Should You Give J.J. Abrams' New Post-Apocalyptic Drama, "Revolution," a Chance?
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Should You Give J.J. Abrams' New Post-Apocalyptic Drama, "Revolutions," a Chance?

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | September 17, 2012 | Comments ()


Short answer: No.

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.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Ned

    It's "Revolution," not "Revolutions." (See headline.)

  • anonymous

    what guy from Mad Men is on the show? are you speaking of the bearded man, that is not the guy from Mad Men....

  • ,

    So what's powering the cameras filming this?

  • BlackRabbit

    Adding to the excellent points others have made: What does the title mean? Revolution? What are they rebelling against? Will pouting and yelling "I hate you" at an air conditioner make it work? It's ironic that adapting the name would give them what they lack in the form of wind turbines and such.

  • Let's have a scene were an actor stares longingly at discarded ice cream that is no longer viable due to lack of refrigeration. That makes sense because you know to make ice cream you need ice/snow and ingredients. Electricity is not a requirement. How about they stare longingly at devices that don't work without electricity like cell phones, tvs, MRI machines, and movie theaters

    And please show me the master seamstresses and tailors hand sewing these custom getups. I wish more thought was put into this show. I feel like they wanted to make a totally different post-disaster that is super brightly lit.

    In other news archery seems to be all the rage these days. I hope Arrow is a decent show.

  • Devin McMusters

    Exactly. The stupid ice cream scene was my next to last straw with these idiots. The effin Walton's had ice cream without electricity!

  • googergieger


    Next question.

  • BierceAmbrose

    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 ...

    Arthur Clarke said: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." So, in a story set a few years from right now, electricity is an unknown force obtainable only with an amulet from the past which nobody understands.

    This bugs me.

  • That idiot up there is even dressed exactly like Kate from Lost. I already hated one Kate badly enough, I don't need another one.

  • John W

    So is it Terra Nova bad or The Event bad?

  • pete n pete

    We had guns for hundreds of years before electricity. Why exactly are they sword fighting here?

  • Carter

    This looks like a really good show to me, although I might be the only person in America who doesn’t look at what people are wearing in TV shows. I decided not to watch the pilot online and to wait with a coworker at Dish to watch it on premiere night, instead. I really can’t wait for the show but my Hopper will record it with the PrimeTime Anytime feature so that I can watch it and record all of my other shows as well. I am incredibly excited for this new show to start; hopefully it is as good as it looks in the previews!

  • Devin McMusters

  • Uriah_Creep

    Somebody upvoted a Dishbot comment? Holy shit.

  • jackdow

    its a frustrating premise as well... For example, if all of those technologies no longer function (including cars) then why do they have the ability to make fire? A car engine runs on explosions, and it would be just the computer that operates it that would fail. Why do guns and candles still work, but no one can seem to get a piston to go...

  • Miley's Virus

    Cars also, through these explosions, GENERATE THIER OWN ELECTRICITY!. So do planes, at least to the point where they don't fall straight down. Did physics stop? Did the wings cease to generate lift? If physics stopped, why not gravity? Shouldn't the plane have floted out into space, along with all these people? How has anything remained stuck to the planet at all? How has the planet remained in its orbit? Seriously, about the electricity thing, Fuck! I generated electricity once out of a potato, and not even a charming one at that! Are they gone too? The leaves look pretty green, so photosynthesis and, by proxy, solar power should work just fine. I'm ok with suspending disbelief to a point but fucking Futurama has a better grasp of basic science than this thing does.

  • Miley's Virus

    Also, where's all the fucking? With no electricity and apparently no books to read there really isn't much else to do. I'd think the pudgy one would, by virtue of his extra pounds, be considered the richest of the group. Wouldn't he be trying to parlay that into some post-apocolyptic ass?

  • I was surprisingly underwhelmed by the pilot. I loved the preview I saw a couple of months ago, so I was surprised. I'm a Hulu fiend and will continue to watch, but I'm hoping it draws me in.

