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TV Tonight: Revolution

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Bob Mahoney/NBC

Spiridakos as Charlie in Revolution.

First things first: I do not care whether the premise of NBC’s Revolution—all electricity, even batteries, ceases functioning, and civilization collapses—is physically plausible. I don’t know how the catastrophe happened. It happened because science. It happened because NBC had an open time slot on Monday nights. If you need a more considered explanation in order to buy the show, that’s a legitimate point of view, but I cannot help you. Maybe there’s a review you can read in Popular Science.

In the past few years, we’ve seen attempts at making this kind of mythological drama, like FlashForward and The Event, that have foregrounded their mysteries to a fault, working overtime to make sure every detail was explained and assuring us that they knew how everything would turn out–but without creating the vivid, engaging characters that are the reason to stick with a show to the end in the first place. Give us Han Solo, and we’re not going to spend too much time asking how light sabers can possibly work.

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The pilot of Revolution comes across better than either of the aforementioned shows, but there are still too many forgettable characters, stock scenes and flat patches of dialogue. But it does, unlike some of its byzantine forebears, establish a straightforward scenario and goals in its first hour. Fifteen years after lights out, we rejoin post-civilized society in a surprisingly Arcadian hamlet, where survivors tend gardens using a Prius chassis as a planter, hunt with bows and crossbows a la The Hunger Games and drink coffee, or something like it, grown in the temperate Midwest. (The show has the kind of “clean apocalypse” aesthetic you might remember from CBS’s Jericho. A decade and a half after the end of civilization, it looks like you can still order from J. Crew.)

The peace is shattered with a visit from Capt. Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) an officer in the militia of “Gen. Monroe,” the strongman of one of the republics that has replaced the United States. He wants information from Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee), who may know something about the long-ago electricity failure. (In this world, that knowledge is quite literally power.) When the ensuing conflict goes south, Ben’s son Danny (Graham Rogers) is taken captive and Ben’s bow-totin’ daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) goes on a quest to the ruins of Chicago for payback and answers.

The story so far is pretty much assembled from parts of previous attempts at sci-fi mythology shows. There’s an unexplained global catastrophe (FlashForward). There are rebels fighting against a dictator in a post-US banana republic (Jericho). There’s an abducted loved one who must be rescued (The Event). And there is the tantalyzing hint of secret cabals communicating behind the scenes (all the above).

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To its credit, the show does not invest everything as singlemindedly in its central mystery as did FlashForward and The Event. There’s some strong casting around the edges; Esposito, who knows that a smile is more menacing than a scowl, takes custody of the show whenever he steps on screen. The show made a welcome late change in adding Elizabeth Mitchell as Charlie’s mother, who we are told is dead but who, spoiler alert, is played by Elizabeth Mitchell.  And Zak Orth brings a dryly funny, Lostian spark to the role of co-quester and former Google nerd Aaron.

But these are all supporting roles, and the first hour of Revolution is a kind of TV bialy, very, very flat in the center. I would be hard-pressed to describe Danny’s character beyond “has asthma, nice shirt.” As Charlie, Spiridakos never manages to be more than blandly purposeful, as if she’s been coached to pose in a Hunger Games-inspired photo shoot. Her uncle Miles (Billy Burke), the possible key to unraveling the mystery blackout, is so far a brooding question mark, who speaks more like an expository device than a person. The emotional scenes between him and Charlie feel perfunctory, a letdown coming from the likes of producers J.J. Abrams (Lost) and Eric Kripke (Supernatural).

It’s all far from terrible, but there are few gasps, goosebumps or laugh-out-loud moments—the sort of things that convert wanting to like an ambitious show into actually liking it for itself. Revolution has promise. It has crossbows and swordplay. It has a lot of room for world-building and stories that could sustain for seasons.

What it still needs is that magic that makes you thrill and care about characters whom you feel you know as distinctive people. For lack of a better word, I’ll call that: electricity.

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23 comments
fluffysuzy123
fluffysuzy123

i hope the show last. i really think it is great.love all the characters.

