REVOLUTION (Mondays at 9c on NBC).
It should come as no surprise that one of the most ambitious television shows of the new fall season has J.J. Abrams behind it. Here, he partners with co-executive producer (and director of the pilot) Jon Favreau, and creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural). If you know me, you know that I'm a big fan of anything Bad Robot, but other than the big ideas and hint of mythology in the story, Revolution does not feel like a J.J. show. It's more like the second coming of Terra Nova or Falling Skies.
The opening sequences are effective enough, showing what happens when the world loses all electricity. The shots of cars shutting down on the highway are cool, but it's when planes start falling from the sky and exploding all around that the concept truly hits home in a terrifying way. Too bad Kripke and Favreau spend so little time on the pre-apocalypse. Rather than dwell on these brilliant ideas and imagery, they quickly skip ahead 15 years. This is a mistake from which the rest of the show never really recovers.
We're then introduced to our heroine, Charlie, a bow-and-arrow-wielding girl not all that far removed from the Katniss mold, played by the appealing Tracy Spiradakos. After her father is killed by militia headed up by Gus Fring himself (Giancarlo Esposito) and her brother is taken, she sets off with her stepmother and a family friend to track down her Uncle Miles (Billy Burke), who is living in Chicago. They trek through the Chicago wilderness, featuring a rundown Wrigley Field, and fight some bad guys. Some of this looks great, but the action fails to excite and the pacing drags way too much.
In the last 5 minutes, Kripke tries to tantalize the viewer with several cliffhangers, including the return of a seemingly forgettable side character and the introduction of a flash-drive of sorts that may hold the key to the restoration of electricity. These moments may hook some of you, but they didn't really do much for me. Maybe I've seen too many of these high-concept sci-fi shows burn bright and then flame out in a fit of frustration. There is nothing in this pilot to suggest that Revolution will be any different.
I don't think J.J. has spent that much time on this other than lending it his name and pedigree. It shows. This feels like a lesser effort, and probably will be cancelled by the end of the year, just like FlashForward, The Event, and countless others of its ilk. I admire some of the ambition and the way much of the episode plays like more of a Western than Science Fiction. I like that it's not your typical procedural. But the story never hooked me, the concept feels underdeveloped, and the preview for future episodes doesn't look much better. I'll give it one more episode to convince me otherwise, but based on the pilot alone, you can probably skip Revolution. Grade: C