Film and TV

NBC's Revolution: Nothing Revolutionary

With the amount of advertising dollars NBC has plunked down for its new postapocalyptic series Revolution, in addition to the high-quality names attached to the project -- executive producer and Lost creator J.J. Abrams, Iron Man director Jon Favreau and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke -- there were some high hopes pinned to last night's series premiere.

The show starts off in a world familiar to us, in which children watch too much television and dudes talk shop about their potential conquests. Until...the entire world shuts down. Every single piece of electronic equipment including cars, turbine engines, batteries and cell phones shuts off almost simultaneously. From a distance, the globe goes black.

Right before the planet turns off, Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee), who seems to know something about this whole debacle, downloads a file from his laptop onto an ominous-looking thumb drive. This is immediately after he calls his brother to tell him that something is "happening." Well, no duh.

Fast-forward to 15 years later; the planet has become what we all predict a postapocalyptic world to be, complete with Quaker-like villages and headstrong girls who long for "something more." But before you can say, "Cue the Beauty and the Beast opening sequence," things get turned upside down.

Ben and his two now grown children are living the quiet life, farming, and whatnot, when their town is infiltrated by the Monroe Republic militia, the new dictator-like government that is running things with an iron fist. The militia can be spotted due to the M branding on their wrists.

The militia is led by Captain Neville (the always fabulous Giancarlo Esposito). They want Ben and his estranged brother Miles (Billy Burke). Before they can take Ben away, he hands his cherished thumb drive off to nerdy friend and ex-Google exec, Aaron (Zak Orth) because only an ex-Google worker would know what to do with such a bizarre device. But Ben's son Danny (Graham Rogers) won't let his dad go and he and the town's people pull a Hunger Games out on the militia's ass. Revolt!

Unfortunately, Ben dies and Danny gets taken by the militia and the pressure is now on daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) to go to Chicago to find her uncle Miles. In tow with her is Google nerd Aaron and Ben's girlfriend Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips), who Charlie is not a fan of.

So, now you have the set up. Charlie et al. will go on a mission to find Uncle Miles, who will, in turn, help her find her kid bro. But when they find Miles in Chicago, he is too cliché to come with. Instead, he would rather be a hard-boiled, isolated-type with no love for family or getting involved in saving lives. He would rather just drink his whiskey and call Charlie "kid."

Let me not forget that on the way to Chi-town, Charlie stumbles upon a ridiculously good-looking Nate Walker (J.D. Pardo) who, despite having immediate sexual tension with Charlie and being her obvious love interest, is fighting for the bad guys! How shocking; it's the "bad guy with a heart" love interest.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the island, Danny has escaped the militia and finds himself in the home of a woman who has a back-story that we will find out soon enough. As the episode comes to close, it is revealed that strange woman has access to not only electricity but also the Internet (after the apocalypse the Internet will revert back to Mosaic). Plus, she has the same cryptic flash drive as Ben's.

Since this was the pilot and most pilots are horrific, I will cut this show some slack, but not much. It's difficult to take make any new comments on the post-Judgment Day genre. It's been so done to death that finding a new angle is like finding a good marble rye bread after the world ends! That being said, this episode was so full of clichés, it was gag worthy.

Why is it that no matter what the cause of the apocalypse is, the concept of democracy is completely forgotten? Did none of the ideas theorized by the ancient Greeks or our current Congress mean anything? Will there really be a militant government agency that has no problem with taking down innocent people at will? What does this say about how we think about our ability to control ourselves? And they want smaller government.

The characters are weak, the catalyst banal and then there was that 10-minute long sword duel scene because another thing that always seems to happen after an existential catastrophe is that the world gains an inherent knowledge of how to fence.

The minds behind this show are better than the product they have created. It's surprising that they are going in this "very done before" direction. But given they are who they are, I am willing to give this show another chance or three, but only three.

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Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig