Shawconnect TV critic Brent Furdyk samples the upcoming pilots for a first look at the new fall TV season
Starring: Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Anna Lise Phillips, Zak Orth, Graham Rogers J.D. Pardo, Giancarlo Esposito, David Layons, Maria Howell, Tim Guinee
The Gist: One day, out of the blue, every source of energy in the entire world stops working. The planet plunges into darkness, with no electricity, technology or modern conveniences of any kind — welcome to the Dark Ages redux. Flash-forward 15 years later and America has degenerated to a mostly lawless land ruled by regional warlords who prey upon small farming communities that have sprung up, while nature has reclaimed the country’s foliage-filled cities. In one particular rural enclave, a teenage girl (Spiridakos) watches helplessly as her father is murdered by the militia — who ostensibly serve the new government. She quickly discovers that her now-dead father had knowledge of what caused the lights to go out — and may have held the clue to turning them back on. Captured by militia, she and two companions escape their captors and go on the run to the treacherous city that used to be Chicago to find the uncle she doesn’t know (Twilight‘s Burke), who may also have knowledge of what happened and why. Giancarlo Espositio (Breaking Bad‘s lethal drug lord Gus Fring) plays a ruthless militia leader who’s hot on their trail.
The show has an impressive pedigree of geek royalty: exec producer J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek), series creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and Iron Man director Jon Favreau, who brings a big-budget, cinematic feel as director of the pilot.
It’s like… Lost meets Mad Max meets Waterworld minus the water.
Sample line: “What the hell is going on?”
IMHO: When the driving creative forces behind Lost, Fringe, Supernatural, Star Trek, etc. team up with the director of Iron Man for a post-apocalyptic sci-fi mystery, how can you not give it a spin? The good news is that the pilot delivers the goods, loaded with action, suspense, adventure and top-shelf special effects, including a breathtaking shot of the Chicago skyline, replete with vine-covered skyscrapers, that’s reminiscent of Jurassic Park. There’s also plenty of action; in one sequence, Burke’s character single-handedly takes on a group of soliders with just a samurai sword. Revolution feels more like a movie than a TV pilot, although the flip side of that is that it almost guarantees subsequent episodes (which will have smaller budgets and won’t be directed by Favreau) can’t possibly live up to the standard that’s been set.
The biggest problem with shows like these, however, lies with how well writers can string viewers along, holding that mystery like a carrot on a stick by offering enough clues and answers to keep us from getting frustrated while not exposing the whole plan right at the outset. It’s a complicated balancing act that a lot of Lost wannabes failed to pull off (FlashForward, The Event, Alcatraz, Rubicon, etc.). Whether or not The Revolution succeeds at this probably won’t become apparent until at least a few episodes in, so the trick will be in loading up these first few episodes with as much action, plot and excitement as possible to keep viewers from losing interest to get them invested in the series’ mystery along the way.
Verdict: A spectacular-looking pilot that invokes everything from Kevin Costner’s The Postman to The Hunger Games, Revolution serves up a fast-paced, engaging story with a Lost-like mystery.
Prediction: Whether viewers stick around after the pilot, however, is a whole other story. As we’ve seen from the fates of shows like FlashForward and The Event, it can be easy to bring viewers to the table for these types of shows, but a lot harder to keep them there. A pilot does a masterful job of setting up the premise, and NBC is giving the show a plum time slot right after The Voice. Provided the show can maintain the momentum of the pilot — and Kripke’s track record on Supernatural is a good indication that it can — Revolution might be the show that finally fills the void left by Lost, and has the potential to become a much-needed hit to help lift NBC out of fourth place.
REVOLUTION premieres Monday, September 17 at 9 p.m. on Citytv & NBC
For more from our Fall Primetime Preview, click here.