Utopia: Season 2
If you watched the first season of Utopia, you probably have high expectations for the second. If you haven’t seen the show before, but are familiar with the uncannily accurate and hilarious 90s news-parody Frontline, you’ll have some idea of the relentless deadpan satire of Utopia’s writers, Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner. The group’s signature style of humour works because it resonates; it isn’t merely cynical, it’s insightful and ultimately finds meaning in human folly – and where it doesn’t find meaning, it offers comedic catharsis.
Utopia sends up large government departments, along with politicians and PR strategists with penchants for slogans. In every episode you’ll find instantly recognisable moments of the absurd in everyday situations (Your taxi driver can’t find you, oh don’t worry, he’s found someone else!), and the often ludicrous and mundane frustrations of what goes on within institutions many love to hate (No, that’s on the old server! or Perhaps it would be helpful if the position description included the job title or mentioned that the role of office manager involves office management?).
This season opens with the fresh hope and optimism of those quiet early weeks in every new year when people ride their bikes to work and swap caffeine for green smoothies. Their focus is fresh, their intentions are good and yet they are already behind on their annual report. The excellent performances from Celia Pacquola, Rob Sitch and Kitty Flanagan continue, but this cast, across the board, does not miss a beat.
One of the most appealing aspects of this show is that in the midst of all the unsettlingly plausible (even dangerously recognisable) soundbite-before-idea strategising and hilariously misdirected energy, there are genuinely appealing and equally true-to-life portrayals of people who work in institutions like Utopia’s fictitious Nation Building Authority because they want to do good.
Elke Power is the editor of Readings Monthly.