Monday, September 17, 2012

'Revolution': Initial Reaction

This new 'Lost' imitator is a little more promising than past 'Lost' imitators.  However, 'Revolution's first hour makes it abundantly clear that network executives still don't truly understand why the island-set mystery ever worked in the first place.

I write this knowing perfectly well that J.J. Abrams has a producer credit for Revolution--a producer credit that really serves more as an endorsement for the show.  Abrams neither wrote nor directed the pilot of Revolution.  Compare that with Lost, where he both co-wrote and directed the pilot and then played a key role in setting up the first hints at a larger mythology.   Now, Revolution was written by Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man).  Two men who are definitely capable of creating an intriguing television show about a world that exists without electricity.  It just seems doubtful that the suits at NBC will allow Kripke and his writers make such a version of the show.

It's probably unfair to single out NBC on the issue of executives hindering their writers' creative visions.  And it's probably unfair for me to even presume/insinuate that this is an issue as far as Revolution is concerned.  Still, it's hard not to think these things when one watches the pilot.  There are just too many nonsensical moments in the pilot where I either laughed, cringed, or rolled my eyes.  Here's a list of some of those moments (SPOILER ALERT).

  • First, NBC put the episode On Demand prior to its official September 17th premiere.  While I watched it On Demand, enormous in-show promos for the Sep. 17th premiere of Revolution appeared four or five times. That's correct.  NBC promoted the premiere of Revolution to viewers watching the premiere Revolution!! Why? The one time this summer/early fall where I thought I didn't have to worry about seeing those annoying ads.  I didn't think those in-show promos could get any more annoying but NBC always finds a way.
  • The cul-de-sac village set up.  Maybe plausible.  But it felt like a group of people set up a post-apocalyptic Pleasentville.
  • Speaking of the village.  Why did it feel so calm when Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) set off to find her brother.  Didn't a whole bunch of the village's inhabitants just get shot/stabbed and killed? Yet, everyone went about their merry day right after the tragic event. And no one seemed to mind that one of the doctors was leaving.
  • Charlie's outfit.  I'm one hundred percent positive that "costume" got tested in a focus group.  The audience is expected to see Charlie as being Katniss-esque.  But Katniss Everdeen doesn't display sex appeal while in the arena.  Because that would be cheesy and inappropriate.
  • The trek to Chicago.  Charlie and company got there pretty quickly.  I'm not sure we were told how far it was from the village.  But it didn't feel like their journey was too arduous (other than them almost being raped).  If this show were on AMC or HBO, the whole first season would have dealt with this journey.  Instead, it lasted for 10-15 minutes of screen time.  
  • Arrival in Chicago.  The first person our protagonists meet happens to be Charlie's Uncle Miles (Billy Burke).  Well, that was easy.  Maybe NBC should have commissioned a two hour pilot.  They used to make those back in the day.  The NBC executives must have known that they were going to give pick up the pilot to series with all the behind-the-scenes talent that's attached to it.  With two hours, the events of this episode may not have been as rushed.
  • The swordplay.  I get why civilians may not have guns since it's established that possessing one is illegal (in the Monroe Republic).  But why don't more of Monroe's militiamen have guns when they go after Miles?  Are guns on that short of supply after 15 years?  If they are, how does Monroe govern over the masses. 
Those are a few of the frustrating moments that come to mind.  Truthfully, there are times when I won't let nonsensical happenings interfere with my enjoyment of a show/movie/book.  However, that only is made possible because the characters are compelling enough to make me forget about reason and logic.  Lost wouldn't have been Lost without its characters.  A lot of people may claim that they primarily cared about the mythology.  But take away the characters, and they would discover that they no longer cared about the mythology.

With V, FlashForward, The Event, and Revolution the main cast members nearly always fill some kind of generic, cookie-cutter role to one another and to the viewers.  For example, the relationship, or lack thereof, between Charlie and Maggie (the girlfriend of Charlie's dad) is a hostile one from Charlie's point-of-view.  Why doesn't Charlie like Maggie (played by Anna Lise Phillips)? Because she's kind of like a stepmother.  And on network TV, stepmother's are disliked by the kids.  That's just a given.  How I read the situation: Maggie is a well-meaning person who helps Charlie's brother Danny (Graham Rogers) cope with his asthma and Charlie dislike her because she's filled the void left by her (presumably) deceased mother (Portrayed by Elizabeth Mitchell who previously starred in Lost and V).  So that relationship is now probably going to be a point of "tension" among the group going forward.  Even though Charlie's dad is dead and Charlie is trying to assert herself as a mature young woman by trying to save her younger brother.  So she should probably grow up considering there are obviously much worse people out to do her and her family harm.

I label these posts as "Initial Reactions" for a reason.  I do not work at a prestigious print and/or online publication.  This is my own blog that I have as a hobby.  Therefore, I do not have an editor asking me to write reviews on all the new fall shows.  Unfortunately for real critics, one episode is usually all they get prior to writing a review (at least that's the case for most network shows).  Reviewing programs based off one episode results in much more speculation and analysis of a show's potential rather than what they actually see.  I'm guessing a lot of the reviews for Revolution are like that.  It's impossible for reviews not to be that way with serialized dramas (or any show for that matter).

I make this clarification between "review" and "reaction" because I haven't written about the positive elements of Revolution.  One of the bright spots was seeing Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad's Gus Fring) in one of the more interesting roles.  There's also the character of Aaron (Zak Orth) who was described as the Hurley of this show on the Talking TV with Ryan Ryan Podcast.  I wouldn't decorate him with that status at this point.  But he does bring a more grounded personality into a cast of End of the World seriousness.

I didn't write about either of these two characters  because they weren't really part of my "Initial Reaction."  I couldn't help but write about the more problematic aspects of the first hour.  I'm also not going to waste my time by being speculative about what could be.   Maybe that's my fault for being a cynic.  Truthfully, it's hard not to be a cynic with Revolution.  I feel like I've seen this pilot before.  Probably because I pretty much have.  My reaction to the pilots of V, FlashForward, and The Event were all the same as this one.  None of them were actually good on their own.  The following episodes only took steps backward instead of forward.  Not surprisingly, none of them lasted for more than a season and a half.

It's an uphill battle for Revolution.  I could be proven wrong. I honestly hope that I will be. 

1 comment:

  1. Very good points! I liked the pilot and will stick it out for a while, but I totally agree. I was very peeved that they just breezed through the entire WORLD shutting down, planes falling out of the sky, people dying by the millions most likely – in less than five minutes. If we have too much time to dwell and reflect about the horrible consequences of that we would not even care about the protagonists.

    And this was all to rush to see a 'hip' baring teen in a stylish leather jacket hunting in the woods in what looks like a Renaissance festival. The world drastically changing like that should have taken up at least half a season or a whole one. How about a 2-hour movie premiere? What happened to those? What happened to character development? This is why my favorite shows are from the seventies and eighties.

    But this is from the creators of LOST, a far superior show from its Pilot episode alone, but Revolution will inundate us with flashbacks. sigh.

    I like the uncle Miles and his swashbuckling reluctant heroics and the baddie Neville who does his job without much consideration for life. I also like the doctor stepmom. The woman with the secret computer in her attic is also intriguing. Let's hear it for the adults.

    Charlie's brother seems interesting and at least he has a 'weakness'. Charlie is not so bad, but like most reviews I'm reading she's bland. But there's still time for her to grow into character. That goes for all of them.

    The supposed 'real' villain Monroe seems like a weakling and I am almost positive someone is pulling his strings. I like to give shows a three-strikes-out chance so I plan to keep watching, but I'm not as drawn into this mystery as I should have been.