Tag Archives: NBC

Revolution: All right, all right, all right

I finally got around to watching the pilot of NBC’s Revolution last night.  Since the days of Rambaldi prophecies and SD-6, J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot Production family have been my goto team, my Steven Spielberg of television.  His unique storytelling vision and serialized, comic book sensibility seemed to closely align with my personal TV viewing needs and the idea of a new show “from J.J. Abrams” always unleashes my inner smoke monster.  The perfect storm occurred (mentioned in the aforementioned post) eight years ago when the Lost pilot changed my TV life forever.  At that time, Alias was still doing some of its best work and season 1 of Lost became a pop cultural touchstone.

Unfortunately, “from J.J. Abrams” has increasingly been not all it is cracked up to be.  Six Degrees (I literally forgot about it), What About Brian (never found its footing), or Undercovers (the pre-show buzz was so bad I never gave it a shot) all came and went faster than Nikki and Paulo’s turn on the Oceanic Flight 815 crash site.  Fringe (now in its final season, relegated to the purgatory night of TV that is Friday) has been a slightly more successful beast (at least in the eyes of its loyal but very small fan base), but after giving season 1 a try on dvd, the sci-fi balanced too much on the fiction side of real.

Last season’s TV lineup brought new promise to the J.J. Abrams name.  Two new shows were debuting that each had J.J. Abrams as the executive producer, a fantastic actor from Lost back on the case, and a film actor from one of my favorite movies as one of the stars.  The first of which is Person of Interest, saddled in CBS procedural land which doubles as the land of the TV success factory franchise (although you may not know a soul who watches them: see anything with the CSI or NCIS prefix to name a few of these monster ratings hits).  POI, with Michael Emerson (Ben Linus from Other-ville) as an enigmatic pre-crime watcher and Jim Caviezel (who I have loved on screen in The Count of Monte Cristo and The Thin Red Line) as a Batman-like (without a costume) vigilante action hero, provides a very satisfying, taut hour of television.  Sadly, its less serialized leanings and largely procedural format yield the upkeep of viewing less essential.  I have watched and enjoyed most of season 1, but the final four episodes have literally sat idle, unwatched in my DVR queue since May and let me tell you, I have had many a three hour stretch since to crank them out, but for some reason, I haven’t gotten around to (yielding POI on the DVR season pass death watch for season 2).

The other new “from J.J. Abrams” show last season was Alcatraz.  Debuting in Fox’s American Idol charged midseason lineup, “The Rock” had Jorge Garcia playing the most Hurley-like character imaginable (which was all good), Sam Neil of Jurassic Park (a top 20 film favorite), a cute leading lady played by Sarah Jones, an oft-coma-ed Parminda Nagra who seemed out of place and wanted back on the soccer field or to an er led by Dr. Carter, and a mythology driven/villain of the week format that had real initial promise.  My Alcatraz viewing story closely resembled that of the general populace (a rarity in recent years) – the further in to the thirteen episode run and more we knew about the time traveling mysterious circumstances, the less I cared.  After the finale (I was off the island by then) ratings reached a new low, another J.J. Abrams vehicle had been permanently extinguished.

As you can probably imagine, the journey into the electricity-less land of Revolution must be a lesson in caution and reasonable expectations (especially when NBC is the network).  Pre-pilot buzz has been mostly lukewarm: cool premise and good technical execution, but mostly forgettable actors and missing a heartfelt connection.  I do know that pilots have to be viewed with an understanding that they are often unable to replicate what the show will really be like due to budget difference, the time prep differences, and exposition obligations.  A good pilot does not mean a bad show.  A bad pilot can be a good show and so on.  In the humble opinion of moi, Revolution was a predominantly successful pilot that may have resonated more cinematically than as a serialized TV show.

Here is what it got right:

– The Giancarlo Esposito character, Captain Tom Mellville of the militia, was a welcome return to my TV life.  Since the Gus Fring character “blew up” on Breaking Bad, Mr. Esposito has been a pleasure to watch and its seems no different here.  This is casting at its best.

– Jon Favreau knows how to direct action.  His fighting sword play scenes were great for the medium and gave the pilot its most dramatic moments.

– The Lost connection is much appreciated with Elizabeth Mitchell playing a “did she really die” mom.

– The premise is really interesting.  What would happen to your life if you no longer had any of the technology you use and love?  The dystopian transformation of America set fifteen years in the future is well executed especially the ivy-enhanced Wrigley Field  and the use of cars as large planting pots.  The mystery behind this event (what happened? who did this?) is enough to want to watch more and may have given my stomach a Lost like feeling a la Charlie’s “Where are we?”

– Crossbows rock.

Here is what did not sit well:

– Besides Giancarlo Esposito and Billy Burke (apparently he is in Twilight – don’t care), there were no standout performances or characters in the pilot.  It is going to be an ensemble-piece and in its infancy, it was hard to make the connections.

– From what we do know of the mythology, I am not sure if the writing team can sustain the concept long-term.  It seems ripe for 4-5 episodes, but beyond, the gimmick may fade to black if we don’t care about who is living it.

– There was too much focus on the quest to Chi-Town and not enough on establishing the society and how it has been affected at the familial level.  The need for action early offset the need to care.

