Is Revolution worth watching?
At the Post Carbon Institute, Tod Brilliant has decided to follow the new weekly TV drama, Revolution. Why?
1. PCI Population Fellow William Ryerson has spent decades advocating, with great success, the Sabido Method, a methodology for designing and producing serialized dramas on radio and television that can win over audiences while imparting prosocial values.
2. The premise is irresistible: Our entire way of life depends on electricity. So what would happen if it just stopped working?
I had been avoiding Revolution, but I broke down last night and watched the pilot with On Demand. Revolution is produced by JJ Abrams, who co-created Lost, directed the Star Trek reboot, produced Cloverfield, all of which were very good, and has credits for a lot of shows and films I haven’t seen. But the promos didn’t grab me.
I got a kick out of Bugs Bunny’s panicked expression as the power flickers out. Then, a long line of automobiles lurch to a stop, and their headlights go out, indicating that battery-derived electricity has stopped working. (I was waiting for Tom Cruise to drive past everyone, but that was EMP.)
Captain Sullenberger managed to glide his dead engine jet smoothly into the river, but in this scenario we see several jet planes tumble from the sky, so even the mechanically-operated rudders and flaps have stopped working. But as they go down, their red and green right-of-way lights are still lit on each wingtip, so what is powering those lights? Obviously the TV crew wants viewers to see them clearly as they crash, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
PCI describes the situation fifteen years later:
Humans have left the cities for the countryside to live in communal villages or prey on one another. The good guys sport henleys and hoes. The bad ones also wear henleys, but they ride horses and carry swords. Gun ownership is banned, effectively preventing any protection of property or crops (Transition Towns take note. Hah.). The post-carbon women are smokin’ and the men have Tom Brady jaws and stomachs of steel. In a barter economy, hair stylists seem to be highly valued.
I laughed at a rusted-out Prius being used as a planter. But then things got predictable or unbelievable, or predictably unbelievable.
The small village has a flimsy stockade, but apparently they don’t bother posting lookouts because it is a complete surprise when several dozen of the militia just walk in the open gate. No, “Hey militia coming! Hide your women and children!” The quietly menacing commander of the militia (above) just happens to look a lot like Barack Obama. That’ll win over one sort of audience. I guess racism blinked out with electricity because as I recall, once things went bad in New Orleans it was open season on black people caught in white neighborhoods. Maybe that’s a prosocial value, but if a black actress can play Guinevere, I suppose we can have black actors playing sadistic villains.
Though most carry crossbows, swords or machetes, some of the militia have guns. With all the firearms now available, it would have been more logical had all the militiamen been heavily-armed, very young, as in a Joseph Kony-style army, and casually violent enough to kill everyone in the communal village while taking the one person they wanted. Of course that would make for a short, bloody episode.
Traveling across a post-electric countryside is ridiculously easy in this show. Two women and a pudgy guy see nothing wrong with building a campfire in hostile country. They don’t bother to post watch, either. They probably never saw Daniel Boone, or any western frontier movie, when they were growing up.
I was describing the show to a friend, and I told him I suspected it would be like Terra Nova, or even the old serial version of Planet of the Apes, or a hundred other TV shows. You will follow the same group of people getting into and getting out of melodramatic situations week after week. Whatever caused the loss of electricity is just a macguffin. We won’t learn anything, and nothing will really change.