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Third-episode verdict: Revolution (NBC)

Posted on October 3, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerRevolution.jpgA Barrometer rating of 5

In the US: Mondays, 10pm/9pm CT, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

We're talking about a Revolution, baby.

There - thought I should get that one in while I still could. It's not just an idle song quote either, because NBC is having its best Fall season in nine years. Yes, nine years. And Revolution, which has just been picked up for a full season, is part of this revolution, since it's more or less stabilised now at about 10m viewers - the last time NBC was getting drama ratings at those rarefied heights, it got the vapours and had to be taken to hospital, vowing never to do it again.

Bizarrely, NBC is doing this with programming that's distinctly sub-standard, including Revolution, the most sub-standard, generic piece of post-apocalyptic action you could hope to imagine. It's Jericho 2: Now The Electric's Stopped Working, too. It's The Tripods without tripods. It's The Changes but with magic disguised as science. It's The Fantastic Journey without being at all fantastic. It's Terra Nova without dinosaurs. It's Planet of the Apes without apes. And all of those shows had more originality in just their title sequences than Revolution has had in three episodes.

And it hasn't got any better since the first episode. If anything, Revolution has managed the epic feat of maintaining almost exactly the same level of blandness with every single episode. Nothing happens. Each week, Kristen Stewart's dad from Twilight (Billy Burke) goes walking from dystopian town to dystopian town, generic action heroine (Tracy Spiridakos), stereotypical nerd (Zak Orth) and generic morally suspect Brit (Anna Lise Phillips) in tow. One or all of them get captured by the evil militia. They have some sword fights and they escape so they can walk on to the next dystopian town. Meanwhile, Gianacarlo Esposito spends each episode wasting his talent, sitting in a chair, glowering at helpless captive asthma boy (Graham Rogers).

Each episode has tried its level best to help raise Revolution above the absolutely ordinary. Episode two saw the return of a character assumed to be dead in the pilot. Episode three revealed that Billy Burke's character may in fact be completely evil and introduced the reliably excellent Mark Pellagrino to the story. The third, which was actually ever so slightly better than the previous two, also managed to flesh out nerdy character, while making generic action heroine even less the supposed star of the show than she was before.

But fundamentally, no matter how hard the producers try, this is a bland show based on a stupid idea - that a shadowy conspiracy could and would stop electricity by changing the laws of physics and yet not stop people's brains, chemical reactions, et al at the same time. Without changing the show's entire set-up (always a possibility with Eric Kripke, his Supernatural becoming a fundamentally different show by about its second or third season from what it had been in the first season), it's always going to be about a bunch of pretty, well groomed quirkless people in a somewhat bucolic dystopia, wandering from town to town, having competent sword fights against not especially threatening militia members and a guest threatening villain of the week, and learning a little more about a ridiculous MacGuffin and the pointless conspiracy behind it.

So I'm giving up on Revolution. I'm sure it'll entertain young teenagers and anyone who has to watch TV with them, has an iPad to keep them occupied for most of it and likes swordfights. Everyone else, steer clear

Barrometer ratings: 5

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Preview: Revolution (NBC) 1x1

Posted on September 6, 2012 | comment | Bookmark and Share

NBC's Revolution

In the US: Mondays, 10pm/9pm CT, NBC. Starts September 17th
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Family television. I hate it.

Okay, not all family television. It can be great. Look at Sapphire and Steel or Codename Icarus. Or Doctor Who.

But largely, family television is a miserable land of compromised, unchallenging, lowest common denominator plotting, conservative values occasionally masquerading as liberalism and attempts to be all things to all people. Plots are never too threatening or ever change the status quo significantly. There are magical MacGuffins that only children could believe in. Characters never move outside of traditional, largely patriarchal family relationships and stereotypical gender relationships. And everyone learns a (traditional) lesson about life, family and love by the end of it all.

Look at Merlin. Look at Robin Hood. Look at Crusoe. Look at Touch. Look at Terra Nova.

Ugh.

These programmes are too unchallenging for both adults (who need something more) and children (who need something more, too) pollute the airways and fill up primetime in an effort to get as many people watching at the same time, leaving less time for decent programming.

And it's not just primetime, now. For some reason, family programming can stray into the 10pm slot in the US. This is not when family dramas should be on, America. This is when kids should be in bed.

With Revolution, we have a prime example of family programming: the turgid, lifeless, recycling of limp ideas, stale characters and by-the-book writing that characterises the genre. Surprisingly, it's from Eric Kripke (Supernatural), Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and JJ Abrams (Alias, Lost, Alcatraz, Star Trek et al), who are all capable of much, much better but because it's family programming they've dumbed down.

So, here's the story: 20 seconds into the future from now, mysteriously the laws of physics are going to change. Suddenly, electricity is going to stop working. No batteries, no mains current. Nothing.

Well - and they don't make this explicit for some reason - all electricity apart from, say, anything in your body that requires the movement of electrons to work such as your nerves, muscles or, in fact, every single cell you have, of course. Apparently, that's some other set of laws of electromagnetism that makes them work. The jury's still out on ions, and covalent and hydrogen bonds, mind, but I'm sure Revolution will get there eventually once everyone's perms start to fall out, salt crystals fall apart and no one gets static electricity from carpets any more. No more oxidisation, no more reduction. Chemistry is going to be so much easier, but we'll miss that thing with balloons sticking to people's jumpers, I'm sure.

However, one man knows this very selective change in the law of physics is about to happen and he's preparing his family for the oncoming apocalypse. He's also got some top-secret computer files in a special USB necklace that explain EVERYTHING.

Cut to 15 years later and the world has fallen apart. America is now a set of different, feudal republics. Everyone's become an agrarian subsistence farmer and there are local lords to appease. But The Secret People Behind It All want that man and his files, which might explain how to reverse The Changes. They also want his brother, who also might know something.

So watch The Changes meets Jericho meets feudalistic collective farming techniques as a daughter and a son struggle to survive in an inhospitable - but not exactly even Z for Zachariah harsh - world and learn a little about family along the way. There'll be sword fights! Really implausible sword fights! There'll be baddies! Who won't really do anything bad! There'll be bad boys! Who quite like nice girls who aren't too threatening, who wear nice clothes, look very clean and have nice teeth, despite the end of washing machines, Persil and American dentistry as we know it!

Starring the dad from Twilight! Featuring lots of bows and arrows like in that movie The Hunger Games that you like! It's empty, vapid and it's coming to NBC soon! It's Revolution!

Here's a trailer featuring Andrea Roth before she was replaced by Elizabeth Mitchell. It gives away just about everything from the first episode but don't worry about that.

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Review: Line of Duty (BBC2) 1x1

Posted on July 2, 2012 | comments | Bookmark and Share

In the Line of Duty

In the UK: Tuesdays, 9pm, BBC2. Available on the iPlayer

Well, if I'm going to start watching UK dramas again, I guess BBC2 - and a drama written by Jed Mercurio and starring the wonderful Lennie James (from Jericho et al), no less - is a good place to start. Line of Duty is a police complaints procedural that looks at an investigation into a top cop's apparently spotless, amazing record to see how he manages it. Along the way, we get to see how the Met now deals with complaints - both officially and unofficially - while watching the police investigating themselves in a (to use a cliché) game of cat and mouse.

And while it's actually pretty good, there's a faint whim of the ridiculous throughout, to the extent you're sometimes not sure whether it's being serious, being deliberately funny or is simply having trouble taking itself seriously.

Here's a trailer followed by the first four minutes or so. You'll see what I mean about not knowing whether it's supposed to be ridiculous or not from the the second video.

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