Idiot Box: NBC’s post-apocalyptic drama “Revolution” needs more spark
 Alibi V.21 No.37 • Sept 13-19, 2012 

Idiot Box

Slow Starter

“Revolution” on NBC

Maybe it’s the approaching end of the Mayan calendar. Perhaps it’s Chuck Norris’ talk about President Obama’s re-election ushering in “a thousand years of darkness.” Whatever the reason, human beings have got the apocalypse on their minds again. Never one to miss a trend, NBC jumps on the doom-and-gloom bandwagon with its new end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it series, “Revolution.”

Created by Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”) and executive produced by J.J. Abrams (“Lost”), “Revolution” boasts the best pedigree for a sci-fi show since last season’s Steven Spielberg-produced dino-drama, “Terra Nova”—which got canceled after 11 episodes, so don’t get your hopes up.

As “Revolution” switches on, we’re introduced to Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee, “Stargate SG-1”), a scientist of some sort who races home to warn his family that “It’s going to turn off and it’s not going to come back on!” As it happens, he’s speaking about worldwide electrical power. Sure enough, the lights go out just as he’s talking to his brother Miles (Billy Burke, Twilight), a ruggedly handsome Marine sergeant. This is no ordinary blackout, mind you. As one character later assesses, “The laws of physics have gone crazy.” The electricity isn’t just off. It’s gone. Earth is left without power and with no way of generating more. Cars, planes, radios, computers: None of them will work anymore.

Cut to 15 years later, and Earth is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Cities have been abandoned. Buildings have crumbled to dust. Roadways are overrun with plant life. Machinery is rusted to ruin. Honestly, that seems like an awfully short amount of time for all of civilization and everything in it to have been utterly destroyed. But whatever. That’s the scenario and we’re going with it.

Ben now lives with his daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and son Danny (Graham Rogers) in a rural cul-de-sac somewhere in the midwest. Their small community farms food, homeschools the kids and pays the occasional “tribute” to roving gangs of militiamen who patrol the area. One day, creepy Captain Neville (Giancarlo Esposito, fresh off “Breaking Bad”) shows up looking for Ben. Seems the local warlord wants him and his brother, believing (rightfully) that they know something about the blackout. Unable to get the info they need, Neville and his troops kidnap Danny. Naturally, Charlie and a handful of the younger homesteaders head out on a cross-country quest to rescue Danny and find bad-ass uncle Miles.

“Revolution” borrows a lot from AMC’s hit “The Walking Dead.” No, there aren’t any flesh-eating zombies to contend with, but the show seems primarily concerned with day-to-day survival in post-apocalyptic America. Toss in a bit of The Road and a dash of The Hunger Games, and we’re good to go. The pilot, directed by Iron Man helmer Jon Favreau, keeps the action and the tension relatively high. There are a number of fight scenes, which come off moderately well. Burke, our resident tough guy, is responsible for most of the action. I’m not sure I buy him as an unstoppable combination of Jason Bourne and Wolverine, but he’ll do.

The generic quest storyline gives the characters a general direction in which to head. Whether this builds to a larger, more engrossing mythology (hints of a major conspiracy do pop up in the pilot) remains to be seen. So far, “Revolution” is no “Lost.” Hopefully, it can generate some real narrative interest before its power gets cut.

“Revolution” premieres Monday, Sept. 17, at 9 p.m. on KOB-4.