Thursday, October 18, 2012

TV Show Review - Revolution

The best TV shows have a message, a statement that gives you something to ponder, a lesson to teach. And sometimes, even bad TV has a message. Like Revolution, in which the message is 'only attractive people will survive the apocalypse. And they will have regular access to hot showers.'

Revolution looked really cool in the trailers. All the electricity fails at the same time, and the United States is thrown into complete anarchy. One man knows why the lights went out, but he is apparently not in much of a mood to do anything about it. Another man is a douchebag who has established a really mean government and runs around killing people. And in the middle of it all, there's a pretty girl who has a crosssbow and hardly ever bothers to use it.

The story is even really fun. See, the dickbag president guy outlaws guns so that only he will have them, so everyone has bows and swords. It's all swashbuckley, because the heroes have to get into swordfights and shoot arrows instead of just blasting everybody with firearms. The first episode has this really cool fight in a hotel where the lead bad-ass guy beats the stuffing out of, like, a dozen guys. And totally kills most of them.

There are all the elements of a classic Sunday matinee pulp serial. There's a rebellion against the bastards in the militia. There's a murdered father and a kidnapped brother. There's a lost uncle with a secret past. There's even a nerd, although that's not particularly Zorro-ish.

In fact, although I'm going to spend the last half of this review saying bad things about Revolution, I really am enjoying it. I love how they show nature recapturing the wilds of our nation. The action scenes are pretty exciting. The bad guys are despicable and the good guys are properly heroic, and while the show tends to be a little predictable, it's a fun ride.

OK, now the bad stuff. For starters, it's on NBC. I honestly don't know what possessed me to watch a show on a major network, especially a serial, because they all get cancelled before they can finish the story (except for Lost, which should be a good sign, because Revolution is also a JJ Abrams story). And networks refuse to hire any actors or actresses who couldn't quit their day jobs and be underwear models, so everybody on the show is absurdly, unbelievably good-looking.

When you're watching Revolution, you may be reminded of another apocalyptic show that's a hell of a lot of fun - The Walking Dead. And if you happen to be watching both shows, you'll see where Revolution makes all the mistakes that Walking Dead avoids. The characters in Revolution are ridiculously attractive, and always very clean. They also never get scarred - sure, they are terrifically violent, perpetually getting into knife fights or fisticuffs, and yet they all manage to avoid taking shots to the face. They also have no problem finding hair gel.

The story is equally sanitized. Moral dilemmas are few and far between. Good guys will always save the bad guys when they're hanging from the edge of the cliff. The heroes are very heroic. The bad guys are mustache-twirling madmen. Deaths are profound and, among people with lots of lines, very rare. Seriously, it's like the writers are actively avoiding watching The Walking Dead, for fear it would give them any good ideas.

So Revolution is five or six episodes along - enough to make an informed decision about whether it's watchable - and I am rolling my eyes in disbelief at least once a week. Sometimes more. So why am I still watching it? Simple - I have too much free time.

No, that's not it. I mean, I do have too much free time, and  should really finish painting all these Warhammer Quest figures (the insurance gave me money for a replacement copy, but I couldn't find one that was painted). But I could watch something else, something smart and deep. But I watch Revolution because it's fun. That's it.

Yes, I can see all the stupid parts. Yes, the logical inconsistencies are almost painful. Yes, it's as shallow as a fourth-grader telling fart jokes. But sometimes, when my family is sitting around the living room eating take-out, it's fun to dial up some kid-friendly entertainment and let my mind take a vacation for an hour. Or really, more like 42 minutes - I DVR everything and just zip through the commercials.

Besides, not everything can be The Walking Dead. Can you imagine trying to eat a plate of chicken fried rice while you were watching decaying people chewing chunks out of people who get to bathe once a year? Sometimes, it's OK for television to be dumb, if it's fun. You won't find yourself at the edge of your seat when you watch Revolution. You won't wonder if the hero girl is going to get killed. You won't go to work the next day and excitedly ask your co-worker, 'so, did you see it last night?' because it will promptly leave your head the next time you see strawberry taffy. You'll have fun for as long as it takes to get to the end credits, and maybe be reminded of watching old Three Musketeers serials while you mowed through a bucket of popcorn.

If you want to get caught up on Revolution, you can probably find the first several episodes on Hulu or OnDemand, or maybe even at the NBC website. It's still in the first season, so you can't find it on Netflix or anything. It's worth your time, if you have too much time in the first place.


Anonymous said...

maybe it's not illogic, maybe your logic lacks. maybe there's a perfect explonation to those things.

but underwear models? aaron? maggie? neville? grace? ben matheson? etc?

