series.

Even the music chosen is perfectly fitting for the tone of the series. But the significant point which kept viewers watching was the completely unique style from the colour scheme to the edgy storyline and sometimes quite graphic content. It is a series that from it’s very first episode made sure that it’s viewers never looked at a spoon in the same way again.

The Channel 4 spokesperson also had this to say: “Utopia is truly channel-defining: strikingly original, powered by Dennis Kelly’s extraordinary voice and brought to life in all its technicolor glory through Marc Munden’s undeniable creative flair and vision.”

This suggests that Channel 4 appreciated the show as much as the fans did but I guess if it’s not pulling in the viewers then it has to be cut from the schedule and replaced with something which they hope will have a more populous viewership.

Do you think a remake will work? Let us know?

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Why have Channel 4 cancelled Utopia?