I mentioned in a previous blog post that I was looking forward to the new NBC dystopian series, Revolution. Why shouldn’t I have been? It has a great pedigree–produced by J.J. Abrams and created by Erik Kripke (Supernatural), and some terrific actors (notably Giancarlo Esposito, who wowed viewers as the late and much lamented Gus Fring on Breaking Bad).
The premise sounded pretty good: one day, for no apparent reason, electricity stops working, causing a permanent world-wide blackout. Fast-forward 15 years to a society forced to live with primitive technology and under constant threat of an evil militia.
Sounds sure-fire, right?
I thought the same about Terra Nova.
And Flash Forward.
And The Event.
And The Nine.
Revolution racked up high ratings for its premiere, but an odd thing happened about mid-point of the broadcast–a lot of viewers turned it off. The ratings took a significant hit in the second half hour.
I’m not surprised.
The show is relentlessly cheesy, almost to the point of being silly. We are introduced to teen protagonist Charlie (she’s a girl) who wants to set out beyond her small village, which seems to have been carved out of a suburban sub-division. Dad scolds her–doesn’t she know that it’s DANGEROUS out there? Militia! Crazy people! Disease!
Next thing you know, the militia shows up in the town and wants Charlie’s Dad and her uncle, who apparently has not seen his brother since before the lights went out. Charlie’s incredibly stupid younger brother tries to stop the militia men from taking Dad, and only manages to get Dad killed, along with several villagers, and himself captured.
As Dad is dying, guess what he tells Charlie she must do? Leave and go out into that unknown world he was just warning her to stay out of before the militia showed up. She must go to Chicago and find her uncle, he says.
Just before the lights went out 15 years earlier, Dad had downloaded something onto what looked like a flash drive and stuck it in some weird amulet. Of course, you know this has to be The Thing That Will Save Humanity And Get Everyone’s IPod To Work Again.
He gives the amulet to a geek guy in their village who looks like he still spends most of his time playing video games and eating potato chips rather than expending calories growing and hunting for his food. He goes with Charlie (because, you know, when you’re going on a dangerous mission in a totally non-tech world, you need a geek), as does Charlie’s sort-of stepmother, who she hates.
On their journey they encounter Crazy Would-Be Rapists (Pseudo-Stepmom is savvy enough to serve them poisoned whiskey, so they escape) and Hot Teen Love Interest Guy, who Charlie trusts right away.
They arrive in Chicago in what seems like a minute and in another minute track down Charlie’s uncle, who apparently was a ninja at some point in his life. He refuses to help Charlie . . . and then Hot Teen Love Interest Guy betrays them and brings in a bunch of militia men to kill the uncle.
This is where the show lost what little credibility it had for me. Bad-Ass Uncle takes down what seems like about two dozen militia men in what has to be the most ridiculous fight scene, ever. Of course, as in most of these types of scenes, the bad guys are considerate enough to attack one at a time, so the hero can repel them one at a time. There’s even a moment when the uncle is distracted and the bad guys are considerate enough to wait for him to turn back around and start fighting them again.
While Charlie is attacked by another wildly incompetent militia guy, Hot Teen Love Interest shows he may not be such a bad guy after all and saves her.
There’s more, but you get the idea.
I should have known from the ads that they were trying to cash in on The Hunger Games craze by sticking in a faux-Katniss character. Instead of creating another smart, complex teen character, they make Charlie a bit of a dumb-dumb who sees a good-looking guy and automatically trusts him. Worse, she has to be rescued by him (twice already in the pilot episode).
I should have also known that this was going to be yet another failed attempt to capture fans of Lost with a mystery-laden serialized sci-fi story.
The show may improve and may still become a bona-fide hit, but I don’t see it happening, for the same reason as the previous Lost-lite shows: trying to strike lightning twice almost never works. The Next Big Pop Culture Thing will not be anything like Lost. Or The Hunger Games. Or Harry Potter. It will be in a totally different genre. It will take something familiar, but not so familiar that it becomes little more than a pale rip-off, and do it in a new, fresh way.
So you may ask, if I know this, why do I keep trying these shows?
Hey, I could be wrong. And I miss Lost a lot.