TV Preview: NBC's 'Revolution'

NBC drama has the bones of an interesting series, but hasn’t yet gotten there

At this point, “Revolution” is looking like the star of NBC’s fall 2012 freshman class by default, in part because it had the benefit of going off the air at the same time “The Voice” did. In the intervening weeks, series the network was eager to promote as hits – “Go On” and “The New Normal,” for example – have looked decidedly like the network’s old normal, ratings-wise.

So the March 25 return of the J.J. Abrams-produced drama merits extra scrutiny, if only to discern whether the series will have legs if asked – presumably next season, unless the show manages to utterly collapse this spring – to go out into the world without “The Voice” to amplify its ratings.

The short answer is “Revolution” has the bones of an interesting series, but hasn’t yet gotten there. And it’s possible a lot of the audience who stuck with the first batch of episodes might have turned off their own power if the show didn’t have “The Voice” to funnel a crowd in its direction, proving lead-ins really do still matter.

For those who didn’t bother to tune in during the fall, a brief recap of the show to date: The premise involves all power having suddenly ceased 15 years before the pilot began, leaving behind a near-lawless world, with a militia run by the evil Monroe (David Lyons) seeking to consolidate power. He’s opposed by a small band that includes his former pal Miles (Billy Burke), a major badass with a samurai sword; and Miles’ niece Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), who, like all the cool girls these days, has a crossbow.

Meanwhile, Charlie’s mom (Elizabeth Mitchell) not only knows something about the whole power outage but can rev up an amulet that turns it on. With this newfound ability at his disposal, Monroe and his top henchman Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) are hell-bent to wipe out the rebels and seize control of the U.S. from sea to shining sea.

The basic premise of exploring what people do once the world has gone kablooey post-apocalypse shares a lot with TNT’s “Falling Skies,” except in the latter, an alien invasion brought society screeching to a halt.

As is often the case with these concepts, though, “Revolution” has been slow to disgorge its secrets, teasing out tidbits of backstory through periodic flashbacks. The present, meanwhile, is defined simply by being crazy violent – so much so it’s a wonder that attribute hasn’t drawn more attention – with lots of wholesale slaughter, and a body count destined to grow if the spring’s debut is any indication.

Showrunner Eric Kripke and company have certainly assembled a solid cast in the older ranks (considerably less so among the junior contingent), and the action is plentiful and brutal. That said, the mythology remains relatively tepid, with more emphasis week to week on hairpin escapes – and who dies – than advancing the story.

For now, much like “Falling Skies,” “Revolution” looks relatively content to deal with the logistics of waging an ongoing insurgency, with the overmatched but plucky good guys challenging a tyrannical force. Thanks to the likes of Burke, Esposito (a welcome addition to almost anything) and Mitchell, it’s watchable, but hardly revolutionary.

More to the point, the real trick will be in determining whether the show can become compelling enough to make some noise should it wind up losing its “Voice.” And on that front, “Revolution” might face a different kind of power shortage.

Revolution

(Series; NBC, Mon. March 25, 10 p.m.)

Cast: Tracy Spiridakos, Zak Orth, JD Pardo, Giancarlo Esposito, David Lyons, Daniella Alonso, Tim Guinee, Elizabeth Mitchell

Produced by Bad Robot Prods. and Kripke Enterprises in asssociation with Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, Eric Kripke, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk; co-executive producers, Jon Favreau, Anne Cofell Saunders, Dave Rambo, Phil Sgriccia; supervising producers, Paul Grellong, Charles Beeson; producer, Robert Williams. 60 MIN.

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