NBC’s “Revolution” Pilot Falters

Ever since Lost first came on the air and became a hit, networks have been scrambling to recreate that kind of success. A parade of serialized ensemble dramas with elaborate conspiracy plots came and went, with shows like Flashforward and The Event focusing too much on ratcheting up suspense instead of developing its central characters beyond the archetypes they represent. No one ever replicated Lost’s success; not even one of its creators, J.J. Abrams.

NBC’s latest effort in the big, flashy drama department is Revolution. This pilot takes place in a dystopian future in which all electricity (and somewhat inexplicably, all battery and backup power) has failed and the world has to adapt. After a flashy opening of power outages, we meet Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), who seems to be cut from the same cloth as other J.J. Abrams heroines (and looks suspiciously like a Hunger Games character).

NBC's "Revolution" premieres September 17. | Promotional photo courtesy of NBC

After her father’s death, Charlie sets out to find her Uncle Miles (Billy Burke), who might know more about this global power outage than the rest. Also with Charlie is her brother Danny (a painfully stiff Graham Rogers), who is captured by an evil militia. Suspense, I guess, ensues.

Network TV by its nature aims to appeal to a broad audience, eschewing smaller ,specific character beats for big, broad, and ultimately dumb counterparts. The script moves the plot along at a numbingly rote and predictable pace while even great actors like Breaking Bad supervillain Giancarlo Esposito (here in an exponentially more clichĂ©d bad-guy role) struggle. The drama in this pilot comes in broad strokes. There’s nothing specific and character-driven enough to latch onto. The reason Lost, though a deeply flawed show whose shortcomings became painfully apparent in its later seasons, was such a critical and commercial success in its first few seasons is that the characters were carefully sketched out and fleshed out early on by letting the central cast deal with more personal conflicts. Revolution would do well to take a look at how season one of Lost was able to balance its more mysterious island mythology with spending time with its characters.

Revolution isn’t the worst network pilot I’ve seen, but it often comes off as a hollow production. Hell, even the township set looked like someone slapped some slightly more rustic paint on the Terra Nova set. Much of this pilot feels derivative and nothing so far has jumped out as specific and interesting enough to follow along with.

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