TV Preview: NBC hoping for a ratings 'Revolution'

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NBC's "Revolution" was a bright spot for the network last fall, helping to boost its ratings. But the show -- and its higher-rated lead-in, "The Voice" -- hasn't aired since late November, and NBC's ratings once again swim with the fishes.

Will there be yet another reversal of fortune for the peacock network when its successful Monday night lineup returns next week?

'Revolution'

When: 10 p.m. Monday, NBC.

Starring: Elizabeth Mitchell.

"Any time you're off the air for four months you hold your breath and you hope fans come back," series creator Eric Kripke said. "But we take solace and encouragement from a few things, which is there's a long history of genre television really working with these large breaks in between, like 'Walking Dead' or 'Game of Thrones.' "

"Revolution" (10 p.m. Monday) is set in an America without electricity when militias have taken over. Ruthless leader Monroe (David Lyons) kidnapped Danny Matheson (Graham Rogers), prompting his sister, Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), to set out with her Uncle Miles (Billy Burke, "Twilight") to get him back.

"The second half of the season is such a different mission and quest and energy than the first half that it really does feel like a natural break," Mr. Kripke said in a conference call with reporters last week. "The first half's drive to find Danny was prologue to it, opening up into a much larger and more epic and exciting story."

Mr. Kripke, who previously oversaw The CW's "Supernatural," said the break also gave the show's writers an opportunity to step back and take stock of what they had done.

"Our pace of mythology reveals was probably a tiny bit slow," he said. "At the time you're so focused on establishing character and establishing world. ... But once I looked back at all the completed episodes, if I had a criticism in the storytelling it was that I was feeling the same impatience that the audience was feeling over the last couple. ... I had that vibe of, OK get to it, get to Danny, let's get to the next part."

When viewers last tuned in to "Revolution," Charlie was successful in freeing Danny and their mother, Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell, "Lost"). And then, somehow, Monroe's minions were chasing them in a helicopter. Monroe has power.

Monday's 11th episode of "Revolution" sets the stage for more big revelations.

"In Episode 13 Rachel reveals pretty much every single thing there is to know about why the blackout happened," Mr. Kripke said. "That scene's a hard swallow every time because you're, like, wow, we're just saying it. Your baked-in, sure-weather instincts are not to have the scene that reveals every single thing in three minutes."

He credits co-executive producer Jon Favreau, who directed the pilot, with encouraging the writers to get on with it.

"We were discussing the problem that as a character Rachel knew why the blackout happened and she was back in and among heroes, she wasn't captive anymore, and we were really wrestling with the question, why wouldn't she just tell them?" Mr. Kripke said. "Jon was able to provide much needed perspective, just looked at me and he was like, she would tell them so have her tell them. ... And so we reveal really why the blackout happened, but the card I think we have up our sleeve is the explanation really opens the door to much greater story possibility."

That also means a more visible Rachel in the second half of the season.

"Rachel's quest is specific, and she's incredibly proactive. She's making a straight line toward what it is that she needs to do," Ms. Mitchell said. "She also unloads everything; the entire secret, the entire history in one crazy conversation in Episode 13. So I think that people will enjoy the fact that she has a lot to say and that her admonition or her quest is very powerful and proactive, which I love in a character."

Mr. Kripke said although the show has a unique concept, his focus is on the characters.

"Look, here's the truth of episodic television: You want every episode's storyline to be great, but the reality is the sheer volume of work means that some are great and some of your stories as a writer [stink] out loud," he said. "But if the characters take and the actors create amazing characters, which I think they're doing, then viewers get invested. I don't think they get invested in any particular storyline, they get invested in the characters. And if the characters are working, then the series works. Conversely, it doesn't matter how cool your concept is. If the characters aren't appealing or relatable to the audience, then it will never work."

The question for "Revolution" now is whether the appeal of the show and its characters has diminished in the show's time away. Will viewers even know "Revolution" is back given NBC's overall decline in audience since last fall?

"Like any good player we just keep our head down and focus on our game," Mr. Kripke said. "We're coming back with 'The Voice,' and the fact is there is no bigger show on television and there's no better lead-in. We're very, very happy and grateful to have such a monster hit as our lead-in."

tvradio

A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.


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