Press Tour 2012: 'Revolution' producers talk questions, answers and allegory
A physicist has approved of the solution to the NBC drama's riddles
BEVERLY HILLS - The routine has been the same for several years now: The producers of a highly ambitious mythology-based TV series sit down at the Television Critics Association press tour and swear that their shows won't frustrate viewers like so many before.
The producers of "FastForward" swore they wouldn't be "Lost." The producers of "The Event" swore they wouldn't be "FlashForward." The producers of "Terra Nova" promised they wouldn't be "The Event." Etc. Etc.
With that in mind, I'm pleased to report that the producers of NBC's "Revolution" not only swear that they know the answers to all of the show's questions, but they also swear that they're prepared to answer those questions.
"I'm not a fan of endless mystery in storytelling," series creator Eric Kripke told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday (July 24). "I like solid, aggressive, red-blooded storytelling. I like to know where the mythology is going. I like to get there in a exciting, fast paced way. I mean, not so fast that we give away the whole farm on Episode 2, but enough that there's a really clear, aggressive direction as to where it's going and payoff and, you know, payoff mystery and reward the audience's loyalty. And because for me it's like I never get too precious with the questions because you can answer questions and then ask new ones."
Kripke emphasized that although "Revolution" may look on first-blush like it's a Big Question mystery -- "Why did all of the power in the world go off, darnit?" -- it's not ill-suited for a 22-episode network television structure and schedule.
"I'm personally thrilled for the opportunity to have 22 episodes because that lets me tell that lets me reveal a lot of different facets of these characters and really make them into really fascinating human people, and that to me is what is going to attract people to the show, is really likeable, interesting, complicated characters who are on just this epic journey in this epic saga. And, for the record, some elements of the show are serialized, but it's not completely serialized. It's a whole world to explore. And so there's different towns and different villages and different skirmishes with the militia. And I like to tell stories that have beginnings, middles and ends. And so as they're on a larger myth quest to get her brother back and reunite their family, they're having all sorts of ass-kicking adventures along the way."
There you go, doubters! Ass-kicking adventures.
Added "Revolution" pilot director Jon Favreau, "It's about developing a balance so that somebody can tune into the show and jump right in even if they miss the first couple of episodes and understand who the characters are and how the stories work. But there is a serialized version of as you could unfold some more sophisticated storylines both emotionally and, as far as the context, especially with a big a buy of plausibility like this show has, which is essentially the laws of physics, seem to have changed. So while there's an underlying mystery with an internal logic to it, we still want to make it about the people and the emotion."
Some people have already been confused by the "Revolution" trailers, or at least the specifics of what power has or hasn't vanished from our world.
"[I]n terms of the rules, so it’s about electricity, so it’s about anything that throws a spark, anything any circuit that carries an electrical charge," Kripke said. "It’s that alone and that is the that is the simple, clean rule and everything expands from that. So that means batteries and spark plugs, which means engines, and everything that comes from electricity."
And there is, indeed, an answer for what happened to all of that power and Kripke says that the answer was approved by a genuine unnamed scientist-type-person!
Kripke recounted, "[B]ecause the writers are a bunch of nerds, we brought a physicist into the 'Revolution' offices and we pitched him what we wanted to have happen and we gave him the big secret as to why it all happened because we have that secret and we just and we really vetted it to make sure that it was accurate from the scientific point of view. And his face just lit up. I mean, he was like, 'That is absolutely possible.' He’s like, 'And I never even considered it, but that’s amazing.' And so we did our homework and we came up with something that actually is quite plausible."
One of the mysteries that one critic inquired about was why the characters in "Revolution" use muskets rather than... you know... guns. Was that a science-driven issue or a plot-driven issue. The answer? Plot.
"Guns are possible in the world," Kripke said. "They’re confiscated because we’re living in the Monroe Republic, which is a dictatorship and they’ve taken away people’s rights to bear arms."
That's a very specific piece of phrasing, which led me to grab the mic and inquire if Kripke intends for his show to wade into those specific political waters, waters made all the choppier by the recent tragic events in Colorado.
"I mean, I understand your reference. And look, it’s a terrible, terrible tragedy, and my heart goes out to everybody in Colorado," Kripke told me. "I think we’re talking about a broader canvas than that. I think we’re talking about, you know, a dictator who is also conscripting soldiers, taxation without representation, taking away the freedoms of what was once the citizens of the United States in a hundred different ways and that what we’re really talking about is, at the end of the day, a very patriotic show that is in many ways about people fighting for freedom, freedoms to be able to go where they want, say what they want, be together with their families. And so, again, I think it’s what you’re referencing is a small part of a much broader canvas."
Still, shows within the "Revolution" genre are often looked upon as sources of allegory, reflecting on contemporary concerns. I asked Kripke if he was comfortable with allegory being read onto the show.
"I think, again, and specifically in terms of in terms of your specific reference, of course I’m not comfortable with it. How could I be? But again, I think it’s a much bigger show that is about that is more about, like, what it means to be a citizen of this country and what are the things that are positive about it and what are the things that are worth fighting for," he said.
In response to another question, Favreau made it clear that "Revolution" is looking backward, rather than looking at the world around us.
"[I]t’s not really meant to stand in for what’s going on today, but it’s meant to replay aspects of our history from when we were going from colonial times, living under oppressive monarchies and then becoming a republic. And that was what was exciting for me, is it was a way to tell aspects of our history to a new generation who is a little bit more plugged into if you look at all the young adult novels and what’s in the zeitgeist, there’s definitely a sense of the young generation coming and persevering against people who serve as allegories for how they might feel powerless as young people in the world. And so you see, in a lot of the young adult novels, you’re dealing with other worlds where the young generation is very important and being a front line of a deep struggle, much like when we grew up with 'Star Wars.'"
"Revolution" premieres on NBC on Monday, September 17, 2012.