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Viewing Notes: "Revolution"

By Rich Heldenfels Published: September 17, 2012

Tonight NBC premieres a drama that is aimed at a bunch of demographics: "Lost" fans, "Hunger Games" fans, lovers of post-apocalyptic dramas, lovers of shows where post-apocalyptic young women have still found a way to sew very tight pants.

The show, "Revolution," will get me back for a second episode at least. And a big plot twist from the original pilot has been cut out of tonight's premiere, so it does not feel as overstuffed narratively. But it is still a show that veers between the somber and the silly, with the somber more interesting but the silly too intrusive.

"Revolution" takes place 15 years after something -- it's always something -- has wiped out all the electricity on Earth. Cities are overgrown. Governments have fallen. Militias have taken over parts of what used to be the U.S. Medicine is more herbal, communication haphazard, the common forms of transportation are shoe leather and horseback.

But a few people may know something -- it's always something -- about what happened 15 years ago. As the series begins, militia forces are searching for two brothers. They find one, but their encounter goes badly. That event sets more in motion, including others seeking the missing brother, conflicts along the way, a big fight in an old city, revelations about various characters and, of course, the idea that something very big and revealing is going on. It's always something.

The show is crazily implausible at times, but I can't blame my lack of enthusiasm on that. "Lost" was pretty nutty, too, but it told its story with a degree of intensity and a quality of performance that you still wanted to keep turning the pages. Here, the central character, a feisty young woman played by Tracy Spiridakos, is weakly drawn and poorly performed. And even those who suspend disbelief are going to pause to ponder things like how quickly characters can cover ground on foot, and how poor the shackles on a captive prove to be.

On the other hand,  the cast is elevated by performances from Giancarlo Esposito as a militiaman and Billy Burke as the brother on the run. The plot did just enough to make me wonder what happens next, and. But I am more nudged than compelled to watch, and that second viewing is going to demand that "Revolution" give me more than the first episode does.


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