Test Pilot is a semiregular feature sharing my first impressions of the pilots for next season’s shows. These aren’t reviews, since these pilots can be rewritten, recast and retooled before airing, and the shows that eventually get on the air can prove much better or worse. But premature opinions are why God invented the Internet, so let’s get on with…
The Show: Revolution, NBC
The Premise: It’s another high-concept, big ensemble drama from J.J. Abrams, this time working with Supernatural’s Eric Kripke. One day, the lights go out around the world: all electricity, all communications, even batteries stop working at once. It’s the dark ages again. Governments fall. Society becomes agrarian. Vines grow up skyscrapers and Ferris wheels. (Seriously, I had no idea how dependent we were on electricity for giant-vine control.) Fifteen years after the plug is mysteriously pulled, a militia commander (Giancarlo Esposito) shows up at a farm village demanding answers from a man with a connection to the outage, who ends up dying in a shootout. His daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiradakos) ends up on a hunt for revenge, and possibly an answer to the global blackout.
First Impressions: The broadcast networks have tried, and struck out with, a lot of these big sci-fi/dystopian premises since Lost premiered. The good news: I like this pilot better than The Event, NBC’s attempt from two years ago. But I’m not sure if I like it well enough, and after one episode, I feel like I should be hungrier to find out what happens next and why. Part of Revolution’s problem is a simple one of art direction: everything is too clean and manicured. A decade and a half after the fall of civilization, everyone still looks like models from a dystopian Tommy Hilfiger catalog. But that tone bleeds over into the characters and performances. Except for Esposito’s menacing commander, no one feels distinct, and the twists of the larger narrative–the power went out, there’s a seemingly sinister reason why, a lot rides on who can figure it out and for what purpose–are too familiar to capture the imagination so far. (And I dread the day we get a “scientific” explanation of the power outage.) That said, I could see this developing into another Jericho, which was not one of the great character dramas of all time, but a reasonably compelling survivors-banding-together serial.
Do I Want to Watch Another Episode? Not like the future of mankind depends on it. But I’ll catch up, if the power doesn’t go out on my DVR.
Note: Robo-James is auto-posting this for me while I’m on vacation, so I can’t promise to respond to comments. But have fun with it while I’m gone.