And just like that, Fox has the most resounding disappointment of the new season so far: "Utopia" has been canceled. The network quietly confirmed the end to the press Sunday -- no statement of remorse, in other words -- that this experiment which was to have lasted an entire year on TV and the Internet was no more. After just a couple of months on the air, it is over.
Separately, NBC canceled -- again, very quietly -- "A to Z" and "Bad Judge." Neither show will continue past its current production order, which means episodes will be burned off.
(Unfortunate: I liked "A to Z," at least initially; not "Bad Judge.")
"Utopia" was a huge and risky idea -- strand some people on a farm near Santa Clarita (northwest of Burbank) ...and then watch them hash it out. How would they organize themselves? How would people of radically different backgrounds find a way to get along, or not get along? Would viewers care enough to follow this small utopian -- or dystopian -- spectacle over a year?
In hindsight, no. (Only about one and a half million people tuned in Friday, where the show has been airing of late.) This was a difficult pull for any viewer who has thousands of options across thousands of channels (many of them web-based.) Why should this stand out in 2014?
Here's what showrunner, Conrad Green -- formerly of "Dancing with the Stars" and a very capable producer -- said over the summer: "We don't know where this is going to end. We don't have a fixed point that we want this to reach. We hope that when 15 people eventually go into the compound of Utopia and spend this year, we'll develop something generally interesting. That's all we really are after."
Here's what Newsday's TV critic said later: "Utopia" feels a little bit like football's fabled long ball, but thrown about 10 years too late. Interesting -- undeniably -- and potentially a game-changer, but also tossed well past that moment when something like "Big Brother" wasn't just a must-see novelty but a glimpse into the dark new art of TV voyeurism....
"[But] do we really care all that much about this kind of stuff anymore?
"Certainly some of us do. "Brother" is a summer staple, while "Survivor" keeps chugging along. But they're also highly stylized, intensely produced and remorselessly manipulative. That is to say, they're TV shows. "Utopia," by contrast, is a TV beast. It even sprawls beyond the set to the Web, where insuperable hours of bleary-eyed boredom now stretch before us, on to the horizon. You want boring? Try watching a castmate milk a cow or chase a chicken. Try listening to them talk -- prattle is the better word -- about mulching..."
We tried. The end.