HayleyDagan
HayleyDagan

i love this show,  hope it never ends


stewart37564
stewart37564

I think this show got better. So, eat crow.

GracieGirlNY
GracieGirlNY

Frustrating and simplistic, characters doing dumb things just to move the plot along (ooohhh, this thingy is really important so I think I'll keep dropping it and just carry it around in my pocket), perfect hairdos running around in the woods, walking off down the middle of a field and wondering why the bad guys saw you... yeeeesh. Lots of one-note acting. 

misterwest11
misterwest11

The most interesting element of the series are the flashback sequence that occur directly after the "blackout". Ben (Time Guinee) and Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell, one of my favorite Losties) have two children and no power. Some people band together to help one another, while others will kill for the food you may carry. This realistic survival of the fittest idea is what I am craving from my television. It is what I desire...but you can't always get what you want. I try to explain in not so many words here...misterwest11.blogspot.com

let me know if you agree

michael12374
michael12374

I think some parts of the show (the tornado scene) can be way too cheesy, but so far, the story line keeps you interested. I think that killing of the British Lady week 3 was a terrible idea. But I am interested in the lady with the computer

Dr. Gonzo
Dr. Gonzo

The show is too polished when it should be gritty.   People die and yet I feel nothing.   Perhaps it's all the beautiful people wearing clothes from from Banana Republic, and the perfect make up?   We don't get to FEEL the suffering, the hunger, the constant fear for one's life that must have occured once "the electricity went out".  There's hardly any flashbacks of scenes from after theThere's no starving people who did horrible things to survive... no walking into canabalistic towns with horribly nightmarish scenario's playing out (like in THE ROAD).  There's just Idealistic Good and Cliche Bad, oh one rogueish  Han Solo character.  Here's the problem NBC faces, "How can we do a post-apocolypic show that will attract the most demographics possible... right after "THE VOICE" is done playing"  And it is that mentality that keeps NBC playing bubble-gum stuff like this with the same formula used in the 1990's.  I can't wait for "Walking Dead" to start back up so I can wash the terrible "plastic fake" taste Revolution has left in my mouth!        

klauser
klauser

FlashForward was awesome compare to this... as a matter of fact, I would watch FlashForward re-runs instead of this crap!... They have some @ss#ole running around killing people while drunk, call him the drunk master, some dumb girl who tries really hard to be nice to the bad guys for no apparent reason [good cop bad cop scenario?] and then two other iditos who are in the background but don't play any roles... The bad guy is some asshole who's super bad and does his best to pissed off the audience!... def not wasting my time with this,, btw, the fights' choreography are usually a disaster.. pls bring some chinese kung fu directors pls..  I would give this show a season maximun.. I would cut it right now!  oooo and the plot is for kids around the age 12-13...

meetsenior
meetsenior

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  I pretty much have the same feelings about Revolution.  Frustrates me

that network executives still don't understand what made Lost successful

in the first place.  I write about that .  When I first saw the trailer for this show, it was obvious it was going be more like The Event and FlashForward.

Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson

I think this is actually supposed to be loosely based on S. M. Stirling's books.   In that universe, it isn't just electricity that stops.  Powerful chemical reactions don't work, so no gunpowder or other explosives.  Steam engines won't work.  Water and wind power are allowed to provide power for grinding grain and basic machinery.  Why?  Apparently because some cosmic force decides it should take our toys away before we destroy everything.  The bending of physical law kind of makes sense in that context - some superior being(s) are controlling chemical and physical processes (yeah, yeah, whatever, at least its an explanation).  This show makes very little sense.  Maybe it will get better....

David Dimon
David Dimon

It's the pilot - so how about giving the show a chance before you hack it to pieces?  Was it the best show ever?  No.  But it's no Cop Rock.

