Pop Nation: NBC’s Revolution, and My Apology to the Farmville People.

Published on September 21st, 2012

When I agreed to do this column, I made a decision that I would try to only focus on the positive. I would talk about things that I liked, that I thought were cool, that I thought other people would dig.

Then again…

We’re all nerds here, right? We can all agree that sometimes – not ALL the time, but sometimes – it’s fun to pick on something that we think isn’t that great, that we think is trying too hard, that we think is kind of lame?

I hope so, because I’m going to talk about NBC’s new show, Revolution.

I am, generally speaking, a pretty huge fan of J.J. Abrams. I loved Alias very much (and unlike a lot of fans of that show, I pretty much love it full stop, as opposed to just loving the first two or three seasons), and I am about as big a fan of LOST as you can find, before starting to discuss people who use “the numbers” as their computer passwords, or who have a tattoo of Ben Linus’ face somewhere on their body. But I’m going to be honest that not all of the Bad Robot-affiliated TV projects post-LOST have really done it for me. I really enjoy Fringe, but I also kind of think it should have wrapped up a couple seasons ago. And the less said by me about Alcatraz, the better.

So I tuned into the pilot of Revolution with hopes that, I thought, were reasonably placed. Not too excited, not too ambivalent. And within the first ten minutes, I realized that I had probably set the bar way too high. Apparently I’m not the only one. The show did pretty well, ratings-wise, pulling in 11.7 million viewers. (Although after 30 minutes, it would seem that a lot of people, like me, started to think, “There are much better things I could be doing with my time,” as that number dropped to 10.4 million.)

The basic idea of Revolution is that at some point in the not-too-distant future, for reasons unknown, all electricity on the planet stops working. The story then picks up fifteen years later, where life has moved on, everyone has apparently adopted Civil War affectations without ever questioning why, and all the women have improbably well-washed and maintained hair.

Some random thoughts about the pilot, in no particular order:

  • I kept calling the young heroine “Katniss”, and the hunky, mysterious , obviously love-interest-guy “Gale”. Then my wife figured out how much of The Hunger Games I had retained and made fun of me for a while.
  • It’s good to see that after 15 years with no electricity, you can still get prescription glasses.
  • It’s good to know that after 15 years with no electricity, all teenagers will be outfitted with leather pants and tight tee-shirts. Apparently even after the apocalypse, the mall will still be open.
  • It’s good to know that after 15 years with no electricity…you get the idea.
  • Why is everyone using muskets?
  • Who gets their own name tattooed on their arm?
  • J.J. Abrams, this is the second time you have done the “asthmatic blonde has no access to medicine and gets in a pickle because of it” routine.
  • J.J. Abrams, this is also the second time you have done the “young heroine keeps all of her memories and keepsakes in a lunchbox” bit.
  • Jon Favreau directed this? I’m guessing it’s the “Cowboys and Aliens” Favreau, and NOT the “Iron Man” Favreau.

So…it’s not a BAD show, per se. It’s just sort of insipid. The acting isn’t very strong, it’s ridiculously glossy for post-apocalyptic fiction, and there’s not much here that you can’t get elsewhere.

Look – trashing this show on the strength of a pilot might be premature; a lot of shows had wobbly pilots, and later turned into brilliant series. But I’m also not sure how many dates you need to go on with someone once you know there’s no chemistry.

Having said all that, I may keep watching the show for a while because, as a former roommate of mine said after a first date, “he’s sort of dumb, but he’s awfully pretty.”

I’ll let you know if it gets better. I really hope it does.

New Special Ops for Avengers Alliance Means I’ll be trying to Make More Friends on Facebook.

I didn’t “get” Facebook games for the longest time. Seeing a bunch of Farmville updates on a friend’s timeline just sort of told me that person’s job could afford to have them there for a few hours less each week. But that, of course, was before the Avengers Alliance game showed up. Now THAT is relevant to my interests. So of course I try to play it every time I have five free minutes. I apologize to all the Farmville addicts. I GET it now, I really do.

For those who haven’t played the game, it’s essentially a turn-based adventure combat game, not unlike early Final Fantasy offerings. The main distinction being that you’re controlling your own personal S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and a pair of Marvel super-heroes, drafted from the lineup you unlock. I’ve been playing obsessively enough that I’ve managed to unlock everyone in the game who’s not named “Nightcrawler” (I’m coming for you soon, Kurt! I promise!), and I’m now collecting alternate costumes, because my nerd-OCD gives me blinding headaches when my characters don’t look EXACTLY like they do in this week’s comics.

In an effort to keep me glued to my computer, tapping keys like a rat at a feeder bar, the makers of Avengers Alliance, Playdom, have been releasing a series of limited-time missions called Special Ops. Besides the normal allotment of time and energy, these missions also require a steady supply of “Unstable ISO-8” (ISO-8 being the MacGuffin around which the game is built). You can tell when one of these Special Ops is currently available: the eyes of your friends playing Avengers Alliance will develop a certain dazed, glassy desperation as they wander the streets, trying to find that next hit of Unstable ISO-8.

This time around, the Special Op is inspired directly by Marvel’s “Avengers versus X-Men” series, offering up alternate costumes for the Phoenix Five (minus Namor, plus Jean Grey), and presenting Magik as a playable character, if you can jump through all of the appropriate in-game hoops.

So if I don’t know you, and I try to become your friend on Facebook, you know what’s coming next. A request to join me in Avengers Alliance and give me some of that sweet, sweet ISO-8. C’mon man, just a taste.

P.S. If you are my friend and you do play Avengers Alliance, and you keep sending me web grenades as gifts, STOP. Those things are the fruitcakes of Avengers Alliance gift-giving.

Travis M. Holyfield