Jason said...

There's a gold mine of potential in this one. The examination of human nature when confronted with chaos and anarchy is fascinating. But not sure I can hang on for much longer on this one. It's basically Mad Max meets 90210.

I will say this week's twist with the militia captain and his son and seeing their back story is a good and deep development. But this show either needs to go totally 1930s pulp adventure or 21st century human morality play. It is trying to straddle both and not succeeding in either.

And they better have a DANG good reason the power went out and those who know how it went out don't seem to be doing much about it, but oh, yet there are these 12 pendants scattered all over that can turn it all back on. Is there maybe one to rule them all...what the...?

Matt Drake said...

Anonymous guy, there are huge leaps of logic that are just oversights. For example, we fought WWI without electricity, but the militia is using breech-loader rifles straight out of 1864. Why can't they make more bullets? Or did all the bullet manufacturers die when the lights went out? And where is the government? I find it absolutely impossible to believe that Uncle Sam could be completely dismantled by a lengthy brownout.

People made the Titanic without electricity. They built pan-national trainways, established postal services, and oh yeah created our nation without electricity. So where are those things? Where are ANY of those things?

So yeah, I am making huge logic leaps to watch Revolution.

And no, the nerd isn't a model. But Maggie is hot.

Scott M said...

Check out S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire novel for what happens when the power goes out (and gunpowder and steam power incidentally). It isn't pretty. Basically get out of the city or your dead.

Fez said...

I pretty much agree with your take on the show --including the conclusion. I keep watching because it is fun.

This show managed to keep my attention where the other shows like it (Millennium, Falling Skies, Jericho, etc) failed because it was fun and the plot is moving forward fairly quickly. Plus my 13 yr old daughter likes it. So I will be staying tuned despite the silliness of the actors, cliches, etc.

Our names for the main characters in Revolution --since they are all pretty stock (can you guess who they are?)

Whiner (or Whiny Girl)
Locke (or Black Locke)
Han Solo
Fat Guy (or "the burden")
Hunger Games Guy (or just "HGG")
British Chick
Halle Berry Knockoff.

ninthdoc said...

@ Scott M, yeah, they mentioned that very early on in the series. It may even be in the intro now, I can't remember.

@ Matt, I'm kind of surprised that you're watching this after knowing your tastes in TV. I agree w/Jason, though, I'm just about to give up on it. The only reasons I've stayed with it this long is b/c I gave Jericho longer and it did improve dramatically and the train wreck factor: I just can't quite look away from it.

D. Dorsey said...

Thank you for a review that was more enjoyable than the show was. A friend had told me, "Hey, you like Sci-Fi right?... Well you should watch this new show called 'Revolution'." They mentioned that the basis for the show was that the electricity was off around the world. I kept my mouth shut about the notion that that was rather ridiculous short of a continuous EMP blast from aliens or all the world losing magnetism which would also bathe the world in gamma radiation; and instead mentioned that the show sounded at least similair to 'The Walking Dead' in its post-apocrylific setting. They sneered at me in that they wanted nothing to do with zombies. Oh well, I felt the same way about mob films after seeing 3 decades of them. In any case, several of the other complaints that were dead on (pardon the pun) ruined the show for me. If a space show breaks the rules of physics, or in this case, if the actors are laundered, unsuillied and blown-dried and then pushed out the stage door and told- read these lines within a end of the world scenario, it ruins the experience for me.
I laughed with verve when I read about your Warhammer figures as I just threw out my Sisters of No-Mercy (Sisters of Blah Blah) figures after half-painting them only to have my gaming friend get married and his wife 'divorcing' him from all his nerd friends. So I understand the too much time on my hands comment as well (After all, I am writing on a blog instead of taking a bike ride right now). Thanks again for a well written review, that will help me spend more time to wasting my life in other ways instead on watching 'Revolution'.
And by the way, you haven't lived until you eat pasta in a red sauce and sipping a turbid Cabernet whilst watching 'The Walking Dead'!

Michael said...

You're reviews are usually pretty dead on but you miss the major failing of the show. The Monroe Republic is the good guy. The rebels want to restore the USA (USA! USA! USA!) for no good reason. In a world of warlords there isn't room for a liberal democracy.

Unknown said...

TV these days makes me sad. I really do miss the era before Lost (which is one of my favourite shows) when TV didn't feel obligated to provide an epic mystery.

Revolution is pretty dumb, but it is a bit of fun if you don't think about it too much. I can ignore the attractiveness and the clunky premise, and the illogical inconsistencies are fun to discern, but the abhorred acting and writing are eating away at my soul.

Also, Miles just sucks. Seriously, he just sucks.