Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Revolution's Lost Problem

First things first, I like Revolution. It's an interesting science fiction concept about a world in which electronics just stopped working for no good reason, combustion engines too. Now it's been fifteen years and our main characters must not only survive what the world has become, they are also on a quest to turn the power back on.

Characters thrust into a mysterious and deadly situation trying to figure out just what is exactly going on? Sounds just like Lost. Given that J.J. Abrams is connected, that's no surprise. He loves a good mystery, and this one is right up there. I admit, I am intrigued and might even be tempted to tune in to see the answer. This brings us to the problem.

I wrote a while back about how Lost both started and then doomed this genre of television. Now, show after show starts off strong with a great hook and and an ongoing mystery, and every single one of them is gone within a year. At best, they finish out the season, but no matter what, the story is the same: everyone lost interest and ratings plummeted because no one was willing to be strung along.

This isn't to say Revolution can't survive. Other shows have figured out how to string us along with a big mystery, such as my current favorite How I Met Your Mother. Burn Notice and The Mentalist also lasted many years with long-running mysteries, and Fringe is wrapping up it's fifth and final season. The difference with those shows is that there was more to it than the mystery. The show itself is interesting to watch, the characters enjoyable, and we don't mind getting strung along because the journey itself is interesting.

Revolution will have to walk that line. If it's just about the mystery and stringing us along, it's just another Flashforward or The Event. Not enough people will stick around when there's far more interesting fare out there. The mystery won't matter because we won't care about the characters. However, if the show is able to be fun and enjoyable, if we fall in love with these characters, then we won't mind the slow reveal because the journey will be interesting enough.

My gut feeling tells me Revolution is going to fall into the former category. Once the novelty of the setting wears off, viewers will be left wondering what's going on and how much more they have to sit through before giving up. I could be wrong on this. I'd love to see this show succeed because there's so much potential there, but the audience is not going to be satisfied with all questions and no answers.

Lost got away with it because it was something we've never seen before. And because we really didn't know that they were just making it up as they went. We all assumed they had a game plan, and that's what kept people watching. We gave Lost the benefit of the doubt, but Revolution is not getting the same treatment.

I realize that no show can ever stick 100% to it's intended direction. However, a good show has a plan and knows where it is going. It's what made the season-spanning arcs on Babylon 5 so good. The show knew where it was going , even if things changed along the way. If Revolution already has a plan, if it knows where it's going, then it might be able to convince people to hang on.

Honestly, I think one solution might be to plan for only one season. There's a lot you can do in 24 episodes, and that way there's no boring filler. We know that everything will be resolved by May, and it gives us a reason to watch. If more Lost clones acted like a mini-series instead of trying to stretch it out, I think more of them would survive. It's certainly better than watching these shows fizzle out without resolving anything.

I am curious to see if Revolution can maintain our interest long enough to give us the answers we need. I have a feeling every week our characters will continue on their quest while we keep getting more bits and pieces from flashbacks. Like I said, we've seen this before. Now we need to know if we want to watch it again. I guess we'll find out.

More of my Musings

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