“Revolution” is hardly revolutionary, but the NBC show is one of this broadcast season’s few bonafide hits.
There are three new shows in this season’s top 20 when it comes to ratings, and “Revolution” is one of them. The other two — “Vegas” and “Elementary” on CBS — skew older, and since TV networks crave a younger, advertisers-friendly audience, “Revolution” may actually be this season’s biggest hit.
The show is set 15 years in the future, but it is a future where in the here and now all electricity just inexplicably shut down. In the years since the blackout militias have risen, new countries have carved out domains and those who survived have mostly settled in small, agrarian villages.
One of these militia-run countries, running from the east coast to the midwest, is under the rule of Bass Monroe (David Lyons). He has sent the ruthless Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) out to the countryside to bring back a member of the Matheson family. He has that family’s mother (Elizabeth Mitchell) held hostage and he believes by threatening to torture her son or daughter he can force her to divulge a very big secret: Why the power went out and how to get it back on.
Neville ends up getting 18-year-old Danny Matheson (Graham Rogers) and starts dragging him off to Philadelphia. When his sister Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) hears of his capture, she links up with her long-lost killing machine uncle Miles (Billy Burke) and, with a few others, sets out to rescue Danny.
That’s the basic story after six episodes and this show leaves itself plenty of room to move. Executive produced by “Lost” honcho J.J. Abrams, the storylines run through the present, but at any time the show can trace back to where its characters were when the lights went out, how they survived, etc. Since each character has 15 years of past to unveil, “Revolution” can take advantage of the same type of then and now storytelling that “Lost” used, and so far it’s doing so quite effectively.
There are other comparisons to “Lost” — our heroes are essentially stranded in a hostile world and as of yet we have no real idea as to what’s going on with electricity. But so far there have been no smoke monsters or polar bears; in fact the show has something of the dusty future-cowboy spirit of “Firefly.” There’s no otherworldly spiritual gibber-gash going on; instead there’s lots of good old-fashioned swordfighting. And since you’ve got young people involved and plenty of reason for paranoia, there’s even a smattering of “Hunger Games” atmosphere.
The show has about 362 producers but the names that stick out are Abrams, series creator Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”) and Jon Favreau, the “Iron Man” director who helmed the first episode. That’s an interesting and promising trio.
The show does have some problems, chiefly the not-quite-charismatic Spiridakos in the key role of Charlie. She’s improved as the show has progressed and it’s hard to tell if it’s the actress’s fault or the stiff lines she’s given. Considering the smooth dialogue and humor on both “Lost” and “Supernatural” its odd to see both lacking here.
Also a bit troubling is the science of it all. In a recent episode there was a steam engine train. Well, if they have steam engines, why can’t they have big boats and so many other things? Oh well, it’s TV.
Still, “Revolution” is proving to be the most interesting dystopic show on broadcast TV right now. And even though it’s moving fast — key characters have dropped dead, great revelations seem on the brink — the basic premise and manner of storytelling leave plenty of room to grow. Let’s hope the lights don’t come back on too soon.