Should You Give J.J. Abrams' New Post-Apocalyptic Drama, "Revolutions," a Chance?
Longer answer: It's worse than you might have anticipated. In fact, I have no idea why NBC has decided to preview the pilot for free on Hulu this week, as I'd imagine it'd be a show they'd want to hide for as long as possible in the hopes of tricking viewers into at least giving the pilot some decent ratings based solely on name recognition.
That the premise -- it's a post-apocalyptic world set 15 years after a permanent blackout -- is silly is almost beside the point. In fact, that ridiculous high-concept is the most compelling thing about "Revolution," and it's not even thoroughly explored in the pilot, at least not in a way that satisfyingly draws the viewer in. A better show would've focused on the immediate aftermath of such a blackout, and while flashbacks in "Revolution" hint at that, the main focus of the show is on the future, where a milita controls territories, where people have no electricity, where no medicines can be developed, and where there is no such thing as toilet paper.
Everything, at least initially, seems to revolve around an amulet MacGuffin, a piece of jewelry that has the ability to create electricity. Electricity obviously being a scarce resource, it's heavily sought after, but unfortunately, those doing the seeking are all bland-faced actors straight out of CW casting, save for Giancarlo Esposito, who does his damndest to manufacture a compelling villain from the little that is given to him. His character, Captain Neville, has been tasked by the militia colonel to track down two men who perhaps can provide a means to produce electricity. But oops: He kills one man and kidnaps that man's son, while the others among the contingent of bland characters seek out the other man, who is the brother of the dead one. (I'd offer you actor names, but most you won't know -- save for Twilight's Billy Burke and the guy from "Mad Men," and you have no real reason to care about them, anyway). The brother is also former military and therefore has the ability to kill a roomful of swarming army men, which comes in handy when he's attacked by a roomful of swarming army men.
And that's the thing: There's a lot of fighting in "Revolution," but there's no real interest in what they're fighting for. In addition to terrible casting and awful writing, J.J.Abrams fails to develop the central mystery, figuring that if a plane dropped out of the sky in the opening minutes of the pilot, we'd be sold. Hey! It worked for "Lost," right? Well, "Lost" had a smoke monster and characters we were more immediately invested in, plus a supernatural element. There is nothing of the sort in "Revolution," and the characters look like they were transplanted from Spielberg's "Terra Nova"; they're focus-tested vessels for bad dialogue and stupid actions. It's the equivalent of an airbrushed television show.
Moreover, and most detrimentally, we're not even given a hint about what caused the blackout, only a potential solution. Why is this amulet necessary when, theoretically, we can simply generate electricity through water or wind power? The show seems to be focused on a solution to a problem J.J. Abrams has no interest in exploring: Why is there no power? It's just because, and with a show as badly thrown together as "Revolution," I need more than that to stick around for a second episode.