Monday, May 14, 2012

Watch/Discuss: J.J. Abrams's new series, Revolution, gets a trailer. Or the inherent peril of close-ended television.

The premise is genuinely chilling, and the opening moments have a real kick to them.  But once the show starts up its real storyline, we quickly see the problem with this kind of seemingly short-term narrative storytelling.  By the end of this four-minute clip, we already know that there is some amulet that apparently makes electricity work again.  So it appears that the core arc of the show will be a journey to find this amulet and theoretically use it to restore power to a world that currently has none.  Fine, but does that not presume that the show will in-effect be a long waiting game as we (im)patiently wait for the core problem to be solved.  Yes we can hopefully become invested in certain characters and enjoy the two decent actors on display (Gincarlo Esposito and Billy Burke), but won't every would-be goal post be a false alarm, every climactic reveal be the equivalent of 'Your princess is in another castle'?  

Like ABC's Ashley Judd thriller Missing, the game is rigged because it's so heavily entrenched behind solving a problem that cannot be solved until the show reaches its climax.  The key to Lost and 24 was not in the complexity of their narratives but in the simplicity of their plots.  In the beginning, Lost was just about 48 plane crash survivors stuck on a mysterious island.  In the beginning, 24 was just about one government agent trying to prevent a single assassination.  The Event and many others of its ilk failed because they set up labyrinth mythologies right out of the gate instead of waiting to make sure we gave a damn about the people onscreen.  This devotion to "What secrets will we reveal *this* week?" almost killed Fringe right out of the gate. Only after it realigned and focused on the core character relationships did the show blossom as something more than a newfangled X-Files (another show that, let's not forget, waited almost two full seasons before going full-bore into 'mythology territory').  The clip for Revolution (whose pilot is helmed by Jon Favreau) is basically telling me that I can watch the first episode and then kick back and wait for the series finale to reveal all that I wanted to know.


Fai said...

Yes there is an amulet but as the final scene reveals it may not be the only amulet and is probably not powerful enough to make everything work the world over.The main mystery of the show probably will be that how did this disaster happen, is it some sort of global conspiracy or alien technology or something natural?. But i agree with you that the main anchor of the show will probably be it's character if they can pull it off and make the viewer invest in them.

Brandon Peters said...

Completely agree. Although, I do give every JJ Abrams property (as long as nits not on CBS) a chance. Why can't it just use this setting, focus on the characters, give us a small overall goal for s1 with a brief (8-12 eps) monster-of-the-week type setting until we're more familiar with the world, the characters and the show finds its footing.

Girish said...

Revolution's showrunner is Eric Kripke, whom I'd trust with my life! He's on my fav director's list alongside Joss Whedon! The way he develops the characters even with an end goal set in stone is amazing since he doesn't rely heavily on revealing plot secrets to hook the viewers. Even he knows the final game can't be just restoring electricity. The only negative to the show will be the network it'll be airing on - NBC!

Girish said...

Person of Interest is THE BEST of all the shows which premiered in 2011-12 season. You cannot say its a JJ show, since its run by Jonathan Nolan (bro of Christopher Nolan who co-wrote many of Chris' screenplays) with JJ Abrams as an executive producer. You're missing out on a gem of a show due to your dislike towards CBS. All the things which you say you want in a show are in POI. Give it a try.

Scott Mendelson said...

I found the first two episodes of PERSON OF INTEREST painfully underwhelming/generic and gave up. I've been told by some that it got better so maybe I'll sample a couple over the summer.


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