NBC still evidently hasn’t gotten over the loss of Heroes.
In Heroes, the usually fourth-ranked network had a rare hit. It was a far-fetched concept with a very high production cost, but boy did it ever pay off for them, earning the highest ratings for any NBC drama in over five years.
Then along came the absolute mess of a third season, and Heroes declined in relevancy until NBC had to concede that it was a mockery of its former glory and finally cancel it.
Since then, NBC has tried desperately to fill the void to no avail.
Last year, NBC’s attempt was called The Event, which was heavily promoted with little insight being offered.
Those that weren’t sick of hearing about it enough to actually tune in were, in turn, disappointed that it was basically just a Heroes clone, only with mutants swapped out for the betazoids from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Needless to say, the show tanked in the ratings after this revelation and was cancelled after just one season.
Exactly one year later, NBC is trying it again with the equally heavily promoted and vaguely named Revolution, courtesy of J.J. Abrams, who knows exactly how NBC feels.
Abrams, of course, was one of the masterminds behind the series Lost, which once boasted ratings higher than Heroes.
Yet, also like Heroes, the ratings of Lost steadily declined over the years. For many reasons, though predominantly because viewers began to suspect that all the answers were being kept from them because the writers didn’t have any.
This culminated in the most epic letdown of a final episode since the ending of The Sopranos, in which it was revealed that the island was a sort of limbo, something many fans had speculated as early as the first season and which the writers had originally flat out denied.
The sad truth was that, while J.J. Abrams and co. were great at creating hooks — great at creating very intriguing plot devices that would guarantee viewers keep coming back to learn more — they were not good at giving them foundation.
Following this infamous letdown, Abrams has had a tough time getting audiences to take him seriously, with later works like Undercovers and Alcatraz failing to gain committed audiences, and apparently for no reason other than because his name was attached to them.
He has had some success since then, most predominantly with CBS’s Person of Interest. Which is an excellent series, albeit one that appears to have been written with the intent of not being another Lost. In fact, a lot of you reading this probably didn’t even known J.J. Abrams was an executive producer.
So even though Abrams is still doing well in terms of his career, he still hasn’t quite filled the void that Lost left behind. Which might explain his willingness to take part in as ambitious a series as Revolution in turn.
What quickly became apparent, however, is that J.J. Abrams hasn’t learned his lesson about any of the writing techniques that resulted in the Lost letdown any more than NBC has learned its lesson about giving huge production budgets to a brain-dead writing team.
The problems with this latest attempt at filling NBC’s void become apparent within minutes of the first episode. After opening with a depiction of the blackout (which would have been dramatic if it were not so ham-fisted in making its point about how much we depend on electricity), it cuts to a narration from fifteen years in the future.
We see overhead views of Washington, New York and other major metropolitan areas, abandoned and completely overgrown, during which a narrator describes the catastrophic results of the blackout.
Which might have been effective if they didn’t look so fake. The way the trees and the water looked in these shots, one would have expected to eventually see tracks with an LGB train going across them.
Then we are introduced our narrator, who is actually teaching a class outdoors. We also discover, at this point, that electricity stopped working for everyone, except for the the hair salons, clothing manufacturers and laundromats.
What else could possibly explain our narrator, who has lived for fifteen years following a complete blackout, having immaculately clean, perfectly-tailored clothing and a John Edwards haircut?
This may be an unfair generalization, but what does it say about the prospective future of Revolution if the directors were either too apathetic, or too stupid, to ask that their actors and actresses dress down before filming?
Right away, you can tell that this isn’t really a thoughtful representation of what would really happen if the world suddenly went dark.
What we’re getting instead is The Hunger Games without the Hunger Games.
Eventually, the main character’s farming community is assaulted by General Monroe, our completely one-dimensional villain, and her brother Danny is taken, supposedly because their father knew how to turn the power back on.
After introducing this, the first of the story arcs, as well as the rest of the main characters, we learn that Danny not only has a special medallion with the ability to turn the power back on (A medallion? Really NBC?), not only that Danny knows how to operate it, and not only that there may actually be a whole group of people who know how to turn the power back on, but that they are communicating with each other via the Internet.
This leaves open a lot of questions, but the most logical conclusion to be made from this bombshell of a final scene is that J.J. Abrams still hasn’t learned his lesson about writing without direction.
There’s nothing revolutionary about Revolution. It’s J.J. Abrams and NBC repeating all of their past mistakes.
This shadowy group of technomancers with their magical electricity-fixing medallions, who could restore the power at any given moment if they chose to but who won’t for reasons that will have to remain undisclosed for now, this reeks of the same half-rate literary ploy as the smoke monster.
Even if Abrams actually has laid out the foundation ahead of time and does have an actual plan for this device, what are the odds that the audience will be willing to give him the benefit of a doubt again?
As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt, and for anyone who was sucked in and then let down by Lost or The Event, Revolution is going to feel as familiar as a TV show can get.
Chances are that we are not going to see any questions raised during the season premiere be answered.
What we should expect to see instead are reruns of The Voice.