Ever since the days of “Lost,” it comes across as strange to see a pilot season go by without at least one high-concept drama series come on he air. Last year, it was ABC who struck gold with “Once Upon a Time” — but this was after a pair of notable failures in both “FlashForward” and “V” (which did at least end up lasting for two seasons).
Now, NBC is taking a chance in this type of serialized television again following their own failure with “The Event” in “Revolution” — a series that features “Lost” executive producer J.J. Abrams along with one of its former stars in Elizabeth Mitchell (who was also on “V”). It’s a show that they have enough confidence in to air it following “The Voice” on Monday nights beginning on September 17, and there is potential here for this to be one of the most exciting shows of the whole season. However, that is the key word here — potential. After watching the pilot, we came away with a feeling of optimism (ironic for a show about a dystopian world where all power has been shut out), but we also have some concerns about it treading ground walked on by too many other shows already.
The review – Without giving anything away, the basics that you need to know about this series are that it focuses on a family that is trying to come together 15 years after the blackout happened, and some of the people who are trying to rule the remaining survivors and find out just what caused the power to go away in the first place. Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) is our leading lady here, and the cast also includes Billy Burke and the always-incredible Giancarlo Esposito (fresh off an arc on “Once Upon a Time”) as a leader of a militia group in part seeking answers. It felt at times like “The Hunger Games” and “Falling Skies” had a baby, and then threw in some of “Lost” season 5.
From a visual standpoint, “Revolution” is breathtaking. The colors are vivid, and it reminds us a little bit of “The Day After Tomorrow” mixed with M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” (not the dumb twist at the end). This show is an HD delight, and we really just wish there was more in the pilot to go along with these images. Save for a surprise in the closing minutes, the story felt a little too cut-and-dry, and we don’t really know enough about the characters to really get a feel for who they are. It’s difficult in a pilot, but you still need to find a way to introduce people without so much exposition — and this is where “Revolution” struggles despite having Jon Favreu at the helm and character master Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”) as a creator. It felt at times like the television equivalent of an A-list pop album — the music’s fun and obviously well-produced, but where’s the power lying underneath?
We recently published our early impressions of another sci-fi / action pilot in “Arrow,” and we watched both of these shows in a screening room with hundreds of people. The difference between the two audiences was palpable. The crowd was far louder for “Arrow” (a show with a smaller budget but more focus on developing the characters), and while there was still excitement for “Revolution,” there were also times when it was a little harder to focus on the action.
Verdict – We’ve been hard on the show here, and he truth is that “Revolution” is not a bad show. It’s actually decent network fare, but with the names attached we know just how good that it can be and we want to push it in that direction. Keep the mystery around the power, but make sure we care about the people at the same time. Remember, though, that “Fringe” did not get off to that great a start, and remember what it turned into — meanwhile, “FlashForward” had a great pilot and later faltered before getting good again at the end.
We are a strong believer that every new series (unless it is something like “Work It” that never should have been picked up to begin with) deserves at least two viewings, and “Revolution” certainly has that for us. We recommend to watch it live if you are a fan of Abrams’ or Kripke’s work — otherwise, this may be something to DVR and watch a little down the road if it pans out.
If you want to check out some more of our Fall TV Preview series, be sure and head on over to this link.