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Friday, September 28, 2012

A quick review of NBC's "Revolution"

To paraphrase Monty Python's Australian Wines sketch, "This is not a show for watching. This is a show for turning off and avoiding."

I'm not going to do a long analysis of what's wrong with the show. I'll just hit the high points of what pisses me off:

  • The first episode starts in the modern times when a Plot Device happens to turn off all forms of electricity everywhere. Categorically NOT an electromagnetic pulse, apparently it is capable of affecting the entire world, and prevents things like batteries from working. At least they acknowledge within the show that this is bullshit and, according to physics, shouldn't happen. 
  • Of course, according to Hollywood logic, losing power causes transformers to explode; airplanes to go into flat spins and crash; and turn off cars in a dramatic down-the-line fashion. 
  • Then the series skips ahead to fifteen years later, thereby bypassing all of the interesting post-apocalyptic bits about survival and rebuilding. (A viewing of the second episode shows that we may get bits and pieces of this parceled out in flashbacks. Still, that's 10 minutes of flashback to 40 minutes of show.)
  • 15 years later, and all the kids have remarkably perfect teeth. Their hair is washed, their faces are clean. They have clothes which look BRAND NEW and have undamaged, top of the line, compound crossbows. Apparently entropy only happens to the sets and not the props. 
  • Speaking of which, I've watched "Life After People," and these places do not look like they've been abandoned for 15 years. Five, maybe. It's amazing how good Chicago looks. 
  • Oh yeah, the St. Louis Arch is missing a chunk at about the 2:00 position, but it's still standing. I'm not an engineer but I'm pretty sure this is impossible. 
  • Given all the guns in America, we are supposed to believe that they've either gone missing or have been confiscated by the Militia? But yet these same militia troops are using Civil War-era flintlocks?
  • But the named bad guy has a modern semi-auto pistol. Well that's movie logic again: why would you want to arm your front-line troops with good weapons when you can give them crap and only arm the officers with modern equipment? I swear, it's like this Monroe guy is reading from the big list of villain cliches. 
  • Oh, okay, so the key-fob thing is another piece of Plot Deviceium that somehow turns the power back on... and also apparently rebuilds crumbling infrastructure such as telephone lines, because there is a computer that is communicating long-distance with another. If it's cellular, replace phone lines with cell towers. About the only way this might make sense would be if they were connecting over satphones, in which case I have to ask how the hell they restored power to the satellites in orbit (assuming their orbits hadn't degraded to the point of uselessness or re-entry). 
  • Was anyone at all surprised that the big bad guy was the other man in Uncle Badass' car? I mean, they all but telegraphed it. 
  • Speaking of Uncle, he's one of only two characters who seems halfway competent (the other being Deagle Dude). Two episodes in, and I already want to punch the others in the face. How did any of them manage to survive this long?
  • Flexible morality: It's immoral to kill someone who was trying to kill you, and who will cause you future grief if you let him go, but it's perfectly okay to kill slavers as long as you act angtsy about it later. Sure, that makes sense. 
  • The female teenage lead is basically Katniss. Her love interest is basically Jacob from Twilight, minus the lycanthropy. And so far, the entire series seems to be written at about the intellectual level of a young adult novel. 

I could go on, but you get the point. For all that Cormac McCarthy's The Road was too bleak to be believable, this series isn't bleak enough. I could understand that if this was an 8 pm show, but it's on at post-watershed 10 pm instead. 

My initial prediction was "One-season wonder" but NBC is trumpeting how it's a "hit new series" so it might stick around for a while, increasing in suck. I'm torn between giving up on this show entirely, and watching it like a trainwreck where I can skewer it on a weekly basis. If you haven't started watching it, then please, take my advice and stay away.

It's not Revolutionary; it's Revolting. 


  1. Pretty much what I expected from network tv. Of course, you know they're patting each other on the back for how "gritty" and "edgy" their new show is.

    That and the "if we scream that it's the biggest hit ever, it will be!" that gets tossed on every show that comes out.