  • snapnhiss

    I was willing to overlook the ridiculous premise since it was interesting to imagine our society without electricity (and computers) but I was hoping to watch the immediate aftermath, not another angsty teenager being all angsty. I didn't like that actress much anyway... and what's with the long flowing, perfectly curled and colored apocalypse hair? They've got amazing hair on Falling Skies as well, it's kind of distracting. The clean and very new clothes bugged, especially the silky shirt on the gym muscled archer kid. And would there really be any fat people 15 years into a society that's apparently stuck in the agrarian age?

  • This really makes me think it's more based on S.M. Sterling's series "Dies the Fire" than I previously thought, although a very dumbed down version. In that series electricity fails, but so do certain chemical reactions. So gas won't burn, coal won't burn, bullets won't fire, etc., and America reverts back to a feudal middle ages style society. It's good stuff as far as end-of-the-world premises go. I haven't finished the series so I don't know if it is ever explained what causes the phenomenon but the characters in the book theorize quite a bit.

  • stryker1121

    Dies the Fire was my first thought, too. Although I only made it 2 books through the series. Sterling is obsessed w/ Wicca and farming and forgets to tell a story in the second novel.

  • RepliCarter

    That's really too bad. I got free tickets to see it at my local theater (!). Was gonna check it out just for fun, but sounds like I really don't want to stand in line for that right after working all day.

  • THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU all of the posters claiming bullshit. Where's the steam power? Coal? Waterwheels? Hell, slaves on a turnstile can generate power. Not that I recommend that but I bet in a better written premise the villains would come up with that.

  • Yep. Looks like all the salient points are covered in the comments. Apparently, to the historically challenged bozos that write this stuff, the Stone Age ended around 1955. Sheesh.

  • space_oddity

    All I wanna know is how did the 'event' also wipe out all the buildings around Wrigley Field. Cause they're apparently all gone 15 years later.

    I watched the pilot. I will not be watching more. I have no interest in whatever these characters are trying to do.

  • TheAggroCraig

    No toilet paper? Time to figure out how to use those three seashells!

  • Erich

    i don't understand - did every engineer suddenly die when the power was lost? Did they have the part of their brains that contains the knowledge of water and wind turbines get wiped out? Every solar panel in the world shattered simultaneously? Steam power? Coal power? Gun powder? A whole hell of a lot happened before there was a power grid and/or batteries.
    To believe all that knowledge disappeared along with the loss of all current electricity requires a suspension of disbelief like has never been seen before.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I also didn't get how combustible engines suddenly stopped because the electricity went out. Sure they wouldn't start back up again, but any motor that was running would keep running. Oh and when those dicks were driving their car and the power went out how come their headlights were the only ones that went out? stuuuuuuuuuuupid.

  • screaminscott

    I think the point is that electricity simply won't work. Yeah, that seems impossible, but then the cliche nerd character say's "physics went crazy". Still there are a lot of holes in the world-building that they have done for the show. Steam engines should be around. Candles should be VERY rare (Most wax these days is from oil - natural waxes are really labor intensive). Do compound bows work with natural-fiber bowstrings? Somehow I doubt it (although I could be wrong). And yeah, everything is so clean (clothes, leather jackets, shiny hair, perfect makeup).

  • Stephen Nein

    It's amazing - I'm reading Terry Pratchett & Steven Baxter's The Long Earth right now, and while it's equally as fantastic (so far), it's tremendously more interesting. Fer christsakes, everyone's MacGuffin is powered by a yukon gold, and a main character is inexplicably a sentient soft drinks machine.

  • The Wanderer

    Told you so, back during the Olympics. This stinkburger had the stench of complete incompetence straight out of the gate. Look, just because the power grid's down doesn't mean that you can't generate electricity - I mean, Sweet Unholy Cthulhu, the planet itself is a generator! Abrams ever hear of lightning?

    And, of course, human nervous systems run on electrochemical impulses. So why are people even in this . . .

