Utopia is a sitcom that’s funny

The second season of Utopia saw it evolve from a sitcom which was mainly about how difficult it is to build infrastructure in this country, to a sitcom about an office in which people find it difficult to build infrastructure in this country…hey check out that subplot about the overzealous plant hire guy!

This change of emphasis has been a largely positive move as far as we’re concerned because, well, the infrastructure project management woes have always been the least funny parts of this show. But plots about how an office becomes Chaos Central when someone tries to fix the air-con, or when it’s Heart Week? We can all laugh at that.

(By series three [we’re assuming there’ll be one] Utopia may well be what was once the Holy Grail of Australian sitcom: a local version of The Office. A show where it doesn’t matter what business the characters are supposed to be engaged in, it’s all about how the characters inter-relate and the stupid things that happen to them.)

With this narrower focus, watching Utopia has felt a bit repetitive – every week Tony will try to get something happening and fail, Rhonda and Jim will put up barriers or move the goal posts to make Tony’s job even harder, Nat will be dealing with something annoying that isn’t related to the project, and Amy will be ring-leading some initiative that distracts everyone who isn’t already distracted from the task at hand – but that hasn’t stopped it from being funny. Far from it.

On the one hand this is great – laughs is often something Australian sitcoms fail to raise – but it is kind of a shame that the political satire elements of the series are taking more of a backseat. There probably is a reasonable amount of funny you can get from infrastructure, but only if you’re John Clarke. He’s really good at picking apart ridiculous political situations; Working Dog, less so. They’re more about everyday characters and the minutiae of situations, so it makes sense for them to get their laughs out of subplots about coffee machines.

But if there is another series we’re going to need more from this show. We’re going to need a reason for the characters’ tales to be told. A denouement, perhaps? Where the National Building Authority or Nation Building Australia, or whatever they’re called this week, pull off a project successfully? Now that really would be hilarious!

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  • Faz says:

    Desr god, I hope there’s not a third season of this show. By episode 2 of the first season it was clear the writers had not a single new thing to say that they hadn’t already said in the premiere ep. It is literally the same show every week, and the longer it stays on air the more apparent the formulaic and repetitive nature of the show becomes. Such a lazy, creatively unambitious show from a production company and a network that should be aiming so much higher.

  • Billy C says:

    I find it very stale. Working Dog who have always tried to do new things in the past. Now they are doing Hollowman 2.0 Yes it has jokes. Some of the jokes are good but it is so repetitious and the stakes are so low. The quick editing and drums between shots that they stole from Absolute Power does not make it punchy. I have no problem with the performances or even a few of the jokes but the bar is so low. The characters don’t care about the plot, let alone the audiences.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    It’s gotten better but they’re going to have to show some change or nuance in the characters rather than changing the situation for S3. I think Stitch’s character has become more unhinged as the series has gone along.

  • Andrew says:

    Series 1 of Utopia I think they were mostly just warming up. Series 2 was far better IMO. Just seemed to hit the mark much better.

    But having said that, Whether there is enough in it to pull off a Series 3 I don’t know.

  • Billy C says:

    You’re right it is better in Season 2.