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NBC's new show is nothing ‘Revolution’-ary

NBC’s Revolution is the next ambitious, post-apocalyptic network drama with hopes of filling the gaping hole left by ABC’s groundbreaking Lost. Though shows such as The Event, Flash Forward, Terra Nova and V all tried and failed to obtain the same cult following Lost enjoyed, Revolution is produced by Lost creator J.J. Abrams and has a step up with the fans right out of the gate.

Twelve million viewers tuned into the Sept. 17 pilot episode that has a distressed Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee) warning his family, “It’s gonna turn off … and it will never ever turn back on!” Suddenly, electricity throughout the country and possibly the world shuts down. We flash forward 15 years and see Ben living with his family, including daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and son Danny (Graham Rogers) in a lawless, overgrown world divided into communes where militias vying for power threaten all order. When militiaman Capt. Tom Neville, played by Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame, disrupts Ben’s peaceful community, chaos ensues, leaving Ben dead and Danny kidnapped.

The premise of the show is established as Charlie leaves to find her uncle Miles (Billy Burke) who, along with Ben, knows vital information about the blackout and who can help rescue her brother from the militia.

In a world where survivors have relearned the art of sword fighting and have become adept with bow and arrow, it’s clear the producers had HBO’s successful Game of Thrones in mind for this present-day adventure-quest drama.

Though the imaginative shots such as a decrepit Wrigley Field are well-executed, it remains to be seen if the writers can maintain the believability of this high-concept plot. Serialized dramas hit their stream when they develop engaging and complex characters viewers become attached to. So far, Revolution’s characters seem to fit the mold of what we have come to expect from a network drama: a good-looking cast who manages to look pretty despite the post-apocalyptic setting, an inevitable romance between two young characters, and a geeky klutz for comic relief (à la Lost’s Hurley). The characters seem shallow and lack the internal conflicts and struggles that might arise in such a ruthless and bleak society.

The pilot presents some interesting revelations about the origin of the blackout, and the episode really takes off during a fight scene involving samurai swords and unconventional battle tactics between the militia and our rag-tag team of rebels. Believability aside, such exhilarating fight scenes can’t hurt the show’s chances of keeping viewers.

The size and scope of the plot established in Revolution should open the door for ample twists and turns later in the series. But viewers will only stick around and buy into the mythology if the upcoming episodes do a better job of developing the characters. If NBC wants Revolution to be the next successful serialized drama in a field now dominated by cable, it must start by transcending network television’s predictability and monotony. Otherwise it will be lights out for this show as well.