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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
(written by Eric Kripke; directed by Jon Favreau; TRT: 44:38)
The network's description: "Our entire way of life depends on electricity. So what would happen if it just stopped working? Well, one day, like a switch turned off, the world is suddenly thrust back into the dark ages. Planes fall from the sky, hospitals shut down, and communication is impossible. And without any modern technology, who can tell us why? Now, 15 years later, life is back to what it once was long before the industrial revolution: families living in quiet cul-de-sacs, and when the sun goes down lanterns and candles are lit. Life is slower and sweeter. Or is it? On the fringes of small farming communities, danger lurks. And a young woman's life is dramatically changed when a local militia arrives and kills her father, who mysteriously - and unbeknownst to her - had something to do with the blackout. This brutal encounter sets her and two unlikely companions off on a daring coming-of-age journey to find answers about the past in the hopes of reclaiming the future.
From director Jon Favreau ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2") and the fertile imaginations of J.J. Abrams ("Lost," "Person of Interest") and Eric Kripke ("Supernatural"), comes a surprising "what if" action-adventure series, where an unlikely hero will lead the world out of the dark. Literally. The series stars Billy Burke ("The Twilight Saga"), Tracy Spiridakos ("Being Human"), Anna Lise Phillips ("Terra Nova"), Zak Orth ("Romeo + Juliet"), Graham Rogers ("Memphis Beat"), J.D. Pardo ("A Cinderella Story"), Giancarlo Esposito ("Breaking Bad"), David Lyons ("The Cape"), Maria Howell ("The Blind Side"), Tim Guinee ("Iron Man") and Andrea Roth ("Rescue Me"). Kripke, Abrams, Favreau and Bryan Burk ("Lost," "Star Trek") serve as executive producers. "Revolution" is produced by Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with Bad Robot Productions, Kripke Enterprises and Warner Bros. Television. The pilot was directed by Favreau."
What did they leave out? Elizabeth Mitchell will replace Andrea Roth as Rachel while Anna Lise Phillips's Maggie is being written out. Plus, the pilot will make its world premiere tonight at Comic-Con International: San Diego.
The plot in a nutshell: Since the trailer gives away just about everything, I guess it's safe to hit the broad strokes. "Ben, it's happening isn't it?" Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) asks her rattled husband (Tim Guinee) in the opening moments. "It" is a global apocalypse in which all forms of electricity abruptly (and mysteriously) cease to exist. Planes fall from the sky, power grids shut down, cars stall in their tracks, they all just stop working. 15 years later, Ben and his now grown children, adventurous Charlie (Tracy Spiradakos) and asthmatic Danny (Graham Rogers), have settled into the new status quo for life on Earth: living in small villages at the mercy of the various militias that have risen up in place of governments.
And despite its challenges - we're told mom Rachel died years ago - it's a decent existence, that is until Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) of the Monroe Militia arrives demanding Ben come with him. A testosterone-fueled misunderstanding later, Ben is mortally wounded and Danny is taken in his place. Ben's dying wish: have Charlie seek out his brother Miles (Billy Burke) in Chicago, who can help rescue Danny. A tearful goodbye later, Charlie is on her way, joined by Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips), the town doctor who was involved with Ben; and Aaron (Zak Orth), the resident scholar whom Ben entrusted with a locket that may hold the secrets behind the blackout. Along the way they pick up Nate (J.D. Pardo), a dashing archer, and manage to track down Miles, who's anything but interested in helping. But that as they say, is just the beginning of the story...
What works: There's a lot of potentially fun concepts at work at there - from how swordfighting has become the de facto means of settling disputes to how young people have no concept of how life was with electricity - all wrapped in some genuinely stunning visuals of post-apocalyptic Chicago. It's a lush, beautiful show and one of the splashiest things you'll see on TV next season, all done in an ambitious spirit you can't help but root for. From a character standpoint, Burke's Miles and Esposito's Neville not surprisingly leave the biggest impressions as the former has a fun Han Solo-esque affability while the latter effortlessly radiates Southern gentile menace. It's a shame then they never meet as "Revolution" plays like three mini-movies - the prologue showing the blackout, life in the village and the journey to find Miles - all with their own distinct dynamics.
What doesn't: In theory that's a good thing - we don't know what's coming next - and yet it's almost disjointed to the point we don't really get to invest ourselves in what's going on (especially in its big reveals, which hinge on things from its previous iterations). Episode two then will presumably open up with a fourth set of dynamics, again resetting the show. As usual however the real challenge for a series like this is its incessant use of pronouns for things yet to be explained (oh the word "it," how you punish us) not to mention the general big bet that physics itself can be turned upside down like this without even more dire consequences to nature itself. (That and Wrigley Field is adorned with a "2012 World Series Champions" banner.) Still, "Revolution" should get an inordinate amount of credit for at least trying to set up such a world and proceeding to ask how humanity would respond to it.
The bottom line: It will probably frustrate you at times, but darn if it isn't a swing for the fences.