Third-episode verdict: Revolution (NBC)

The BarrometerA 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


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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