    Oh yeah. They're not people. They're empty suits from Central Casting.

  • tatertot

    Of course electricity still exists....we still have lightning storms! Just because the grid is burned out doesn't mean it can't be rebuilt! But why focus on what that would entail when you can have a magic amulet!

    I hate it when writers think they're being clever when they're really being lazy. If your logical fallacies and gaping plot holes are obvious to viewers just by watching your trailer, you really need to start over.

  • screaminscott

    I think the point is that electricity won't flow for some reason. Yeah it's weird and seems impossible, but then it's the magical premise for creating some medieval society with modern people... which is the whole point of the show apparently.

  • Jaime Birren

    The forced "Charlie" name thing irritated me from the get-go. They
    really could have done a lot with this show, but as the article says,
    it's just a bunch of fighting and no "what for." All I kept thinking was
    "Jericho" meets "The Postman," only without all the awesome. (Don't you
    dare hate on "The Postman." I will cut you.)

  • Tinkerville

    I barely made it through the pilot. The dialogue was so cringe-worthy and I've seen better acting at high school recitals. I swear you could practically see the main girl telling herself to put on her sadface in 3..2..1...

    There were no likable or interesting characters, no motivations for anything, and not even a hint of why the blackout occurred or why they couldn't do anything about it. Blech. Just awful. Count me out.

  • tatertot

    Gah! The premise is actually intriguing, but the writers obviously have only drive-by understanding of this thing called History. Electricity is pretty new. Things like the Civil War - with cannons and rifles! - happened before electricity; trains criss-crossed the continent before electricity; the whole, friggin' Industrial Revolution happened before electricity! Did all the books that detail how to construct a steam engine spontaneously combust during this mysterious event? There's just no logic to any of it.

    And the landscape! It looks like the CGI-generated sets of <life after="" people<="" i="">! Did half the world's population suddenly disappear? Does no one own a push-mower? A dust-rag? A broom? What happened to our governments, our standing armies, and our police? Why pseudo-Medieval....why not Victorian?

    Oooohhh...Steam Punk! That would be a fun show!

  • Genevieve Burgess

    Every time I see a promo for this I'm like "How come the steam punk enthusiasts haven't risen up and claimed this world as their own?" Because… I expect that's exactly what would happen. A bunch of people in goggles with a basement full of copper pipes all "IT'S MILHOUSE'S TIME TO SHINE!"

  • The problem for them would be that 99% of them are just good at making costumes and have no practical knowledge of the genre they have fetishized.

  • THIS. All of my likes for THIS

  • FireLizardQueen

    I watched the pilot last night, and it could have potential... it won't go anywhere but it could. Kinda sad, you could do so much with a post-apocalyptic setting in a TV show but the premise just falls flat.

    Also, the main girl "Charlie" makes me want to punch her in the face. She's supposed to be all bad ass but keeps having to get saved by the hot guy.

  • firedmyass

    There's a hot guy? Why isn't he in the promo pic?

  • kushiro -

    Elizabeth Mitchell is in this, too. I guess JJ is tanking post-Lost careers one actor at a time. Don't know who the "guy from Mad Men" is, though. Do you mean Zak Orth?

  • anon33

    Yeah, I think he is confusing Harry Crane with that kid from In And Ot (sorry, that's all I know him from.)

  • Without an explanation of the premise, this show is doomed. Since said explanation is impossible without completely wiping out all scientific knowledge (and also the laws of physics, explained or not, but I digress), the show is over before it began.

  • valerie

    Blah...can someone explain why everyone is dressed like they just came back from JC Penny in this "new world"? It distracts me everytime I see the poster or commercial for it. Nobody looks like they're going through a revolution.

  • pcloadletter

    Also, it would appear that salons were spared in the apocalypse. No toilet paper, but plenty of cosmetics and hair products.

  • AngelenoEwok

    I have this quible with lots of Abrams' projects. Everyone always looks like they stumbled out of a "fun weekend look!" catalog no matter what cray-cray situation they're in.

