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Every week, PCI’s Tod Brilliant offers an assessment of NBC’s new J.J. Abrams sci-fi drama, REVOLUTION. 


Why the TV talk at PCI? Two reasons:
1. PCI Population Fellow William Ryerson has spent decades advocating, with great success, the Sabido Method, a methodology for designing and producing serialized dramas on radio and television that can win over audiences while imparting prosocial values.

2. The premise is irresistible: Our entire way of life depends on electricity. So what would happen if it just stopped working?

And so, no matter how implausible or improbable the storytelling, Revolution offers an entry point for millions into a deeper understanding of energy scarcity issues.

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Early returns indicate we have a hit on our hands. Three weeks in and NBC's Revolution is dominating its time slot. Apparently, viewers really enjoy watching attractive people hack at each other with swords. Who doesn’t? Let’s see…. Yep, swordporn.com is taken. Looks like the producers did their homework. 
 
One of my big complaints about Revolution has been that we’re fast-forwarded to fifteen years post-Power Outage. I want to see the good stuff. I want to see how people responded in the immediate aftermath of losing nearly every luxury, every convenience, every automated necessity. And so this week we get our first hint via flashbacks to six months after the Outage. When we see a tree trunk of a man who hasn’t missed a calorie or a gym in his life beating another man senseless for his food, it becomes clear that the writers are setting us up for a deep philosophical exploration of the classic Hobbes’ vs. Locke arguments about the essential nature of humanity.   

“People are hungry. Hungry people get desperate… aint nobody coming to help.”

Okay, maybe the writers aren’t getting deep, but Hobbes V. Locke does appear to be the tent pole around which Revolution is draped. In camp Hobbes we have the Militia with its classic powerful, patrimonial ruler. In the other, Locke’s American flag-tattooed rebels champion a government by and for the people. Indeed, the stars and stripes are strictly verboten.

Whether you buy into Revolution’s watered-down examination of social contract theory, the show’s premise reinforces Post Carbon Institute’s position that it is absolutely necessary that we plan our energy future. We must work hard to transition as smoothly as possible to largely fossil fuel free communities. If we’re caught off guard (too late?), chaos is quite likely.
 
And so, a question: Will a rapid energy descent usher in a Hobbesian world where the strong survive at the expense of the weak? Or will cooperatives arise for the greater good? History gives us pretty clear answers, but pointing out countless examples will only irk the more optimistic of my kind-hearted readers. But I’m a Hobbes man myself: I’d love to hear what you think.
 
Quote of the Week
“That kid was the Mozart of wedgies.”
(No context necessary.)
 
Scene of the Week
The charisma-free duo (whose names I can never recall precisely because together they generate fewer sparks than a raindrop) gets power on just long enough to enjoy a jaw dropping Prototypical White American Starbucks Experience (PWASE): Marvin Gaye’s “Heard it Through the Grapevine” plays while she scans her iPhone (carried as a talisman) photo album. I’m not doing the moment justice. Just trust me when I say the moment is as bourgeois as it gets.  As a middle-class white American, it warmed my heart and almost made me surf over to IMDb to learn their names.
 
Low Tech Spotting
BOOM STICKS: Our heroes assemble powerful pipe bombs and cook up incredibly incendiary booby traps out of bleach and potassium chloride. They must have a copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook handy.

CANDLES: There are hundreds and hundreds of candles. And every last one is white. Maybe the colored ones are banned? Or only brought out for evening labors? It’s curious, that’s for certain.
 
 
 
No Tech Spotting
Three weeks in and we’ve yet to see –

BICYCLES: You’d think the recumbent bike dudes with beards and Birkenstocks would be absolutely owning the Power Down Highways. Nope, so far not one single bicycle has appeared onscreen. We’ve seen abandoned trains, buses, trucks and even a helicopter. And, of course, horses. But nary a pedal-pusher. (I just picked up a 1972 Schwinn Varsity. Trust me, that tank is going to be working in another hundred years.)
 
FOOD PRESERVATION: No power, no Sub Zero refrigerators in Revolution. So how are people preserving their food? Not a sign of drying or canning. Not a hint of a root cellar. How about a cool clay pot (aka ‘zeer’) container? Nope. I’m willing to forgive this, as President Obama’s Big Ag puppet masters pump in 32.6 kajillion megatons of preservatives into the American food supply every year, the characters of Revolution may well still be eating through peaches canned in 1994.
 
TOILETS: The world of Revolution must be scarred by pit toilets. Yet, even in the army encampments, we don’t enjoy a whiff of a post-carbon potty. I reckon each episode is only 40 minutes long, so they just hold it.   
 
I panned Revolution last week for failing to explore much of anything. And while I’m far from endorsing the show as it fails, nearly entirely, to take even a glancing look at critical post-carbon struggles, the introduction of a Greater Struggle storyline (something missing in, say, Sons of Anarchy—a superior show as far as writing and character dev go, but one that ultimately falls down because there’s no reason the protagonists do the evil that they do, other than greed and sloth) gives the show a sliver of credibility in my book. It’s a tiny sliver, but it’s enough to not make me dread my weekly visit to Pirate Bay (ahem).
 
 
 
 


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