America is trying to remake another excellent British TV series

A feast for the eyes.
A feast for the eyes.
Image: Channel 4
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Three years after the project fell apart at HBO, Amazon has ordered a remake of the British TV series Utopia, Deadline reported. Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn will write and serve as showrunner, as part of her new overall deal with Amazon Studios.

The short-lived series lasted for two seasons on the UK’s Channel 4 before being abruptly cancelled in 2014. Since then, it has become a cult hit, celebrated for its unique style and labyrinthine conspiracy narrative. Utopia follows a group of young men and women who are hunted by a shadowy government organization after they come into possession of a bizarre manuscript for a graphic novel.

Shortly after its cancellation in the UK, it was reported that the American filmmaker David Fincher wanted to remake the series for HBO (with Flynn attached to write). But his project fell apart over budget disagreements with the network, before anything was filmed. Amazon, desperate to find “the next Game of Thrones,” has now ordered Flynn’s remake straight-to-series for a nine-episode debut season.

When I heard about Fincher’s interest, I decided to check out the British original for myself to see what all the fuss was about. It’s brilliant. One of the more visually compelling series I’ve ever seen, Utopia also offers a killer, wacky soundtrack and fantastic performances from a diverse cast.

Its disturbingly riveting opening scene offers a taste of the show as a whole:

Sadly, the series was canned before it arrived at a proper ending—and that’s where the Amazon remake could come in. There’s simply no way an American version, no matter who’s involved, can match the audiovisual splendor and unfettered swagger of the British original. But it could perhaps give the series the conclusion it deserves.

That separates the Amazon project from most American remakes of perfectly good British dramas. Most of them ended well enough on their own, but the US TV industry still felt the need to remake them for American audiences (despite the two countries sharing a language). While some work out fine (VeepThe Office), many do not (remember America’s several pathetic attempts to remake Fawlty Towers?). At least with Utopia, there’s a storytelling imperative.

In a statement, Flynn hinted that her Utopia might be quite different from the British show. And that’s probably the only way to go, given the original’s panache.