    Sticking to my Hulu and Netflix.

  2. Erin,

    Don't forget:

    1)  Everyone has a Mach 3 Razor shave every so often, but no one has made good razors in a decade and a half - not to mention that many people grew beards back in the day because of warmth, ease, and a lack of hot water.

    2)  The main bad guy has a bad-ass Desert Eagle looking .50 cal type pistol with working ammo.  Ok, either they can manufacture ammo and therefore WHERE in the name of Zeus' Butthole is all the ammo for all the Militia's rifles they confiscated and where are the rifles.

    Modern ammo needs a primer etc - either you can make the ammo or you can't.

    3)  Anyone see any out houses?  Just sayin'

    4)  All the conditioners for all that pretty hair sure must have been stocked up on.

    5)  That cul-de-sac Katniss came from : um, where did all the OTHER houses go?  Convenient for farmland I guess.

    I'll watch the series, but yea, it's fun to pull apart.

  3. Talysman the Ur-BeatleSeptember 28, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    I'm not severely anti-Revolution, but yeah, it's got serious flaws. For one, why *no* factories at all? Assuming electricity is now impossible "for some reason",  are people now too stupid to figure out or remember primitive mechanical power, like waterwheels?

    And I notice that, since MythBusters proved that a bullet will not knock a person backwards, Hollywood has now transferred that effect to crossbow bolts.

  4. RE: Projectile impact knocking someone over-

    My favorite "rational" explanation of that bit of Hollystupid crap was some clown who insisted that hydrostatic shock causes involuntary muscle contractions that result in the body jumping itself backwards. I guess getting shot turns wimps into world-class (backwards!) high/broad jump athletes.

    He -- don't recall who it was -- apparently offered that explanation in complete seriousness.

    Oh, look; that dumbass explanation still isn't going away:
    "But I'd expect that, depending on the location of the bullet hit, there might be things like massive muscle contractions going on, or a shock to the nervous system, that is the normal cause of people falling, when they do."

    You'll also see: "However, a second cause of falling, and quite possibly the bigger cause, is simply the result of people thinking that they're SUPPOSED TO FALL."

    -sigh- With that kind of thinking as an example, I doubt people who've just gotten shot are thinking much about the most proper way to indicate their incapacity.

    "Hit news series": In TV-speak, that's any new series for which some exec was conned into signing a contract for episodes beyond the pilot. When I still had TV access, I saw that phrase applied to shows that hadn't aired.

  5. I think you pretty much hit all of my gripes with the show.  I gave the second week a try, since pilots tend to be written by a different group than the regular show.  (fun fact - if you look for the trailer show on YouTube, you'll find another version of the first couple of minutes with a different mom and a couple of other details different, too)  I'm less than impressed.  Sort of one cliche after another. 

    Mid way through I'm telling my wife "now they have to go find Jaba, or Han Solo, depending on what they do next".  "Next they find the Tin Man rusted next to a tree stump, and then the cowardly lion".  So with a salvaged helicopter that has to be hauled, the best they can find are skinny little girls?  They don't have any big, brawny guys? 

    I'm thinking there won't be a third week.   

    A commenter over at my place said the series of books it's loosely based on was more interesting.  Something about the Plot Device being enemy action by aliens. 

    Personally, I still think the NBC thought was "how can we cash in on that chicks with crossbows/Hunger Games thing?"

  6. I've heard it's basically ripping off S.M. Stirling's "Dies the Fire."  I haven't read the series so I can't comment. 

  7. Talysman the Ur-BeatleSeptember 28, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    Didn't read the book, either, but it sounds like it's even less rational. Just an excuse to roll back technology, really.

  8. Yep.  The first thing that bugged me was the stylish, tailored clothes, then the teeth, then Katniss, then the uncle's friend being the bad guy.  Oh, yeah, the teeth were in there somewhere too.

    I only watched the first episode.

