Milk and Cigarettes

Rambles about stuff I like.


Today I’m going to spend my 15 minutes gushing about how great the show “Utopia” is. I spend yesterday binge-watching the 1st season – which wasn’t terribly difficult, as it’s only 6 episodes long. But man O’ man, what a show.

The first thing I want to point out is just how beautiful the cinematography is. The show is very striking, with lots of highly contrasting and bright colours. Lots of wide open spaces and moody atmospheric shots. Just to watch the show itself is visually stimulating. Here’s a bunch of pics – look at all these colours!

Utopia00001 Utopia00002 Utopia00003 Utopia00004 Utopia00005 Utopia00006 Utopia00007 Utopia00008 Utopia00009 Utopia00010 Utopia00011 Utopia00012 Utopia00013 Utopia00014 Utopia00015 Utopia00016 Utopia00017 Utopia00018 Utopia00019 Utopia00020 Utopia00021 Utopia00022 Utopia00023 Utopia00024


And I haven’t even begun with the plot yet!

Ok, so the plot is unbelievably convoluted, and it goes something like this. A bunch of nerds share a love of a graphic novel called, “Utopia.” They agree to meet to discuss “Utopia 2”, but find that the guy who had the manuscript for Utopia 2 was killed. They quickly become embroiled in scandal and danger and, before they know it, they’re on the run for their lives.

Very slowly, we’re filled in on the back story. But the back story is crazy convoluted – short version: there’s a bunch of different warring factions who want to get their hands on “Utopia 2”, because hidden within its pages is the molecular blueprint for a certain type of protein which can sterilize 95% of the population and is hereditary.

The above makes sense if you’ve seen Utopia.

Anyhoo, it’s a crazy thriller – with lots of, “Who’s side are they on?” type mysteries – plenty of goodies and baddies to root for, and nothing is as it seems. Needless to say, I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire show. It’s tense, taught and makes one paranoid just by watching.

Moreover, Season 1 ends with a number of cliffhangers and loose ends. I’m hoping Season 2 (which should hopefully be released sometime this year) will answer a bunch of these questions. Of course, it wouldn’t be a successful spy-thriller if it didn’t pose even more questions than it answered.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this is probably the greatest drama I’ve seen since Breaking Bad. Do you remember that tense, constricting feeling you had while watching Breaking Bad? I had that same feeling while watching Utopia – but since there were just so many riddles posed by the show, I felt compelled to keep watching in order to solve those riddles. Though, by the end, I’m left not trusting any of the answers the show has given us. There’s too many twists and turns and double crosses and triple crosses to believe that any of the information that various characters have given us were true.

Anyhoo… yeah. Great show.

Another thought I had while watching the show is that, since the whole journey began because of a comic book, I’m wondering if the highly contrasting visual style was done that way on purpose, as sort of a call back to a comic book’s style. Comics are bright and dramatic – similar to how the show was shot.

I will probably have to watch the show in its entirety again, just to see if there’s any more clues I can pick up. I’m surprised there’s no massive online following yet – I’m sure once the show comes to HBO, there will be.


May 29, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Utopia and Big Fat Quiz of the Year: A Channel 4 Ramble

Wow! That show Utopia is amazing. I’ve only seen one episode so far, but man does it ever get its hooks in fast.

The opening scene, we’re in a comic book store, when two unassuming men walk in. “We’re closed!” yells the proprietor. One of the two men, takes a lead pipe from his bag and bashes in some guys skull. That’s the first minute of the show. It gets better (or worse, depending on your point of view) from there.

The basic sort of plot is as follows: There’s a graphic novel called “Utopia”, which was written by a guy in a mental institution. This comic has attracted a cult following, and these followers congregate on an online forum to discuss the book. When one of the forum members claims he has a copy of Utopia 2, he and a few other followers agree to meet in real life. However, the guy who’s got the copy of Utopia 2 gets sidetracked by the previously aforementioned two unassuming men. The main story then becomes how these other forum members get sucked into this Utopia 2 business, which appears to have deadly consequences.

Also going on at the same time is a B-story about a government worker, who got his mistress pregnant. But because his mistress is owned by the Russian mob, this government stooge is going to have to do the Russian mob a favour. And so this B-story is all about how this government worked is being pressured and is having to sneak around and do the mob’s bidding.

Anyhoo, it appears as if these two stories will intersect, as the deadly aspect of the Utopia novel seems to stem from a Russian company – where the writer of Utopia used to work before he went mad.

There’s a bunch of twists and turns, and it’s definitely a drama/thriller type of show. But man is it ever good. And that’s just based on the first episode! I’m looking forward to binge watching the rest of the series today.

It’s not a BBC show though, it’s Channel 4 – which I assume is a big competitor of the government run BBC. Is Channel 4 the one that did the Big Fat Quiz of the Year shows? After Googling, I find that, indeed it is.

Let me ramble a bit about Big Fat Quiz of the Year. If you’ve never seen the show, take a gander at the clip below.

That’s right, it’s 90 minutes long – but worth every second. It’s basically an end-of-the-year trivia show, but featuring 6 comedians. So it’s a non-stop laugh riot! Especially by the end of the show, when the taping has been going for 3 or 4 hours, and everyone’s tired and exasperated and ready to go home, but they’ve still got to put on their best faces and make jokes. That’s my favorite part, when the show starts going haywire and the show runners are too tired to reel it back in. 

Previous years have featured other comedians, notably Russell Brand. And although I’ve never been patient enough to watch one of his stand up shows, Brand is pretty awesome as a panel guest. I’d love to see Brand on QI or Mock the Week, just to see what he can do with it.

Of course, my favorite BFQOTY shows contain either David Mitchell and/or Ricard Ayoade. Both of these guys have nasally, inherently funny voices. Mitchell is unbelievably witty, and Ayoade is a master of the deadpan. There was one year where both these guys were on the same “team”, and I think that year is easily the best episode.

I don’t know what it is about British television – maybe it’s the short series length, or the lack of a Puritanical heritage. But British television always seems to be head and shoulders above American television. Luckily, I’m Canadian, so I get the best of both worlds.

May 28, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment