The American remake of Utopia is on Prime Video

Utopia on Amazon Prime: A timely drama during the Covid-19 pandemic

Or #StayaliveJessicaHyde

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.

Stay alive Jessica Hyde
It is believed that a graphic novel contains clues to man-made epidemics which have been unleashed on this planet (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)
Mr Rabbit costume at the convention
Some Utopia fans at the convention are very passionate about their costumes (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)
Amidst the backdrop of the real Covid-19 pandemic makes Utopia an eerie watch

It is with this same sense of trepidation that I’m approaching the remake of Utopia, which is available to watch on Prime Video.

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.

Wilson Wilson getting into a car
I can tell you this character’s name is Wilson Wilson. I’m not going to tell you why he’s wearing a patch (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)
Jessica Hyde
Sasha Lane takes on the crucial role of Jessica Hyde in the remake of Utopia (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)
Jessica Hyde in the graphic novel
Just how is Jessica Hyde linked to the scientist and can he be trusted? (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)

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.

Arby is always looking for Utopia
Arby is always looking for Utopia – even when he’s having a drink (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)
A building on fire in Utopia
I can’t tell you what is on fire – because I have not got to this episode yet (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)
Grant fights back
Everyone should be like Grant. If you know what I mean, you know what I mean (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)

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.

John Cusack plays Dr Kevin Christie
John Cusack plays a scientist called Dr Kevin Christie who is trying to make the world a better place, or is he? (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)
Jessica Rothe plays Samantha J in Utopia
Samantha J, played by Jessica Rothe, really buys into the idea that Utopia warns about events that will play out in the real world (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)
The Utopia graphic novel
Imagine what a kerfuffle there would be if it turned out a graphic novel contained a warning about Covid-19 (This image is a screenshot from the utopiaonprime Instagram page)

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!