I can say that I honestly thought the computer at the end (spoiler!) was the best actor in the first episode of NBC’s new Revolution.
I hate to be the overcritical, Negative Nelsy, but seriously guys… this? I guess Journeyman was too complicated and verging on finding some real emotions, as was the more recently canned Awake. So, instead of trying to once again to find a family dynamic that works, they kill off the mom and dad right away, kidnap the brother to use him as the plot, and then throw in an uncle that the daughter/heroine has never met. So many emotional bonds to work with right off the bat! (yes, sarcasm)
Where do I go from there? I mean… Let’s see: The leader of the bad guys is black and the hunky guy who turns out to also be a bad guy is latino, but all the good guys are white. Or how about the pudgy computer geek who provides the necessary comic relief to break through all the tension that is built up? (more sarcasm) Or the obvious Katnissification of the heroine (in spite of the androgynous nickname “Charlie”) via sweet bowhunting skills? (Even if they came up with that somehow before Hunger Games, did no one think it was going to look very unoriginal [at best] or pandering [at worst]?)
Then there’s the risk taking – and lack there of. Lost took risks from the very first episode, raising all sorts of questions (that we all assumed would be answered at some point), but Revolution raised only one question: Why did everything turn off? (Okay, I guess it also, for me, raises the question of what could have turned off not just electricity, but also the batteries of cars and engines of airplanes? Perhaps I am actually too much of a geek to be able to suspend disbelief for that one – or maybe some physics geek can convince that it’s actually theoretically possible.) That question of “Why?” is a plot question, though, and I think that’s my main beef (and I realize this now that I’ve studied writing a bit). There’s no character questions. In Lost, you have plot questions about how the plane crash occurred (equivalent to the question of why the power went off), and also what the smoke monster was, but, through the ingenious/risky use of the flashback, it begged the question of what all the characters were doing on the plan and what their backstories were. In Revolution, I don’t care about any of the characters. I mean, sure I want
Katniss Charlie to find her brother, but again, that’s really more of a plot device since the characters don’t really have any connection other than the assigned labels of brother and sister.
I guess I should have gone with the canceled shows part last because that’s probably I want to talk about next, but blog posts don’t have to be structured as well as fiction, right? Anyway, maybe this is just the jaded perspective of someone who refuses to get cable, but it seems like most of the shows that people watch these days are on cable. And I think they’ve started to figure it out… Let me start with an example: Breaking Bad has 13 episodes in its longest season. Perhaps more relevant to the “writing” of fiction in which I partake: Game of Thrones is only 10 episodes per season. If broadcast networks would shorten the required length of season for their serial series, then I feel like we could keep the best shows (cough*Fringe*cough) around longer. I know: syndication and all that. But seriously, 22-24 episodes is a lot. Especially once a show moves further away from an episode-by-episode arc to a season-long arc. Again, maybe it’s just the jaded perspective of a dedicated sci-fi geek, but it seems a lot harder to make shows with an individual episode plot for a sci-fi show. Fringe did a good job of this (but they basically copied The X-Files format for that), but then when you had to have actually seen the show in order to follow what was happening, the ratings wheels started falling off. (The show was just as good, they just lost a lot of viewers)
I have no real idea if it would work, but with the cable shows doing it, it seems like it has to be worth a try… It probably wouldn’t have made a difference for Revolution… but I think that overall it would/will make for better, tighter, more tense, more interesting shows (especially sci-fi) and maybe not force the networks to come up with new crap just to cancel it after half a season.