Here's Monday's featured new show

By Jeff Jensen
Updated September 07, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

New Drama

Debuts Sept. 17, 10-11 p.m., NBC

The world of NBC’s new fantasy adventure Revolution is set 15 years after an inexplicable catastrophe saps the planet of all forms of power. Behind the scenes, the show’s leading luminaries — creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural), exec producers J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau — are working hard to make sure that TV’s latest attempt to replicate the buzz of Lost doesn’t prematurely short-circuit like so many other ambitious dramas (Invasion, FlashForward, The Event, Terra Nova). ”We had a lot of conversations, sussing out the underlying framework so that Revolution can sustain over many, many years,” says Favreau. Here’s a glimpse at their road map.

Character Counts

Kripke’s strategy for hooking audiences on a high-concept premise should be familiar to fans of Supernatural: ”I’m interested in stories about family, in all forms. Family is always a great concept to hang a genre on because everyone can relate.” Revolution focuses on Charlie (Being Human‘s Tracy Spiridakos), a Katniss-esque bow-wielding teen raised in the suburban wilds of post-blackout America. After an oppressive militia group led by Tom Neville (Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito) kills her father and kidnaps her brother, Danny (Graham Rogers), Charlie treks to gone-to-seed Chicago to seek help from her disillusioned, dangerous uncle, Miles (Twilight‘s Billy Burke). Kripke, a Star Wars nut, fashioned innocent Charlie after Luke Skywalker and jaded gunslinger Miles after Han Solo. ”Classic archetypes make for effective entry points for audiences to understand characters quickly, but the plan is to complicate and even subvert those archetypes as we progress,” says Kripke, adding that flashbacks will be used to flesh out Revolution‘s heroes and villains. But casting is key: The producers believe they have a breakout star in Spiridakos, and after shooting the pilot, they recast the role of Charlie’s mom, replacing Andrea Roth with Lost vet Elizabeth Mitchell.

Manage the Mystery

What (or who) caused the blackout? Can the power be turned back on? Should it be turned back on? Revolution cultivates much intrigue around these questions, and the producers are keenly aware that viewers (and critics) have become less patient with — and more skeptical about — protracted crypto-serials. Abrams promises that Revolution won’t become mired in a ”morass of mystery…. The ambition is to answer questions quickly, but not too quickly, and always grab you with another interesting question.” Teases Kripke, ”The mystery of why the power went out isn’t as interesting as the quest to turn it back on.” Then again, maybe the lights should stay off. Abrams believes Revolution speaks to a growing cultural ambivalence toward technology: ”I think we’re actually desperate to get away from all this crap — the electronic firestorm, our addiction to screens. Turning off, shutting down — it just feels right.”

Embrace the Power of Plausible Thinking

Revolution will explore a new quarter of its unplugged, anarchic America each week as Charlie and company journey across the country to search for her brother. They’ll find communities flourishing despite the lack of electricity and battle wannabe despots looking to make power grabs (figuratively speaking). The producers realize they must make their world realistic and their answers plausible, lest the show be pecked apart by tweety nitpickers. ”If we don’t make the world credible, the audience won’t buy the drama,” says Kripke. That said, Revolution also aims to be escapism — ”Game of Thrones against an American backdrop,” says Favreau — so the producers don’t feel they have to be slaves to grit. ”We’re not making a documentary,” laughs Kripke. ”Our blackout world is certainly possible, but we don’t think it’s going to happen tomorrow.” That’s good, because it could really put a dent in Revolution‘s ratings.