Tuned In: 'Revolution' pilot crackles, but will future episodes have the spark

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Plenty of serialized shows that followed "Lost" asked big questions and never offered satisfactory answers. Some viewers would even include "Lost" in this category, although I was thinking of shows like "FlashForward," "Invasion" and "The Event."

Viewers may get the same vibe from NBC's "Revolution" (10 p.m. Monday, WPXI), but with only the pilot to judge, it's too soon to know whether the series will flail or fly.

The pilot is a pretty solid hour of television, setting up the show's premise and in several instances defying TV norms with plot twists viewers won't see coming. So let's hope the following episodes will be as good.

'Revolution'

When: 10 p.m. Monday, NBC.

Starring: Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito.

The story begins with a blackout that turns off electricity worldwide and knocks out engines, causing cars to stop and airplanes to crash to earth. In these early scenes viewers meet young Charlie Matheson and her parents (played by Tim Guinee and Elizabeth Mitchell). Charlie's father, Ben, seems to have some brief foreknowledge of the outage and tries to contact his brother, Miles (Billy Burke, "Twilight"), to warn him.

After the blackout, the story flashes forward 15 years. Charlie is now a teenager, played by Tracy Spiridakos, who goes on a quest to save her brother, Danny (Graham Rogers), kidnapped by Capt. Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito, "Breaking Bad") on orders from a militia leader who has taken control of a portion of the United States.

Charlie -- who carries a bow and arrow, "Hunger Games"-style -- sets off to find her Uncle Miles in Chicago. Along the way she's almost raped, encounters a potential love interest Nate (J.D. Pardo), and gets a lesson on the virtues of a high-tech paycheck from her father's friend, Aaron (Zak Orth), who gives "Revolution" some lighter moments.

"I had $80 million in the bank and I'd trade it all right now for a roll of Charmin," the former Google employee tells Charlie. "That's toilet paper -- what we used before shrubbery."

"Revolution" does a nice job of setting up this future, retro-technology world with several nods to our everyday life. Charlie keeps postcards of pristine cities stashed with a nonworking iPod in a "Return of the Jedi" lunch box (after the blackout, cities get overgrown with vines and look like an episode of "Life After People.") Her post-blackout village, which appears to be a cul de sac in a former subdivision, prominently features the shell of a Prius recycled as a planter.

What viewers may not get a good sense of from the "Revolution" pilot is what the show will be on a week-to-week basis. The village concept is charming and at first it seems like it will be a cool way to explore a post-electricity society, but events transpire that send Charlie on her quest out of the village.

Once it becomes a road show, "Revolution" begins to feel like a safer, less gruesome "Walking Dead." Then the final scene in the pilot returns to the conspiracy theory notion and getting an answer to the questions, why did everything stop working and is it possible to get the lights back on?

Whether "Revolution" answers these questions in a timely manner or falls into the same traps as past serialized genre shows remains to be seen. But the pilot, at least, sets up intriguing possibilities.

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Rob Owen writes this Sunday TV column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published September 16, 2012 4:00 AM


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