Synopsis: A group of revolutionaries must battle a governing dictatorial militia 15 years after an instantaneous global shutdown of all electronic devices known as the Blackout
Production Company/Network: Bad Robot for NBC
Cast: Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Espositio (GUS IS BACK WOOH!!!), Zak Orth, JD Pardo, David Lyons, Graham Rogers, Elizabeth Mitchell
Firstly it needs to be said that I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this had it not been a Bad Robot Production, and as such carried JJ Abrams name with it. The man knows how to create compelling TV, and he has a raging geek boner for technology and sci-fi. So the idea of him producing a show where the premise is sci-fi/social commentary about our over reliance on technology and electricity was to compelling not to watch.
The reason I wouldn’t have watched it was I got burned before with ABC”s high concept sci-fi flop Flash Forward. That too had an intriguing central hook that seemed to have huge amounts of potential for both drama and fun, but failed to deliver on either over a long period. Mostly it was because outside of the sci-fi I didn’t give a crap about any of the characters. They were mostly annoying or shitty or both. And the ones I did give a crap about didn’t get enough air time. Being cancelled after one series when they already shot the ending before they knew, thus leaving a lot of loose ends, was deeply annoying. Mainly because despite losing interest I hoped at least to stick around long enough for a narrative pay off about what the hell was ACTUALLY going on.
Whilst I generally enjoyed the pilot episode of Revolution I reserve the same fears as I did with Flash Forward. Yes, the central concept is great. There is tons of fun to be had with the use of overgrown cities as almost literal urban jungles and nods to useless words like Google, which don’t mean anything anymore. But my main problem is because it is a network show it has 90201/Arrow/anything on WB syndrome: everyone is too damn sexy. I struggle when a group of survivors living off the land, fighting, sweating, with no access to medical care OR DENTAL CARE, look like they walked straight on to the set from an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot. They all have perfect skin, teeth, hair and make up at almost all times.
Of all of the things going on in these shows the highest concept idea of all is people in this situation would still look like this and not have half their teeth and all have Edward Jame Olmos face.
Post-apocalyptic dystopian futures should be bleak. They should be hard and nasty. They should be black and almost hopeless with just a shard of light, a slither of hope to keep you thinking maybe everything will be ok. In most “post-apocalyptic” TV shows the terrible event seems to be a minor inconvenience. But I get why they do it. Network TV needs advertisers. Advertisers need broad demographics. A lot of people would get turned off by hopelessness. It’s basic TV economics.
I will give it time. JJ Abrams has never let me down yet. And I have had Giancarlo Esposito withdrawals since he left Breaking Bad.
Pilots are hard to judge. Everyone is finding their feet. Few shows hit the ground running and normally take at least a season to bed in, find their audience and the confidence to explore their characters a little more deeply. This will probably end up being a guilty pleasure. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the swashbuckling. I just wish this was more gritty. There are some really interesting parallels with the Wild West that they elude to in the pilot that I hope they explore. But I get the feeling it will be more Vampire Diaries than Deadwood.