The premise seems to be close to the Emberverse Series by Stirling, so if you want to understand the why maybe starting here might be a good idea.  Or you could wait and see if the why/how becomes evident as the series progresses.   My hope is, that unlike Lost, we won't just be thrown questions with 1 or 2 answers that seem to pop up more questions.

lucelucy
lucelucy

Horribly disappointing.  Well, maybe not horribly since the promos didn't give me much hope to begin with.  I remember that shortly after the turn of the millennium a couple of planes fell out of the sky and I muttered (remember, I read sci-fi and fantasy) "well, that's it.  We got 100 years of flight.  I knew those things were too heavy to fly."  It was a moment.  But a moment I remembered when I saw the first promos for Revolution.  Interesting, I thought.

Not so much.

The dialog!  Where do they get these writers?  I would be embarrassed to actually get caught regurgitating every single lame line ever written.  I wish I could remember a couple of examples, but kinda glad they've escaped me.  I spent a few futile moments during the opening silently screaming at the screen - fill the bathtubs already!  And the little Pleasantville Peapatch village - I would have been more

interested in following their adventures creating a place to live.  I'd

kinda like to live there.  With internet and DVR of course.  And please - the idiotic son going postal?   And the dying father, who had just warned his daughter of the dangers of wandering about, sending her off to Chicago?  And somehow they get to Chicago and the first thing they see is Wrigley Field?  Without having to fight their way in through the suburbs (which have all disappeared in 15 years) not to mention the entire West Side?  Where the first people they see appear to have gathered in the Loop?

I kinda like the woman with the computer.  She's my only hope so far for anything interesting.  The rest of them are a bunch of Mary Sues.

markodin92
markodin92

Most great science fiction shows just create a world where the technology is plausible, like warp drive and light sabers, but most of us are concerned about the plot than how something works. I have a feeling Revolution will be a show that causes much debate with my coworkers at Dish. I recorded the premiere on my Hopper last night and I’m going to watch it when I get home tonight. The huge hard drive space on my DVR helps me see shows again and catch more details that I miss initially. I hope the first season will be about the why there’s no electricity and then find a way to bring it back. 

nycgeoff
nycgeoff

You are too kind, James: it's pretty close to terrible. Flashforward, for all its flaws, had great actors, a sense of humor, and urgency. This was very rote and uninspired. 

It has all the signs of a terrible show: a character whose flaw (drinking) has no effect on his ninja-like ability to kill fifteen people one at a time, another who only exists to be bait, the men doin' all the fightin' and serious stuff while the women grow herbs and look scared (They're trying to make the Katniss character into a good fighter, but so far all she does is get in trouble and have big eyes). Also, I counted three separate "bad guy about to kill good guy until off-screen ally kills bad guy" scenes, which is a large number for a 43 minute episode.

I'll watch another one, since it isn't as intelligence-insulting as Terra Nova, but... it's not good. Here's hoping that the other splashy premieres (Last Resort, Nashville, Vegas) are much stronger.

mishong
mishong

 Too little science, too much fiction.

Chris Kw.
Chris Kw.

 I pretty much have the same feelings about Revolution.  Frustrates me that network executives still don't understand what made Lost successful in the first place.  I write about that here.  When I first saw the trailer for this show, it was obvious it was going be more like The Event and FlashForward.

Chris Kw.
Chris Kw.

I think my reaction to this is pretty much the same.  It makes me sad to think that executives still have no clue on why Lost was ever successful to begin with.  I wrote about that here.  I actually didn't know it was available On Demand until today.  Glad I watched it so I didn't have to stay up and write up all that I found irritating about the first hour.

http://criticalsquare.blogspot...

ipfletch
ipfletch

It's starting to feel like one too many trips to the mythology well, honestly. I usually love a good end-of-the-world scenario, but even I'm getting weary of them at this point.

I'll watch tonight, but I'm not optimistic.

EricLamb
EricLamb

@misterwest11 I do agree and I feel like the show Jericho did a much better job at that. I am crossing my fingers for the deal with the book "One Second After" to become a movie. That was by far the most frightening view of a post apocalyptic world due to power outages. 

DavidNani
DavidNani

Connie answered I'm startled that a student can make $4438 in a few weeks on the network. have you seen this(Click on menu Home)

Nat Nat Lavador
Nat Nat Lavador

 the women who turned her computer, why not just turn on a tank, jet? end of story