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WIRE Buzz: Reviews for Amazon's Utopia; The Phenomenon trailer probes UFOs; Norman Reedus AMC deal

By Josh Weiss
Rainn Wilson Utopia

Is Gillian Flynn's American translation of Utopia worthy of its British predecessor? The first reviews for the new Amazon series (premiering next Friday, Sept. 25) are somewhat mixed.

Despite the fact that the show places a virus-related pandemic front and center in its story, The A.V. Club's Roxana Hadadi writes that the timely "Utopia doesn’t have much to say about the corporate overreach or government listlessness that inspired the show’s concept." At the end of their review, Hadadi adds: "Utopia doesn’t offer any theories about how our culture changes because of this kind of panic, or comment on the fervent nature of fandom, or examine the anxiety of confronting the potential end of the world. Flynn’s thrillers often resonate because of the power of their observations, but Utopia fails because of the lack of them."

Jennifer Bisset of CNET was a little kinder to the project, admitting that the cast (or "likeable gang," as she puts it), "propulsive mystery, and the flecks of dark and deadpan humor create an absorbing world." However, Bisset immediately followed that up with: "It might be visually duller than the British series and can't take any credit for the imaginative brilliance, but Amazon's Utopia isn't a write-off. Benefitting from a timely release, it grows into something different, with a few twists fans of the original won't see from a mile off."

Executive-produced and showrun by Flynn, the series is about a group of comic book-loving friends, who come to realize that their favorite comic, titled Utopia, is not fictional but full of hidden codes that predict actual threats to humanity. Ashleigh LaThrop, Dan Byrd, Jessica, Desmin Borges, Javon "Wanna" Walton, Sasha Lane, John Cusack, Rainn Wilson, Farrah Mackenzie, Christopher Denham, and Cory Michael Smith co-star. Jessica Rhoades, Sharon Levy, Sharon Hall, Toby Haynes, Karen Wilson, and Dennis Kelly also serve as executive producers.

The truth is out there, people!

Unless you subscribe to the events depicted in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the U.S. president is not made privy to government secrets related to UFOs and aliens. That's just one the intriguing assertions made in The Phenomenon, a brand-new documentary that takes a deep dive into seven decades' worth of alleged extraterrestrial cover-ups and conspiracy theories. Hitting digital platforms early next month, the film is fittingly narrated by Peter Coyote, who played the shady government agent known simply as "Keys" in Steven Spielberg's E.T.

Check out the trailer below:

Earlier this year, the American Navy did declassify videos of unknown flying objects that had been circulating the internet for over a decade. The government's assessment of these "UFOs" is that they're probably un-piloted drones, not saucers from Mars. The "Powers That Be" did choose the perfect time to acknowledge the existence of UFOs, as the mind-blowing news was promptly buried under the COVID-19 pandemic and the arrival of Murder Hornets.

The Phenomenon makes first contact with digital platforms Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Fresh off last week's announcement that he'd be getting his own Walking Dead spinoff series with Melissa McBride, Norman Reedus has locked in a two-year first-look deal with AMC, Deadline confirmed today. The actor, who plays Daryl Dixon on the main zombie-centric show, also debuted his own production company, Bigbaldhead Productions. Amanda Verdon, former VP of AMC Scripted Programming, has been tapped to run the company.

One of his first original projects at the network will be a small-screen adaptation of Aftershock Comics' Undone by Blood, a revenge tale set in the American Southwest, circa the 1970s. Reedus will executive-produce and is expected to star as well. Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler are attached as writers and co-executive producers. Aftershock's Jon and Lee Kramer will produce alongside Verdon and Brillstein Entertainment’s JoAnne Colonna.

Norman Reedus

"It has been a dream of mine for so long to be able to share and tell progressive stories that shine a light where others don’t,” Reedus said in a statement to Deadline. "I feel incredibly privileged for the opportunity to amplify innovative voices in storytelling that are visionary in fostering change in culture. I couldn’t be happier to launch this company alongside AMC and Blackstone Publishing.”

“Norman has been an indelible part of the AMC family for more than a decade, across both scripted and unscripted series, on foot and on wheels, and we’re thrilled to expand our relationship with such an incredible talent,” added Dan McDermott, President of Original Programming for AMC Networks’ Entertainment Group and Co-President of AMC Studios.

Reedus has also launched a Bigbaldhead imprint at Blackstone Publishing, which is set to kick off next fall with the actor's Unknown Man novel series. No details were provided on what the books will be about.

The Walking Dead is scheduled to end after its 11th season, which will lead into a brand-new show centered around two longstanding characters: Reedus' Daryl and Carol (McBride).