Wednesday, September 19, 2012

REVIEW: Revolution

NBC - Mondays - 10/9c

Ever since Lost went off the air in 2010, networks have been trying to find the next LostFlashForward.  V.  The Event.  If you look at the television schedule, you might notice none of these shows are still on the air.  That's because none of them captured any of the magic or drama of Lost, but that doesn't stop executives from thinking that they can recreate the unrecreateable.

NBC's newest attempt, Revolution, may be getting closer, but there are still gaping flaws and holes in the finished product.

1.  Does it entertain me?
Yes it did.  The pacing of the pilot was perfect, never dragging and never having to re-explain itself.  It zipped along, and you were left wondering what was coming next.

However, a big part of this might have been the coolness factor.  Namely, what does Chicago look like now that there is no power and the canals have flooded and all the houses and buildings around Wrigley Field have been taken away (seriously, there was nothing around it.  Where's the car wash?  Where's the Cubby Bear?  Murphy's?).  This could pose a problem, as the main attraction of your show should not be what does the world look like (more on this later).

Basically, here's what happened.  15 years ago, something caused the entire world to simultaneously lose all its power and its ability to have anything that the Amish wouldn't use.  So no phones, no lights, no motor cars, not a single luxury.  Like Robinson Crusoe, it's as primitive as could be.  Now in the present, everyone lives in little villages, where cul-de-sacs are now the center, chickens are raied in the square, and vegetables grow out of useless cars.  This sounds quite good to me, and it would have been easy to focus on this premise for the next 6 seasons and a movie.

But wait, there's more!  The United States have been divided into various republics, and the one in Illinois is ruled by a guy named Monroe, who has as his main leftenant Giancarlo Esposito (the best part of the pilot).  He's looking for a guy who may know what happened, finds him, kills him, captures his son and sends his daughter running into Chicago.

Again, the premise is in tact, and quite catching.  However, the reason that Lost worked is because you had a series of adult actors pitted against the Island, and eventually each other, as they struggled for survival and leadership.  Revolution may fail in hiring a pretty girl as its main antagonist, who is not the best actress in the world, and who is not especially believable as the person upon whom the main crux of the show falls.

Where the show works best, as we said above, was looking at this world that has become.  We see The Drake Hotel in Chicago (renamed the Grand Hotel, but still featuring a very clean Lou Malnati's sign).  We see O'Hare International Airport grown over by grass and planes uselessly sitting at rest.  The villages are an interesting idea, the other nation city-states throughout the country is good.

So where's the problem?  The problem is, would the development of this new world without power be more interesting than the struggle to find out why the power went out in the first place?

It's like a cross between The Walking Dead and Lost.  There are no dead people chasing them, but there is also no real civilization any more.  How do people deal without power?  What was the chaos like?

Now, all of this could be solved later by flashbacks, where we get this idea in a world we're already familiar with and how things came to be, and then the present world, where people are trying to find out what went wrong and how to fix it.  The pilot gives no indication that this will happen, but the previews for next week's episode suggests it might.

2.  Is it realistic?
I'm willing to buy that the power has gone out for some unknown reason.  I'm willing to buy all the villages, city-states and everything else involved with the new world.

The part that I'm not yet willing to buy is that Charlie, our heroine, is the one to figure everything out.  Traditionally, no show has been able to survive with a teenager or young adult working as the main protagonist.  Alias is the only show that comes to mind as almost doing it, but Sydney Bristow was not that young.  Sci-Fi shows especially try this formula and fail.  Battlestar Galactica had Adama (both), Baltar, Roslin, and Starbuck.  Lost had Jack, Locke and Sawyer.  Neither show went for the pretty girl or heartthrob hunk to carry the weight of the story, because it's not believable.

If Charlie exists as something other than the driving force, the show will have a better chance of success.

By the way, the other obvious example is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a sci-fi show which worked because of the youth of Buffy, Willow and Xander.  I don't believe Revolution is going to function the same way.

3.  Are immoral actions defended?
People get shot with guns, crossbows and bows and arrows.  They get stabbed with knives and swords.  But at no point are these actions done by the protagonists out of something other than self-defense, and they are certainly not defended against the moral law.

There is no sex and no language.

4.  Are traditional family values upheld?
Elizabeth Mitchell's character may have died, and the husband got remarried.  That's fine.

But the main idea in the pilot is that Uncle Miles should help Charlie because she's family, which is good, because family is important.

The family seems important to all things, so we can assume it will be defended.
Revolution is ambitious.  It creates a world that we haven't seen on television before, and it does so in such a way that more questions are raised about how things work.  This is a very good thing.  If the show can succeed in immersing into this future world, and if it can make us care about the characters and their quests, then this is a show that will be easy get on board.

But we could just as easily give up on it if philosophical ideas don't present themselves, and it remains simply an adventure show.

Grade: A-


  1. This is on my Hulu queue to watch. Sounds like it won't be a total waste of my time. We'll see how the series progresses. :)

  2. There is still a problem with the dialogue, and time will tell if the actors not named Elizabeth Mitchell and Giancarlo Esposito are up to the task. Hopefully it won't become this year's V/The Event/FlashForward/Terra Nova.

    Thanks for reading!