I just watched Utopia, the channel 4 series about eugenics. Interesting. Well written storyline, pushed all the right buttons, but it was far more interesting as an insight into current british tastes in TV than anything else. Three things characterise this series: language and blood and nonchalant killing.
The language is amazing. It’s like they wrote the script, sent it in, and the thoroughly modern editors or producers said ‘come on Dennis, not enough fucks in it. Put some in’. So Dennis, not a swearer himself particularly, put some in. But not being very good at it, either swearing or dialogue, he put them in in all the wrong places and had the wrong people using it. Then the producers saw that there were still not enough fucks in the series and asked Dennis to put in some more. But his ineptitude caused him to put them in even worse places, so bad in fact that the rather mediocre actors often had a hard job of making the fucks sound genuine; delivery was almost always flat which it usually isn’t with fuck. I suppose the film, as a thriller was supposed to be thrilling, but the result, at least from where I am, was rather more humerous than I imagine they had intended. Some pretty corny dialogue puctuated with inappropriately placed stilted and monotone fucks and of course the gratuitous violence, certainly caused me to raise a fucking eyebrow or fucking two anyway. Most memorable was “Ah shit. Glock 22. She’s CIA. Means she knows next to fucking nothing” delivered like it was a request for three baps in a bakers after a long queue. In the second series, slightly fewer fucks, well in the first episode anyway set in the 70s (I can’t be bothered to watch the rest, too samey) but we had the surprisingly late introduction of the ubiquitous british ‘cunt!’, which I hadn’t noticed in the first series. I imagine that the second episode, set back in the present, will be again peppered with fucks. Remarkable was the almost total lack of any of the lesser swear words or those useful little discourse markers and space fillers apart from fuck, you know, the words people use in real life. Really odd. Maybe, just a theory here, the censors won’t allow too many other swear words in as too shockingly near to reality. So, well done BBC.
The second thing that characterises the series is the british love of blood and brains being sprayed onto walls. They do love that. It’s repeated ad nauseam every chance they get and even when it’s not necessary at all. It’s obviously designed to gratify the overweight peroxide blond and tattooed fastfood eating brits called Gary and Madison shitting themselves with excitement at each spray of blood and I imagine it succeeded. There certainly was a lot of it. Again, well done BBC, know your audience and all that.
The third thing that stood out for me, something I’ve noticed a lot in UK films over the years, is this inclusion, almost obligatory, of the disinterested and nonchalant execution. Has violence has become so commonplace in the UK that people are not worried by this trend in TV programmes? Probably yes. I suppose in a country so sanitised by the censors, anything they can get away with is taken as far as humanly possible, even if it does defy all logic and reality.
So all in all I was rivetted to this series. People’s heads being sprayed everywhere, extreme violence, interesting scenses of torture and fear written in to as many scenes as possible and not a fuck in sight, but plenty of fucks in the stilted every-day fucking conversation. Excellent work BBC.