FOX cancels ‘Utopia’

The inevitable axe has finally fallen for FOX's “Utopia.”

FOX confirmed on Sunday (November 2) afternoon that the ambitious year-round reality series “Utopia” has been cancelled effective immediately.

Starting next Friday (November 7), “MasterChef Junior” repeats will air in the Friday 8 p.m. hour. Those will be encores of the “MasterChef Junior” original episodes that will premiere this week, already taking a time slot slated for “Utopia.”

And sorry to the live-feed fans as well. “Utopia” feeds will conclude on Sunday.

FOX gave a full-year order to “Utopia,” which was adapted from the Dutch format by John de Mol. The network initially slated “Utopia” for Tuesdays at 8, with six weeks of Friday airings to help cement the world-building show's place with viewers. Instead, “Utopia” premiered with only 4.6 million viewers against weak summer competition, fell under 2.5 million viewers in its first Friday episode and, after its September 16 episode, it never rose above 2 million viewers for its last 8 airings, as FOX shunted it off to a Fridays-only grave early on. This week's episode drew under 1.6 million viewers and did a 0.5 rating among adults 18-49.

Back in July at the TCA press tour, FOX reality chief Simon Andreae, making the first big unscripted swing of the post-Mike Darnell administration, preferred not to speculate on what might happen to the one-year plans if nobody tuned in.

“That would be a problem, and I would be very disappointed, because we put our heart and soul, a lot of resources, and assembled a really skilled team of people,” Andreae said. “I have to say, though, that I don”t think that”s a large risk. The show, I think, has a number of really unique things about it. It”s a super-aspirational title. It”s a very grand idea. It”s about all the fundamental pieces of a society: law, sexuality, religion, politics, and so on. Clearly, I would be very disappointed, but I”m not placing a bet on this show not working.”

The cancellation of “Utopia” and surrendering of Fridays to repeats are the latest stumbles of what has been a less-than-stellar first fall for new Fox Television Group co-chairman and co-CEO Dana Walden and Gary Newman, working off the vestiges of Kevin Reilly's last development and programming season at the network. 

“Utopia” lasted only 12 episodes and the Sunday comedy “Mulaney” has already had its 16-episode order trimmed to 13 after a rough start. “Gracepoint” premiered low, but has at least plateaued on Thursday nights and will presumably conclude its 10-episode order, even if a 0.8 rating in the key demographic is an ugly weekly blotch for FOX. “Red Band Society” isn't doing much better in its Wednesday airings, though at least the decently reviewed dramedy has done steady numbers among young female viewers. At least “Gotham” has been extended for a full 22-episode season, even if producers initially insisted they didn't want to produce more than 16 episodes.

As to what comes next for the stars of “Utopia”? Presumably they'll be set free, back to the real world they rejected as too dysfunctional, though I've always jokingly insisted that the cast of FOX's even-shorter-lived “Forever Eden” is still stranded in the jungle somewhere. Have you seen any “Forever Eden” castmates anywhere ever? No. You have not.

Taking an overall look at the 2014-2015 season, “Utopia” joins ABC's “Manhattan Love Story” in the “yanked-immediately” cancellation pile. “Mulaney” and NBC's “Bad Judge” and “A to Z” are in a separate “initially ordered episodes will air, but no additional episodes will be ordered” heap.

Will you miss “Utopia”?