  • $2786243

    They all seem to fall into the Gap.

  • Green Lantern

    They ARE "the gap".

  • Pookie

    These motherfuckers are running around in leather coats while it’s a hundred degrees outside looking for a goddamn diamond encrusted amulet that has the power to restore electricity, and somehow I’m supposed to give a fuck about these assholes? And of course the main villain is a black guy that sold crack in a previous life somewhere, who also walks around in a three-quarter length leather coat. And of course don’t nobody want to fuck the hot young white woman, not even the overweight white guy that looks like he’d kill for piece of pussy. Fuck Maslow’s hierarchy of needs because if I’m ever in some post apocalyptic bullshit the first thing I’m looking for is some food, some water, and a bitch to fuck.

  • aroorda

    Goddam did I miss pookie. Dude keeps it real.
    In line with the sex or lack thereof, am I missing something or was there very little sex on Lost too? Besides the asians and the convicts everyone just stood around eye-fucking eachother, which is the most boring kind of fucking imo.

  • lowercase_ryan

    and you're dead. Everyone knows that in the event of an apocalypse you procure a weapon first, then shelter, then it's food water fuck. not in that order.

  • Pookie

    What do you need a weapon for, are you planning to rob a bank after the apocalypse where money will be useless? Typical American, always with the guns, itching to bust a cap. In my apocalypse there will be no need for weapons, everyone will walk around naked eating fruit and enjoying each other’s company. And every Saturday the community will go to the beach and play in the water, there will be food and games. You see a young lady you might be interested in, be a gentleman and go over and talk to her nicely, then you and her can go somewhere more private.

  • lowercase_ryan

    did you see the republican national convention? those people make me want a weapon. They are the reason we can't have nice things like outings to the beach. Those people are just looking for an excuse to devolve. Enter the apocalypse.

  • Yes, you should be MUCH more worried about people at the RNC than the ghetto monsters running rampant in Chicago. Which group do you think will be more likely to riot in the event of a power outage----white Republicans in the suburbs, or sons of Obama in Chicago?
    Your brainwashing has apparently been very successful.

  • lowercase_ryan

    What's the saying? You're not born with hate, you learn it. So who's brainwashed you racist POS?

  • Do you have access to a fucking NEWSPAPER, you brainwashed liberal douche? Remember the LA riots? Watts? Detroit? Cincinnati? New Orleans? Miami?
    One learns by observing history. History shows that blacks riot. A lot.

  • lowercase_ryan

    not sure if troll or klan...

    but since you bring it up, in the riots you mentioned less than 200 died. Angry white men like you, in the form of the KKK, killed over 6,000. To any sane person it should be obvious who society should fear.

    And don't point to the past to as a way to justify the fact that you're a racist. If you believe it, then stand up and believe it. Just don't insult me with bullshit arguments about how historically uppity blacks are.

  • Not historically uppity. Lacking impulse control. Just wait until George Zimmerman is either acquitted or granted immunity under FL's self-defense laws. Blacks are going to lose their shit.
    Or if Obama loses in a close election. Riots. But if Mitt Romney(who I don't support, just to cut you the fuck off) loses close, you REALLY think the Tea Party douchebags are going to riot?
    Grow the fuck up.

  • Jezzer

    No, I think those idiot rednecks are going to lynch someone of color, and you're going to be on some racist moron website like Stormfront cheering them on.

  • Jezzer

    First Big Todd, and then Big MIke. It's the Overcompensation Station.

  • all topics lead inexorably to the election

  • Forbiddendonut

    The previews and ads for this show looked horrible. NBC did itself no favors by over promoting these crappy shows during the Olympics. It was quite evident after the second or so ad for each show that they are all awful.

    Not sure if there are any new shows this season that hold any interest. Perhaps there will a black horse candidate like last year's fantastic "American Horror Story."

  • Sara_Tonin00

    did these people never have to power a light bulb with a potato or bicycle in grade school?

