I’m going to start this off with a quick fire extinguisher: I liked the Revolution pilot. I did. I’ll admit it was a bit shaky for a modern day pilot, and I’m not sold on the female lead just yet, and there was a really not okay attempt they made at bringing in a romance element (it’s Kripke’s one weakness). But there’s so much good as well. Example: while I may not sold on the female lead as an actress, I am absolutely, 100% on board with her character (badass femmes is one of Kripke and Abrams’ strengths).
Revolution was number 2 on my list of new shows I was most excited for. It’s geek pedigree is impeccable: produced by JJ Abrams, concept by Eric Kripke, pilot directed by Jon Favreau, a cast including Lost‘s Elizabeth Mitchell. Not to mention the super cool premise of all the electronics in the world simply stopping and how humanity would survive that (personal note: I would not survive that).
In addition, they had a really interesting underground advertising campaign – a giant stark poster at San Diego Comic Con and advance screenings where attendees had to use stationary bikes to power the projectors. Awesome.
And then NBC went and, if I can borrow a term from another of their shows, Britta’d it. They messed up. Big time. I’m going to put on my big girl pants and my college degree in Television Production glasses and I’m going to tell you all the reasons why I don’t think we’ll be seeing a heck of a lot of this show.
First off: big scale, mystery driven, epic sci-fi/adventure shows on network television have seriously struggled in recent years. The Event, Flashforward, Awake, The River, Terra Nova – most had pedigrees up the wazoo and concepts for days and fantastic effects. Some even had good scripts! They all were cancelled after, at most, one season. With that in mind, epic adventure pilots need to be advertised and scheduled properly.
NBC has seriously failed at that.
For one, remember the underground marketting I mentioned? That’s all well and good, but if you don’t get out there and promote to the masses you won’t be dragging in the ratings. I’ve seen 10 times as many billboards, bus posters, and TV promotions for The New Normal than I have for Revolution. (As a quick aside: they completely botched that as well. Every time I see an ad for The New Normal I think it’s airing on Fox. Don’t believe me? Check this out. I dare you to disagree.)
The next thing they messed up was releasing the pilot two weeks early online. You can stop reading this post and go watch it for free on Hulu if you so wanted. I get why they did it. I do. One reason is to drum up hype. I’ll give them that. However, they are still operating under the assumption that watching television online is a solitary event. It isn’t! I have Hulu on no less than four devices in my household – laptop, iPhone, Blu-Ray player, and Wii. I can connect any of those to my HDTV and host a two week early Revolution viewing party. With beer and queso. With less commercials than air on live television. And Nielsen will never see those figures. I can also almost virtually guarantee, that 95% of the people who watch it online, won’t be tuning in live to the premiere. They probably won’t even DVR it. NBC has also just created a habit for a good 50% of those people to continue to watch exclusively through Hulu.
The second, and probably more damning, reason is when they’ve scheduled the pilot. Firstly, the show is on Mondays at 10pm which means it’s competing against two massive live TV draws in Castle and Hawaii Five-0. Okay, that’s inescapable. No matter where it goes there’s going to be competition. However, they haven’t given it a big enough lead-in. When the pilot airs, it’ll follow The Voice. But, for whatever reason, they’ve decided they don’t want to retain that show’s ENORMOUS first night back on the air draw. Nope. By the time Revolution airs, The Voice will be on it’s fourth episode. Fourth. That is a massive difference.
It does stand a chance in that it’s two biggest competitors don’t start until a week later. But, like I’ve said, the pilot is a tad shaky, and most new shows take 3-5 episodes to effectively hook an audience. The first three ratings for a new show can determine the axe. I’m banking on the budget for this show to have been large enough that it’ll get at least a 13 episode order before NBC cuts its losses.
I hope I’m wrong though, and I very well could be. ABC fired one of its chairmen just before Lost aired, they were so convinced it would tank, and they turned out to be wrong. And there is a lot of good to Revolution. The best part of the pilot is easily Billy Burke. I didn’t even know he was in the show (great advertising at its best) not to mention he’s one of the three leads. I urge you to watch it just to see him in action. There’s a sword involved. Team Mustache Dad all the way.
Again – there is every posibility I am wrong; this is marked as an opinion piece for a reason. But history is against Revolution, and not to get all idiomatic on you, but history does tend to… well, you get the picture.
Questions? Comments? Want to call me an unfair meanie? I’ll respond to what I can.
Revolution premieres Monday September 17th at 10PM EST on NBC. You can currently watch the pilot for free on Hulu.