Daniel W. Drezner

As an expert in post-apocalyptic political economy….

As an expert in post-apocalyptic political economy….

For the past ten days your humble blogger has been doing some intense work on a project that will see the light of day in the spring of 2013. This project has left your humble blogger’s brain in a state that most likely resembles tapioca pudding.  So today’s post is not gonna be about the abstruse nature of the global economy. Instead, I wanna talk about a bad TV show. 

The NBC/J.J.Abrams/Jon Favreau show Revolution earned respectable ratings in its premiere and follow-up episode. Your humble blogger must confess that he was intrigued enough by the trailer to check out the pilot to see what all the fuss was about. As a self-identified expert in the political economy of the apocalypse, however, I’m afraid that I must conclude that Revolution is a pile of derivative crap. 

So, the basic setup of the show is that at some point in the near future, something happens that causes all electricity to stop working, everywhere. Revolution then fast-forwards fifteen years. In the interim the United States has fallen apart, replaced with authoritarian militias like the Monroe Militia currently trying to control the Midwest.  In that area, gun ownership is banned.

The basic problem with Revolution is that it wants to to get to the post-apocalyptic world of, say, The Walking Dead, with the anarchy and the chaos and the bloddletting, but it cheats way too much on its premise to earn its world. 

I kinda like the idea of a reset in which electricity simply stops working for some malevolent reason, so I don’t exactly have the same problem that the physics geeks have with the show.  But Revolution‘s premise simply neither considers nor respects the lessons from history in trying to create it’s post-apocalyptic world.  Consider the following historical facts:

1)  Countries and empires managed to maintain something resembling territorial integrity prior to the invention of electricity;

2)  There’s this little invention called the "steam power" which really only needs fire to be able to work, that the show completely elides.  This matters one whole hell of a lot.  Steam engines can power railroads, steamships, and even cars.  So a blackout would have put some crimps in cross-country and cross-border communication — but it wouldn’t have slowed transportation all that much.  Steam power would also allow things like industrial factories and foundies to continue — albeit with considerable retooling.  All told, the odds of state collapse are actually pretty remote. 

3)  Everyone in this show is either walking or riding a horse to get around.  Now let’s assume that everyone in the world developed historical amnesia about steam power.  It’s stupid, but OK.  Where are the f**king bicycles?!  Are those not working as well? 

Now I realize that the show’s creators are more interested in promoting anything that gives this show a whiff of that Hunger Games vibe swordplay and hot young archers — not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Still, this seems like a wasted opportunity.

Coming up next time in Drezner’s TV round-up — I’ll review Last Resort.