– The pacing suffered halfway in – it didn’t move the way you want a pilot to move.

The overall good news, I was pleasantly surprised.  Revolution gave me enough to want to come back for more…and I will.  Its pilot ratings may have been the best news NBC has received since the late 90s, and I am so rooting for it to be a success.  With The Voice as a lead-in extraordinaire (do lead-ins matter anymore anywhere but CBS?), it should have some time to find sure footing and I really hope it does.  In the interim, spending an hour with Juliet and Gus Fring every week continues to be my privilege.  I say I want a Revolution (for now) and (for now) “don’t you know it’s gonna be alright.”

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Although some may anxiously anticipate the beginning of the fall season for the return of the NFL (on the briefest of tangents…I am having serious mixed feelings this year.  See this 2009 Malcolm Gladwell article or read Bishop’s earlier post and you may know why) or the increase in apple cider options at your local supermarket, my fall excitement centers around the official return of primetime network television.  This annual pumpkin pie mush of old favorites, old not-so favorites, promising pilots that never go anywhere (see Flash ForwardThe Nine), pilots premises that are dead on arrival (last year’s The Playboy Club immediately comes to mind), and that one diamond in the rough (that amazing night in 2004 when I first saw Lost remains my most special pilot experience ever) that can become your television staple for many years to come is enough to turn my leaves some beautiful foliage colors.

In the coming days and weeks, I will be carving out my fall TV impressions – the good, the bad, and the potentially life-altering.  Thanks to my trusted EW fall TV preview (an old friend since ’96) and the inspiring words of Master Andy Greenwald of Grantland, I have been able to determine what is getting a shot, what remains a DVR mainstay, and what is just not gonna ever be watched this year…oops.

“A covering all my bases” note: I am aware that most of the best television currently being produced and my favorite shows are on basic (Mad MenBreaking Bad) or pay cable (Game of Thrones, Homeland, Girls).  I know that the chances of finding another Lost or a new comedy that I really enjoy via the big three (plus two) networks (I thought I should get my first NBC dig in early) are similar to the chances that the Miami Dolphins have of winning the AFC East this year if Ryan “competes with Brandon Weeden as the worst starting QB in the league” Tannehill remains their quarterback.

For now, here is my network by network breakdown as I enter the fall TV season:

ABC:

Returning shows that I will watch and DVR Season Pass: Revenge (last season’s surprise survivor), Modern Family

New shows that get immediate DVR Season Pass: Nashville (Connie Britton and some wonderful press), Last Resort (the new show I am most excited for – welcome back to primetime Frank Pembleton)

New shows dead on arrival: 666 Park Avenue (sorry great Terry O’Quinn), The Neighbors

CBS:

Returning shows that I will watch and DVR Season Pass: Survivor: Phillippines (I made my alliance with Jeff Probst during the finale of Season 1 in 2000 and I don’t break my alliances)

Returning shows up for 2012 Season Pass cancellation: The Amazing Race (my most inconsistent staple over the years), Person of Interest (the fact that last season’s final four episodes remain unwatched five months later says something)

New shows that get a pilot viewing chance: Vegas (I have never been too keen on Dennis Quaid), Elementary (the PBS Sherlock is so good, do I have room for a CBS procedural with Lucy “don’t get it” Liu?)

New shows dead on arrival: Partners, Made in Jersey (nope)

CW:

Returning shows…: None.  The last time I turned on the CW was to watch the new 90210 many years ago.  I am not even sure if I know more than one person who actually watches this network.

New shows that get a pilot viewing chance: Arrow (It has the worst time slot to be on, up against Survivor and The X-Factor, so I have some major doubts, but I owe a new DC character at least one shot)

New shows dead on arrival: Emily Owens, M.D., Beauty and the Beast (has there ever been a movie that I loved so much that inspired a TV show that I wanted so little to do with?)

FOX:

Returning that I will watch and DVR Season Pass: The X-Factor (Yes!  A more detailed review is coming, but so far new judges Demi Lovato and Britney Spears are doing great work…)

New shows that get immediate DVR Season Pass: The Mindy Project (Tuesday night is light on my DVR and my time with Mindy on The Office has always been splendid – this is the new comedy that has a chance to be a long-term runner)

New shows dead on arrival: The Mob Doctor (no thank you), Ben and Kate

NBC:

Returning that I will watch and DVR Season Pass: The Office (If it weren’t the final season, I would be out), Parks and Recreation30 Rock, Saturday Night Live

Returning shows up for 2012 Season Pass cancellation: The Voice (like Cee-Lo and Christina in Season 4, I think I am ready to move on)

New shows that get immediate DVR Season Pass: None

New shows that get a pilot viewing chance: Revolution (J.J. and I go way back – see Alias or Lost – but from all I have read, I am not sure I will make it to October), Go On (already tried and already failed)

New shows dead on arrival: The New Normal, Go On, Animal Practice, Guys With Kids, Chicago Fire

Finally, tomorrow night marks the return of the most important fall premiere, America’s fifth major professional sport (which could move up to third with the impending NHL lockout and the fact that MLB is at this point unwatchable), MTV’s The Challenge!  Expect a full preview tomorrow…

Until we meet again, same bat time, same bat channel…