Watching an American remake of a much-loved TV show is a bit like going to your favourite bar with a new girlfriend.
You have so many memories of how great it was last time and you don’t want this time to be – well, shit.
People who know me well will know the Channel 4 original is one of my favourite programmes of all time. It started back in 2013 and then there was a second series the following year and me wondering if they had made a third, and fearing I had missed it, led me to discover the remake.
(For anyone interested my list of top TV shows also includes The Kingdom, Wild Palms and Community – obvs. For anyone saying ‘What, where’s The Wire and Breaking Bad? I think too many people have watched it and said they are the best television programmes of all time, leading me to think they have probably been hypnotised to say that. They are probably okay but I’m not sure I can be arsed to try.)
So . . . back in the room – the original Utopia started on Channel 4 exactly eight years ago today (but only if you’re reading this on Saturday 15th January) and ran for six episodes.
The second series kept me waiting until July 2014 and also ran for six episodes.
They are all tightly packed, twisty, conspiracy filled, fantastic television and I highly recommend you watch them. (Amazon Prime helpfully has them available for streaming.)
To give you a brief plot summary without giving anything away about the twists and turns of each episode . . .
A community of comic book fans believe the graphic novel The Utopia Experiments predicted several disastrous epidemics, such as mad cow disease. One of the enthusiasts manages to get his hands on the manuscript for the sequel and invites some friends from an online forum to meet in real life.
But, who would have thought it, they find themselves in way over their heads as a secret organisation called The Network is also after it.
While trying to evade being captured they meet someone called Jessica Hyde – and if I told you anymore it would spoil the brilliance of it all.
It’s amazing but is the American version just as good or did they screw it up as royally as they did democracy at the Capitol on Wednesday?
The short answer is it’s nowhere near as good as the original, not even close.
The long answer is it’s very interesting to watch a fictional show about man-made epidemics, amidst the global backdrop of everywhere gripped by a pandemic and with no way of knowing when it will end.
I’m up to episode four of the Amazon version and the shadow of Covid-19 definitely adds an extra dimension to the show which wasn’t there when the Channel 4 original aired.
The remake adds characters that weren’t in the original – not quite to the level of a children’s nativity play where everyone gets a part – but I’m just not convinced the extra people add anything to the show.
It also does the American thing of stretching out the length of the season.
Channel 4 produced two series of six episodes each and they were tense and action packed so you definitely notice how Amazon is stretching things out over eight episodes. Sadly this means it loses a lot of the impact it could have had.
There’s also a question mark over a second series of the remake as Amazon has cancelled it before it got that far. It’s a shame because the British second season answered a lot of the questions from the first, and so anyone watching just the American one may be left scratching their heads.
I suppose, in a way, this could be what makes it most like a relationship (kind of).
The old version is much better but you cannot keep living life in the past so try and put your all into the new relationship – while desperately wondering if it is actually worth the effort.
Stay safe for another week!