For the pedigree NBC has in making half hour comedies, from Friends and Seinfeld to the modern shows, the hour long show has never been their strong point. Although there have been some classics like The West Wing, and recent shows like Friday Night Lights and Chuck, the successes have been few and far between.
Now NBC’s new attempt at appealing to the cult crowd is Revolution. Close on the heels of not only the failures but baffling examples of shows completely devoid of any redeeming qualities – such as The Cape and The Event – come the post-apocalyptic travails of a world where all electrical devices have stopped working. Post-apocalypse does seem to be the in thing now; a few years ago every new show was about vampires, now it’s world destruction. Maybe there’s something to do with the consciousness of society being worried about something bad happening to the planet. Although a clear image of ADD network executives giving up on the Twilight crowd after seeing The Hunger Games springs to mind.
I know this is not on TV in Britain, but that shouldn’t stop you wiley internet folks from watching it should it (Modify Headers trick to mask IP addresses in Firefox works on NBC’s online player, but don’t tell too many people, and then of course there are link websites – sidereel.com, tv-links.eu, and embedded players on plustube.me, mopvideo.com and cuevana.tv being some of the current crop filling the void left from Megaupload’s demise)
Revolution doesn’t take itself too seriously; a problem that plagued The Event and The Cape, from walking past a deserted overgrown Wrigley Field and seeing a horse-drawn back half of a VW Beetle in what used to be Chicago, to swashbuckling sword fights, this show is fun. Yes, it conforms to the expected character archetypes: lead young female character, the overweight geek character who worked for Google and had “$80 million in the bank” but would trade it all in “for a roll of Charmin”, meant to be the avatar of all geek fandom, but that’s to be expected on the main networks. The acting started off as a bit hammy until the introduction of Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) which seemed to raise the game of everyone across the show, and with John Favreau’s solid directing of the pilot, especially in the fight sequences, they combine to give the show a strong base to work on, although the overly dramatic soundtrack could do with being toned down.
Revolution never really explores its central theme of the addiction to technology that society has, or is a plausible exploration of a post-apocalyptic world, but it’s not meant to be, it’s a romp, a fantasy trek across a dystopian future where people fight with swords and bows and arrows in the middle of the ruins of civilisation. It’s never going to be the greatest show on television, but compared with similar shows it’s much stronger. Although the end of the first episode’s reveal – spoiler alert! – that there is a device that can activate electrical devices in its vicinity does seem slightly implausible even given television’s disregard of realistic science, but judgement will be reserved until it is explained fully before jumping to ridicule the absurdity.
It’s tough for shows like this to gain enough of an audience to satisfy a network studio, whereas Falling Skies on the smaller TNT channel can get by with much lower ratings. Then there are also the problems with, if getting past its first order of thirteen episodes, having to fill an entire season of twenty-two episodes. This is a stretch for any show with a constantly progressing narrative and is a format much better suited to procedural shows like the many cop/law and hospital based programs, but if NBC try to refrain from messing it about between different nights and random hiatuses it might have a chance. The pilot had much more going for it than the recent failures of similar shows – Terra Nova springs to mind – maybe it’s because expectations are so low for anything on NBC that you feel like giving them a pat on the head just for making something coherent, but at some point they have to learn from their mistakes, don’t they? My early prediction for this show: although I don’t see it going six seasons and a movie, I see it lasting longer than three weeks. Renewed.