In brief: Beautifully made, but ultimately falls flat.

In depth: Revolution, NBC’s new post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama, is a real kettle of very mixed fish.

It’s got epic production all over it, courtesy of Bryan Burke and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot.  But once you get past the visual splendour of the show, it’s easy to see that there’s suddenly not that much substance behind it.

The plots presented in the pilot are both formulaic and not overly exciting, and the pacing is so tedious that it’s difficult to get drawn into the show as it moves along.  Daddy dies, daughter resolves within seconds to travel the whole way to Chicago, taking along the obligatory overweight comic relief and scary step-mother, only one of whom has any charisma.  It didn’t enthuse me for the series to come.

There are certain actors in the cast who have plenty of talent.  David Lyons is responsible for one of the best acted scenes I’ve ever seen on television when he was in ER, but whether or not Revolution can correctly flex the acting muscle of its lead stars remains to be seen.  Specifically, I found Tracy Spiridakos to lack a lot of believability in the conviction of her performance.  This is a big, break-out role for her, and I can’t help but feel she’s got cast in it just because she’s “hot”.  It’s not that her acting was that bad, necessarily, but it was slightly flat, and when the whole show didn’t blow me away, it really needed one of the actors to sit up and take the bull by the horns, turning in a wonderful performance along the way.  Sadly, we didn’t get that.  Maybe in future weeks we will, but I don’t know if the show will last long enough.

There’s not much here to keep me coming back for me.  It took me a while to motivate myself enough to sit down and watch the pilot, and I don’t feel like I’m overly excited about the next episode.  The only vaguely sci-fi element of it is ‘the device’ that can turn power back on, but in all honesty, it’s like taking the mysterious element of Lennie James’ character in Jericho, but making it even less interesting.

Perhaps I have a certain cynicism attached to productions of these new American shows.  I’m skeptical that they’ll last more than half a season; I’m skeptical that the writers are willing (or capable, thanks to the networks) to take  risks.  I’m skeptical that the same faces keep getting cast ( such as Billy Burke from 24, Elizabeth Mitchell from Lost and David Lyons from ER) in all these network shows.  There are almost certainly capable actors out there who are gifted and could take a script like this and lift it to the next level.  Perhaps if the casting director behind Firefly got a hold of something like this, it wouldn’t feel quite as bland.

I’m at risk of descending into full-blown rant here, so I’ll dicuss what’s good about the show.

It is beautifully put together.  The scenes of overgrown cities and towns are atmospheric and believably set.  Furthermore, it’s just a great universe to set a show in.  The Fallout-3 style world has so much potential that I don’t think has been realised yet.  Hopefully Revolution will manage that, but for the time being I remain cynical.  Also, what’s the deal with everyone still having perfect hair and skin in a cosmetic free world?  Are Americans really that scared of ugly people on their screens?  Apparently.

I do want to know what’s going on, but only just.  The “mystery” is so idiot-proof and one dimensional, it’s barely a mystery.  This isn’t like Lost where a dozen strands could come together in infinite ways, at the moment, it’s just too predictable.  I don’t know what the mystery about the power will be, but I’d imagine it’ll be one of: an inside job from someone seeking to gain a lot of power/a government project gone wrong/private company or small group’s evil plot to take over the world.

I can’t help but agree with Mary Ann Johanson, who said that “Revolution is science fiction for people who don’t want to be bothered with any of that tedious thinking stuff that tends to go along with true science fiction”.  So far, that seems accurate.

Two and half flickering light bulbs out of five, on this one.