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Revolution Episode 2: Step on a Nail and Die, Already

Every week, PCI’s Tod Brilliant will be offering an assessment of NBC’s new J.J. Abrams sci-fi drama, REVOLUTION.

 

Why the TV talk at PCI? Two reasons:

1. PCI Population Fellow William Ryerson has spent decades advocating, with great success, the Sabido Method, a methodology for designing and producing serialized dramas on radio and television that can win over audiences while imparting prosocial values.

 

2. The premise is irresistible: Our entire way of life depends on electricity. So what would happen if it just stopped working?

And so, no matter how implausible or improbable the storytelling, Revolution offers an entry point for millions into a deeper understanding of energy scarcity issues.

 

Revolution Episode 2: It Hurts, Mommy

 
We lived in an electric world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out… We weren’t prepared.

 

That little bit of intricate exposition is from the show’s voiceover introduction. And it’s about as gripping as Revolution gets. The upside is we get to hang on those artful words every week.

In “Chained Heat” we watch big sister Charlie free thirty slaves from dragging a Huey helicopter through the forest and move closer to rescuing her perfectly manicured brother by bloodlessly blowing away a pair of cardboard cutouts. Oh, and we learn that the bad guy’s psychotic enforcer (Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito, whose performance is worth watching), in a stunningly original twist on the bad guy genre, may in fact contain a moral compass, however poorly assembled. The old “bad guy with a heart” routine. Kind of like Dick Cheney…if Dick Cheney had a heart. (I know Dick jokes are totally stale, but the man is still alive, and he’s still The Evil Bastard, nonpareil.)

When I originally thought of subjecting myself to this show, I didn’t realize that I’d be subjecting myself to anything. Certainly not the kind of pain that comes with the most nonsensical writing this side of Thomas Friedman. You see, I grew with MacGyver and Quantum Leap, and it’s quite clear the writers did, too. But instead of going for it and turning Revolution into an enjoyable sendup of a schlocky 80s action series, they manage to gum up the works by saddling the show with deadweight characters. The poor abducted brother, Danny? I’m pretty sure there are several million Americans out there hoping he steps on a nail and dies already. His sister? Her character development and backstory consists of too frequent flashbacks to when she was…two years old. Not a lot to go on there, folks. All two year olds act like petty, drunken tyrants (excepting, of course, Kim Ung-yong, who at this age was fluent in five languages and understood concepts of differential calculus). And Uncle Whatshisname? Poor Billy Burke. He’s trapped in a role written by hacks who don’t understand that the Kurt Rusell Romancing the Stone stereotype seems positively pervy opposite a teenaged niece.

Anyhoo. I could go on about the show’s production shortcomings, but I’d bore you more than I already have. If you’re still reading, here are this week’s (drumroll please) POST CARBON TAKEAWAYS:
 
FARMING IS A KEY SKILL!
Knowing how to grow food is a definite plus. Everyone depends on your green thumb to stay alive. There's only one problem...

 

GUNS BEAT SHOVELS
Armed with nothing but beards and shovels, future farmers are pretty much serfs at the mercy of local militias. Too bad Transition Towns didn’t teach rudimentary firearm competency.

GOD DID IT

A street preacher delivers my favorite line: “We built ourselves an electric tower of Babel!” It’s not a great line, but it stood out amidst the dreckage.
AC/DC TSHIRTS ARE STILL COOL
Yep.

ALL ROADS LEAD TO NOWHERE
Or maybe we’ll learn later that an asphalt-eating microbe ate them all. Because nobody uses them. Ever. The writers will earn my adoration if the AC/DC shirt draped around our pudgy nerdboy is a sly hint about why everyone avoids the highways.
 
DIGITAL CAMERAS SUCK
A forgettable main character (some woman with a British accent who hangs with the nerd), stares at her perma-bricked iPhone and whinges about how trapped inside it are the only pictures of her kids. Because she was too stupid to print her photos. As an uppity devotee of analog photography, this was my highlight. If y’all aren’t printing your photos, you will, one day, lose every photo you’ve ever taken. My advice? Grab a Polaroid, head over toImpossible Project for film, and start taking real pictures again.   

 

 

Mommy, this show hurts. I don’t enjoy trashing J.J. or Jon Favreau, both of whom are, by all accounts, Grade A guys and who have architected some compelling entertainment. But if they want to save their Revolution, they’re going to need to hire writers who know something about the world they’re crafting. Hint, hint.

        

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