    (also, why do their clothes all look so new?)

  • DarthCorleone

    I gotta stick with my pledge: unsatisfactory NBC Olympics coverage + oppressive promotion of their fall shows during that coverage = no way do I watch said shows.

  • MurderBot

    I feel bad for Billy Burke. He put in some good work as Brenda's evil, rapey, lawyer nemesis on The Closer and deserves to get himself on the main cast of something good. Doesn't sound like this'll it be it though.

    On the plus side - The sooner people learn to stop putting J.J. Abrams at the helm of stuff, the better off we'll all be!

  • when did "we" all start hating JJ Abrams? and why? i liked alias, lost and fringe as well as person of interest (i didn't even mind alcatraz). Star Trek was fun, Super 8 was wonderful. he wrote the horror flic Joy Ride too, which was fun. produced cloverfield, which was novel.

  • MurderBot

    Oh I don't hate him. I just don't like to hear that he's involved in something that I might want to watch!

    He's a good idea-man certainly and starts lots of his projects with a very interesting premise. But he doesn't seem to think them through very far and has trouble developing on them. As a result they all seem to run a high risk of completely flying of the rails! Best example being Alias probably.

    Let's have a normal college girl whose fiance is killed. Who then gets into a deep cover CIA outfit to unravel a conspiracy. And develops feelings for her CIA handler. And finds out her dad is involved. And had her brainwashed as a child to be a super agent. And that her mom was actually a KGB agent who tricked her dad. And is now an enemy of the state, or ally or whatever. And the guy who had her fiance killed is her boss now for some reason. But she still doesn't trust him because he's really just using her because she's part of some ancient prophecy or something. And now it's a few years later and she has no memory of what she's been up to. But the guy she was in love with is married to one of her new friends. But it's ok because it turns out his wife is actually evil, so she can get back with the guy. But it turns out he's not who he claimed to be either and has been undercover for the last few decades or something and omigawdblaaaah!

    That's about all I can vaguely remember from that godawful mess of a show. It must have set some kind of record for how fast it devolved into hilarious absurdity.

    Anyway as far as J.J. Abrams is concerned, I tend to read his name as a warning to severely lower my expectations.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I'm not even reading the review, the answer is no. I tried watching 5 minutes of this and I don't think I have ever been so unmoved by a tv show in my life.

  • Slash

    Yeah, I can only suspend so much disbelief. Besides, I'm getting kinda sick of post-apocalyptic stories. Most of them suck. And the ones that don't are usually a bummer.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I'd be interested in an optimistic post-apocalyptic show, though. Optimistic shows in general, really, that are still good. As it is, it seems like you either get great writing and nearly relentless darkness, or you get a really, really shitty show that's pretty upbeat. I don't see how you can't have great writing and an overall pretty positive sort of story happening, apart from the fact some people won't accept that a show can be great if it isn't relentlessly dark, but that's just idiotic douchery.

  • atgdng

    I agree with you, but, off topic...does your name mean what I think it means? As in, the creation of, er, 'hand'-crafted items? (What I mean to say is, do you sew people into pillows?)

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    It was actually inspired by some pun I made once about what sort of title a cannibal butcher might have. They "dress" the meat, ergo long pig tailor.

    As you might expect, the pun was not what you'd call successful.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    It would've been more interesting if I'd just said yes, but not pillows because human leather gets too hot and sweaty to sleep on.

    Truly, fantastic couches, though. There's a time consuming lotion-reliant process involved, but so, so worth it.

  • Natalie

    Read a book with a similar-ish premise but despite being part of a giant series I couldn't be arsed to read the sequel. Seems the show won't fair much better.

  • Am I the only one who's sick to death of the whole post-Apocalyptic genre?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I might be if I actually watched any of them. But I keep not watching, and waiting for a good one (like a tv series of Waterworld. C'mon. You know that's what we're all waiting for.)

  • Fredo

    Nope. Ready for it to die its final death (or at least go back to eternal slumber).

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