For a show so intently concerned with the past lives of its characters, “Revolution” should be more conscious of its own heritage. NBC’s big-budget primetime show appears to have forgotten its debt to shows like “The Event,” “The Walking Dead” and most importantly, “Lost,” shamelessly recycling motifs from its many inspirations.
Each year, it seems impossible to avoid discussing the influence of “Lost” on network television shows. It is especially difficult for “Revolution,” a show that is largely based around sexy, adventurous young people as they incessantly — and idiotically — wander through areas of overgrown foliage. All of this is, of course, done amid veiled references to a secret that will probably only be revealed three seasons later.
To be fair, “Revolution” is a show with a genuinely interesting concept that will successfully bait even the canniest viewers. The powerful opening depicts the largest electrical blackout ever — one that spreads across the whole world and is somehow related to one nervous businessman. The show then flashes forward 15 years, when the businessman is telling his daughter to go find her uncle (Billy Burke) just before he is killed by a militia leader, who — in one of the show’s better casting decisions — is played by Giancarlo Esposito.
If this all sounds familiar, it’s because it has been done before: The sketchy uncle figure and the post-apocalyptic America should remind one strongly of shows that either got cancelled after one season, like “FlashForward,” or somehow made it to two, like “Jericho,” not to mention the mother of all network television epics, “Lost.”
Where “Revolution” differs from other television shows in the same genre, or at least where it tries, is in its sense of showmanship. The first third of the pilot is almost entirely made up of computer-generated tableaux of an electricity-free America covered with overgrown weeds. While these special effects shots have an oddly pacifying effect, at times they also make the show feel like an unusually expensive History Channel special.
At times, “Revolution” borders on self-parody, as obviously computerized deer prance across the ruined cityscapes and shrill violins play during poorly choreographed action sequences. Eric Kripke’s wooden writing, which is well-suited for a fun CW show like “Supernatural,” feels wrong for a slicker network show. Really, it serves only to make the program feel even more clichéd.
With lines like, “It’s happening, isn’t it?” asked in total seriousness, “Revolution” unfortunately devolves into an accidental satire of the shows to which it attempts to pay homage. The pilot is exasperatingly boring, even when it boldly features four-minute-long action sequences. Nevertheless, what direction the writers will take the show remains to be seen. For patient viewers, “Revolution” may pay off if the pacing perks up a little and a few solid plot twists manifest themselves. Slow pacing has been the doom of all “Lost” copies to date, and unless “Revolution” moves past tired conceits and recycled characters, it is doomed to the same fate as its predecessors: cancellation.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 18 print edition. Alex Greenberger is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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