First Thoughts on NBC's "Revolution"

Including audiobooks and comic books, I read a lot more than I watch television and movies so I don't catch a lot of new shows. I was a fan of "Jericho" a few years back, a show about a small Kansas town trying to endure in the aftermath of a nuclear exchange and the collapse of the United States government.  When I first heard of "Revolution" I thought of "Jericho" and decided to check it out.

The premise of "Revolution" is that 15 years ago some event removed power from the entire globe. We're not talking all power plants failed or an EMP fried lots of devices, nothing electronic works. To be honest, this is something I have a hard time buying into - sometimes willing suspension of disbelief is hard. As someone who majored in Computer Science and Engineering I had to take a lot of Electrical Engineering classes and this selective suspension of the laws of physics is awfully hard to swallow. After all if you really suspended electricity you'd die pretty quickly as your nervous system and brain would lose their ability to transmit messages. I know S.M. Stirling did a series with this as a premise, starting with Dies the Fire, though I've not read that series.

For the time being I swallowing my disbelief to see how things develop. The series takes place around Chicago with the main threat being the Monroe Militia which rules over everything. There is a magic gadget that one of the protagonists possesses that apparently can make electricity work again, suggesting there may indeed be something "magical" about the suppression of electricity.

The society that has emerged is one that people familiar with the post-apocalyptic genre will recognize pretty readily - one that has been forced to go back to a medieval level of technology. Firearms still work but the Monroe Militia has banned civilian possession of them. Flashbacks have been showing what transpired in the aftermath of the event that suppressed electricity.

For the time being I'm watching the show. In my opinion it illustrates the challenges in sustaining interest in a setting - it is an interesting setting, but interesting settings are, in my opinion, not that difficult to create. The difficulty is, I believe, in keeping that setting going. This is true whether you are making a book, movie, television series, or RPG campaign. In this case there is obviously a mystery as to why electricity no longer works and the possibility of brining it back. But this seems to be see something that needs to be addressed vs. kept in the background. It's a balancing act - you don't want to reveal or resolve everything at one but at the same time you can't keep your audience - or gaming group - hanging forever. Ideally a revelation or resolution should not close off dramatic opportunities so much as opening up new ones.

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