Utopia

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Utopia TV Poster Image
Comic-conspiracy series is befuddling and numbingly violent.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Amid all the dark stuff are a few complex, subtle messages about loyalty and believing in the courage of one's convictions. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many characters operate by emotion instead of logic; it's doubtful that they make good role models, but there is an "underdog against great odds" vibe that some viewers may take strength in. The cast is diverse in terms of age, race, and ethnicity, and women have strong, central roles. 

Violence

There are many deaths shown on-screen, including bloody/gory deaths: a series of characters is shot point-blank in the face; a group of teens is killed by having syringes of some type of toxin injected into their arms. A man is prevented from leaving a room by being impaled to a table top. We see dead bodies, gore, blood. There are many references to epidemics that may disturb viewers living through COVID-19. 

Sex

Characters kiss and flirt; there are references to (off-screen) sex. A man has a woman he doesn't know in his hotel room and it's said they're going to "f--k." Female characters, particularly extras, are given revealing costumes. 

Language

Language is frequent: "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitches." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink cocktails, beer, and champagne at gatherings; some get drunk. A group of characters is poisoned and it's made to look as if they died using IV drugs. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Utopia is a dark series about a mysterious comic book that's the subject of a deep state conspiracy, and the young comic fans who try to unravel it. Violence is intense and frequent: characters are killed suddenly, violently, and on-screen: shot point-blank in the head with blood and gore, stabbed with syringes in an incident staged to look like deaths due to IV drug use. Expect characters to die horribly in the course of the series. There are also references and visuals related to epidemics like Ebola and SARS, which may disturb viewers familiar with COVID-19. Sexual content is less frequent; characters have a sweet romance with kissing and references to off-screen sex; a man intends a one-night-stand with a woman and brings her to his hotel room (they do not wind up having sex). Language is frequent: "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "assh--e," "bitches." Adults drink at gatherings and parties; some get drunk and get sloppy and sexually uninhibited. Positive messages are few and far between, but viewers may glean a few messages about loyalty to friends and staying true to principles. The cast is diverse in terms of age, race, and ethnicity, and women have strong, central roles. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written byModernsara October 1, 2020

Crazy violent, like a Tarantino film

Really surprised that this was marked TV14. The first episode is a blood bath with person after person shot through the head in quick succession. In the second... Continue reading
Adult Written byMyagi October 8, 2020

Surprisingly raunchy scene!!

I was surprised halfway through the show to find a scene that was much more intimate than described under the Sex rating here. There was on screen sex between 2... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byTheReyton October 3, 2020

Rain Wilson is in it

what else can I say?
Teen, 13 years old Written byLuke S. October 21, 2020

Utopia

I am 13 years old and I watched this show with my dad about 2 weeks ago. Me and him discussed it and he said he thought it was a show most suitable for teens ov... Continue reading

What's the story?

Created and written by Gillian Flynn and based on the UK series of the same name, UTOPIA picks up just as an issue of a cult comic book is found under mysterious circumstances. Comic book fans have long looked for this issue, because some believe that earlier ones obliquely predicted some of the world's most deadly epidemic: SARS, MERS, Ebola, and more. Now everyone is on the hunt for Utopia: a loose-knit group of comic book fans including Lily (Hadley Robinson), Wilson (Desmin Borges), Ian (Dan Byrd), and Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop), dead-eyed and dead-aimed operatives working for shadowy deep state conspirators, and sinister multinational corporation CEO Kevin Christie (John Cusack), among other interests. And it's clear that whoever ends up with it may end up with godlike power -- or could wind up dead. 

Is it any good?

This show ultimately feels a lot like somebody who commandeers your attention at a party: eager to impart far-out stories, but less interested in making sure said stories land with its audience. A show full of kooky plot elements that are also emotionally involving sounds great, but Utopia stumbles on that front. By the end of the first episode, we've met dozens of characters, each of whom only gets a brief turn in the overcrowded pilot, and some of whom are abruptly dispatched. What is this story about and who's important to watch? With her everygirl vibe and a big juicy speech where she takes comic fanboys to task, Lily feels like creator Gillian Flynn's mouthpiece, but she feels insubstantial, tasked with doling out exposition but not a character we're eager to get to know. 

Flynn's most interesting creation is Grant (Javon "Wanna" Walton), a middle schooler posing as a wealthy adult to his cadre of conspiracy theorist buddies who actually does wind up pulling off some very adult stunts. With his loopy line readings and unnerving stare, Christopher Denham (Billions) also breathes some life into his stock grim-hitman-on-a-mission role, and John Cusack, too, is a reliable kick. But the concepts and characters don't quite come together to create a show worth watching.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Utopia's violence. How violent does the show feel, and how much is actually shown? How does the show achieve this effect? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Are any of the characters admirable? Are they intended to be? Who are we meant to root for/sympathize with? How does a show or movie telegraph which characters are supposed to be good and which are villains? Does Utopia depart from these conventions? 

  • If you watched the original UK version of Utopia, what do you think of this as an adaptation? Is it faithful to the original story? If not, do the changes serve the show? Or detract from it? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mysteries

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