January 23, 2014 3:05pm PT by Michael O'Connell
Fox Orders 'Utopia' From 'The Voice's' John de Mol
Fox is heading to Utopia. The broadcast network has given a series order to the ambitious new reality show from executive producer and creator of The Voice John de Mol.
Already a ratings success in its first outing in The Netherlands, the series puts participants into a remote setting for an entire year and tasks them with creating their own civilization.
“Utopia will be the largest, most ambitious social experiment on television, and I’m thrilled that Talpa Media USA has chosen Fox as its U.S. broadcast partner,” said Fox EVP of alternative entertainment Simon Andreae. “The series offers people from all walks of life the chance to start all over again and re-write the rules of civilization as we know it. It addresses fascinating and fundamental questions about human law, morality and social structures, wrapped in an irresistible and truly forward-thinking television format.”
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It's the first big order for Andreae, who joined the network in September. And while the length of the project leaves room for a lot of primetime air time. "It's a very ambitious, primetime, multi-episode commitment," Andreae tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We clearly aren't going to be making it nightly."
Andreae says that the multiplatform concept -- the events in Utopia will transpire 24-7 on the series' website -- that prompted the network to buy it so soon after its successful launch on Danish network SBS6 earlier in January. "We acted as quickly as possible," Andreae adds. "I was really drawn to the fundamentals of the format. The idea that we're able to help a new microculture start, it was irresistible and so cleanly thought out."
Utopia puts its cast, affectionately dubbed "pioneers," together with no power structure and limited amenities. De Mol promises no outside intervention.
“Fox’s speed and passion for the project, combined with its pioneering reputation in the unscripted field, make it the perfect home for this unique proposition,” said de Mol. “The key questions Utopia asks are ‘Are people able to create an ideal society from scratch? And will it be ultimate happiness or complete chaos?’ What makes this even more interesting to watch, both on television and online, is the question that viewers undoubtedly will ask themselves, ‘What would I do?’”
Speaking with THR, de Mol explained that the hefty time commitment did not dissuade applicants. More than 5,500 answered the casting call for the first season. "The casting process is a little more difficult than other regular reality shows because normally you only look at characters," he said. "In this case, you also have to look at skills. In order to give them a fair chance to survive, you need skills."
Andreae says that they will hit the ground running now that the deal is done. Casting and location scouting for the U.S. series will begin almost immediately.
De Mol's Talpa Media USA is producing the series for Fox.