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Last Resort Vs. Revolution: The Viewer Can’t Be Fooled

Does this look like a big deal?

(Update: Why Last Resort failed and Revolution succeeded.)

In life and in TV, sometimes it’s just a matter of timing. I always thought the shows Jericho and Day Break was really good and had the bad fortune of coming on to the air when the networks were glutted with serial dramas. Both shows were good, although Jericho was slow in places and some choppy dialogue. Bottom line, they weren’t great and viewers weren’t fooled by the serials that were actually great. This year, there are two serial dramas coming on to the networks, and the quality of one may directly affect the success of another.

Take Revolution, the show I watched while I was packing at our lake house to go back to Nebraska. It’s a good show, and an unique one, taking place in an America fifteen years after all forms of electricity have disappeared. Going into the show, I didn’t expect it to be great, mainly because I wasn’t high on the character Charlie in the show’s first trailer. (Her speech to her uncle Miles pleading for him to come with them is nails on a chalkboard.) The pilot didn’t feel as gritty as it should have and was more like a bunch of fan boys showing off an expensive toy. This is a world were women who wander a days journey from home get raped; please drop the glee. Elizabeth Mitchel’s Rachel Matheson had better be alive in the present, because there’s no lead character on the show. Of course, I won’t be surprised if JJ Abrams doesn’t get that. Judging by the pilot, he still doesn’t understand why killing off Jack in Lost‘s pilot would have been a mistake.

After watching Revolution, I thought, okay, it’s a nice show, and it has potential. If it moves at a break-neck pace like it did in the last four or five minute, and if by episode six, there’s more of a mission than “let’s go find Danny” and if Elizabeth Mitchell does show up alive, it could be pretty good. But then I watched the pilot for Last Resort.

Last Resort was a pilot I wanted to see last winter, before it was cast or I saw any images from it, or even the trailer. Crew of a nuclear sub goes on the lamb and sets up camp on a deserted island? Lost according Tom Clancy, I presume. Going into the show, I was worried the pilot would be bloated and not do the story line justice, but I was blown away.

There isn’t a lost or rushed moment in Last Resort‘s pilot. It introduces every character and situation, and sets up conflict inside and outside the group of submariners. Granted, there wouldn’t be an event as big as what’s in the pilot and things could get lazy on the island, but this show lays out the big story right away and puts in enough characters to follow so you don’t have to worry what it’s going to look like around episode ten. I left the show wondering what’s just going to happen in episode two.

Truth be told, Revolution may not succeed because it’s just not very good, but Last Resort may not help. You can eat generic cereal for thirty mornings in a row, but if you eat name-brand cereal two mornings in a row, you’ll be remiss to go back to the generic. Judge for yourself.

(Follow up: I was wrong. Go find Danny was sufficient enough to carry a show.)

Chuck Series Finale: Will Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak try to be Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse?

I have been a fan of NBC’s Chuck since it began a little  over four years ago. Granted, it has declined in quality, but that was because the show choose to take big risks . The season 2 cliffhanger was probably one of the best two or three TV cliffhangers in the last couple of years, even though it essentially eliminated the series’ best dynamic: a normal guy who was being chased by assassins and relied on shaky alliances with his two handlers, all the while keeping his spy activities secret from his family. Yes, the show has had good episodes the past two seasons and I look forward to seeing its ending, but I’m not among the fans who were clamoring for a back nine this season. Let’s let Chuck retire in peace, remembering that the show almost didn’t get picked up after the season two cliffhanger.

But after watching the promo for the series finale, I wondered to myself: will Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak get greedy and go for a St. ElsewhereNewhartLost style ending that leaves fans going, huh? Example: Chuck and Sarah holding the intersect glasses that say “Activating” in the promo for series finale. Say Chuck puts those glasses and wakes up in a room, where we find out that the entire series was a dream sequence that started when Chuck opened Bryce’s e-mail in the pilot.

My best evidence for this? Watch the series finale promo, where NBC talks about viewers having theories and seeing how the series ends. In the fourth season finale, evil agent Clyde Decker told Chuck (in grandiose Lost-like speak) that all of this stuff had happened to him for a reason,

While everyone who’s seen it has a strong opinion on Lost‘s  ending,  I would say that this isn’t the right way for Chuck to end. Chuck has never been a show where the mythology, while an asset, has never been as much of the center of the show, the way Lost‘s mythology was its center, or the way 24 was centered on its season-to-season terrorist crisis. Chuck was, and is, a show that start with an underachieving guy who was thrust into dramatic situations and had to figure out how to use the talents he had to protect his country and the people around him. I do think that the snow globe St. Elsewhere ending has its place and can work, but Chuck isn’t that show.  Chuck needs an ending that leaves Chuck and Sarah on a beach somewhere.

What do I think will happen? Well, if I have to guess now, my theory is, in the last minutes of the show, there will be some kind of twists that is driven by mythology, although it may not be as radical as I have suggested. Schwartz and Fedak are geek fan-boys, and like most TV writers are jealous of Lost, a show where comic geeks basically got a blank check for six seasons. I don’t think I will disown the show for such an ending, although I did think that Lost would end up being my favorite TV show of all time and I disowned that show at the end of its penultimate season. Most likely, if there is a dramatic twist, I’ll see it the way I saw the ending of Inception: it was one of the greatest, most original big budget movies I had seen in ten years, but Christopher Nolan turned into an attention whore in the last twenty seconds of it.

Whatever the case, at 9 P.M. Central Time, I will look forward to monitoring the twitter chatter once the series final moments have aired. Expect a twitter report here.

Another loose end from the Chuck rumor mill: there are people speculating that a major, with-the-show-since-the-pilot character will die in the two hour series finale, and I have to guess, I would say it’s Casey (based in part on the shot of him in the plane in the promo). I don’t think Chuck would have to kill off one of the regulars: they haven’t killed a series regular in nearly five years, and the only major death in the show has been Chuck’s father. But, like a major bomb of an ending, I would be willing to give it the benefit of the doubt to see how it’s done.

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