  9. As I mentioned on IRC, the whole "all electricity everywhere no longer works" thing is even more entertaining once you realize that no form of life more advanced than your average plant would have survived the effects - after all, our brains run on electrical impulses, and I seriously doubt whatever is creating this dampening effect (might be a satellite, from a sketch on the table of the lady with the pendant doohickie) can discriminate electrical sources that well.  

    The the-militia-gets-crappy-guns thing kind of makes sense (and I mean that in a very loose fashion) given that (a) industry seems to have died after the Blackout, despite the ready availability of steam or water power, (2) brass cases will only last through so many reloads before they decide to go all explody on you, and (iii) black powder is not that hard to make.  Likewise, when you remember that, up until around the Civil War, officers generally came from families with money, and generally were requested/required to bring their own equipment to the field, and generally brought nice equipment, the Big Bad Guy having the big gun makes a certain degree of sense - he can afford it.  After all, the sniper rifle and its ammo still exists / are available.  

    And the clothes... good Christ the clothes.  

    I am glad you hit on Katniss (in a not-literal sense); the series seems to be as much "intended" to be a "yay female power" story as Hunger Games, and as much a failure at the same.  

    And, for the love of God, where are the steam engines?  The engineer in me boggles...  

  10. At least in the Stirling series, there's Some Kind of Event that supposedly explains it all, that happened in Nantucket, and affected the entire world. It isn't a Bad Guy thing that people did with a goofy watch fob, it's weebly-wobbly, timey-wimey.  And everything got really icky and broken down very fast, and people DIDN'T have lots of nice clean stuff for very long.  I didn't read much of the series because the first book was dreary (the witch main character was TEDIOUS), and the second book isn't out in Kindle format, a serious stumbling block.

  11. Gotta agree with pretty much all of the commenters (and the original post-er, of course!).  I've watched two episodes of this now, because sitting on the sofa spending time with the wife is, apparently, preferable to running through Nightmare mode on a reinstall of Diablo2 (yes....two) with my powerhouse Barbarian.  There are waaaaaaaaaaay too many places where I'm sitting there and snort or my jaw hits the floor, and my wife sighs and says "its a TV show. Just keep it to yourself."  Its almost as bad as watching "Battleship".  Liam Neeson should consider ritual seppiku for coming anywhere near that one.

    Hollywouldnt has a perfect scenario for some awesome steampunkness going on, but instead opted for the conundrum wrapped in enigma and buttered with extremely flawed "science".  I'll continue to watch it, but only because "happy wife, happy life."  (and then go continue to write on my own, because obviously ANYBODY can make money writing...if it doesn't make any sense, just send it to Bollockswood.)

  12. Different Stirling series.  The Islander series is a time travel/alt history series, while Dies the Fire is apparantly a "Script God turned off technology" series.  I've read the Nantucket series, though the premise of the Dies the Fire series too absurd to bother, after reading the cover blurb.

  13. OK, I'll buy the argument that manufacturing and resupplying percussion and flintlock rifled muskets is easier than producing centerfire cases.

    However, why, oh why, produce muzzlestuffers with NONE of the advances we know, that do NOT take electricity?  They sure as Hell didn't find enough reproduction Civil War muskets to arm a force that would have been large enough to dsarm the population, even bacj when the militia could rely on leftover M4s and ammo stolen from armories and bases.

    Machine tools run on power.  But it doesn't have to be electricity.  You'll lose major efficiency, but el-cheapo Chinese mills and drill presses  can be readily retrofitted to work off a belt drive, at reduced RPMs.  Belt drives can be driven by wind, water, steam, or muscle power.  Converting AR lowers to firing mechanisms for a break-action BREECHLOADING percussion gun would be easier than building Springfield muskets from scratch.  Cap & ball revolvers aren't too terribly hard to build -- certainly not for an expansionistic, militaristic, slave-using, totalitarian government, as the Militia is portrayed as.

    These mooks haven't even managed to work themselves up to 1840's tech. . .

  14. Man, Revolution's characters are even dumber than Patrick Star! You'd think they'd rebuild after a year or a half, but no, the writers had to turn the blackout into an entire TV series.


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