As unrealistic as so-called reality shows can be, it’s easy to forget that real people participate on them. And, every now and then, something real happens–or, at least, one can hope it did.
On Sunday, Fox premiered Utopia, a $50 million experiment in which 15 “pioneers” were dropped into an idyllic compound created near Santa Clarita, California, north of Los Angeles, to more or less fend for themselves for a year.
Premiere ratings were not bad, but when the second episode aired on Tuesday (they’re scheduled to air Tuesdays and Fridays from now on, with a 24/7 livestream in between), without an NFL lead-in, the numbers plunged 55 percent, delivering only 2.5 million total viewers (and a .9 rating in the coveted Adults 18-49 demographic).
But, as reported Wednesday at TheWrap, Fox Television Group co-chairman and co-CEO Dana Walden said, “No one thought we were going to launch a huge ratings juggernaut, but with patience it will grow, and we’re going to have patience.”
Whatever happens, Utopia can claim one Christian revert–Dave Green, 34, a k a “5th Avenue,” who’s homeless, unemployed, and an ex-convict–who left the experiment after 10 days. Currently living in Southern California, the former Queens, New York, resident arrived at the compound with an aggressive attitude, and that got him in trouble early.
Speaking to Breitbart News and other press in a Tuesday conference call, Green, a self-described “free spirit,” said, “The only thing that’s really my problem is my delivery, and sometimes I could turn people off in the aggression that’s in my tone of voice, body language and stuff like that. So, hopefully, through Christ and through some self-respect, I can get some help.
“I’ve been through so much emotional trauma in my life that my coping skills and my emotions are just discombobulated. So sometimes I don’t really give other people a chance. I just think about myself. I just have to work on talking a little bit more calmly.”
When Green speaks of Christ, it’s from recent experience. One of the other pioneers is Jonathan Lovelace, a small-town pastor from Churchill, Tenn., whose personal witness had a big effect on Green.
“I had a really good time with Pastor Jon,” said Green. “I didn’t come on the show expecting to get back into Christ like that, but because he was such a standup man of God and very genuine, and he told me a bit of his background before Christ, and he let me know that it wouldn’t be easy, but if I did, then I would have that extra spiritual help that I needed.
“In my past, I did accept Christ at one point, and it really produced positivity in my life. Anything that produces positivity is worth giving it another shot.”
Asked by Breitbart News what it was about Lovelace that appealed to him, Green said: “Pastor Jon is a very standup guy of God. He’s very genuine. He’s very humble. He listens. He just exudes a great spirit. He definitely had a tough life also, but he overcame his obstacles, and he loves what he does. I just respected that the most about him. When he speaks, he speaks very genuine, very humbly. He inspired me through is walk. Like James said in the Book of James, ‘Faith without acts is a dead faith.’
“I came in there kind of like, I don’t know, not bashing Christianity, but religion is not what it’s mean to be. But to see him actually walk it and talk it and still be as cool as he was — he played baseball, we could talk, we could chill, hang out. I could express anything to him…
“I never had a dad in my life, so having him having that kind of humble demeanor, and always positive and forgiving. Because I’m not the easiest guy to get along with, but I guess, because he’s a man of faith and comes from a tough background himself, he gave me that feeling as if I could just look up to him as an uncle, as the dad I never had.”
Green also made another friend, Arthur VanWinkle, known as “Red,” a moonshiner, handyman, and farmer from Cecilia, Kentucky (and formerly featured on Discovery Channel’s “Blue Grass Boys” reality show, focusing on marijuana growers in Kentucky).
“When I first saw Red,” said Green in response to a question from Breitbart News, “he looked kind of weird to me, but he looked cool at the same time. He was smiling; he had his bow and arrow. I’d never met a hillbilly in my life; I’d probably seen a couple on TV. But what drew me to Red, mostly, was the fact that he’s an individual; he’s unique; he has his own character; he’s opinionated; and he’s a free spirit, just like me.
“I got to find out that hillbillies from the backwoods grow up pretty much the same as impoverished, ghetto children in a community. They grew up without stuff. I grew up the same way.
“I just love Red so much. He’s so fun; he’s a fun guy. I could see myself being friends with Red forever. That’s my boy; I’m rooting for him. I would never have expected to be best friends with a hillbilly, but on my birthday, he initiated me. I’m an honorary hillbilly, the first hillbilly in South Jamaica, Queens, baby.”
Green left Utopia but returned long enough for Jonathan to baptize him in the compound’s artificial lake.
When Breitbart News asked him about the moment of baptism, Green said, “It wasn’t as religious as it would be for somebody else. It was a spiritual decision from inside mixed with a conscious decision to accept something that I believed that could generate positivity in my life I smiled. After I came out of that water, I was smiling.
“I feel good about it. I’m not a perfect man. I’ve got my faults in character. But I smiled. It’s good; it felt good. I fee like I accepted something higher than me, in my life, and only positivity can come of that. That’s it. I’m not afraid.”