'Revolution' scores competitive ratings, but not without criticism

Tracy Spiridakos and Billy Burke star in NBC's "Revolution."

Story highlights

  • "Revolution" has helped NBC win November sweeps for the first time in nine years
  • NBC ordered a full season of the Billy Burke-starrer after airing just three episodes
  • Ratings for "Revolution" have declined since it premiered in September
With its post-apocalyptic setting, Giancarlo Esposito in the role of endearing villain, and J.J. Abrams as an executive producer, creator Eric Kripke's "Revolution" is a surefire hit -- on paper.
In fact, NBC ordered a full season of "Revolution," which also stars Billy Burke, after airing just three episodes, which is the same amount of time it took the network to axe "The Playboy Club" last year. Yet, it seems viewers become more disillusioned with the freshman drama each week.
Still, with its mid-season finale airing tonight, "Revolution" has garnered competitive ratings, and helped NBC win November sweeps for the first time in nine years.
On Tuesday, CNN.com commenter Bret wrote, "I've watched every episode, but I'm ready to give up" on the show, which takes place 15 years after a global blackout causes the government to collapse and prompts militias to take over.
"The story moves at a snail's pace," Bret continued. "Even if we buy the science behind the show's premise, the individual episodes are so infuriating with their slow pace and stupid and unbelievable character interaction that I'm not watching anymore."
As with many new shows, ratings for "Revolution" have declined since its September 17 premiere drew 11.7 million viewers and a 4.1 rating among adults 18 to 49. Of late, ratings leveled off at about 7 million viewers and a 2.6 rating.
Despite NBC's apparent confidence, "Revolution" will soon embark on a three-month hiatus, to return on March 25, so it can continue benefiting from its current lead-in show, "The Voice."
As Yahoo! TV's Dave Nemetz notes, a long hiatus "could be deadly. There are a ton of new shows coming out in January that could step in and take that audience away."
But it's likely that if "Revolution" doesn't succeed during the second half of its first season, it won't be because of winter break.
"A lot of people wanted to see how the world reacted when the power went out," Nemetz said. "They were disappointed that, basically, the story jumped forward and they didn't get to see the aftermath."
Sure the show revisits these moments in flashbacks, but viewers "don't want to derail the storyline in the current time to keep going back," Nemetz said. "People have been burned with shows like 'Lost' and 'Heroes.' They get invested in them, and seasons later they still don't have answers to the questions they tuned in for, so they get a little disillusioned and give up. That might be happening earlier than usual (with 'Revolution')."
As CNN.com commenter Martyr2 wrote on Wednesday, "I can't believe 'Revolution' continues to be a success. I was really interested in it at first but I think it has really lost steam."
Apart from pace, it's the shows characters that seem to anger viewers.
Though fans appear to enjoy Burke as protagonist Miles Matheson and Esposito ("Breaking Bad") as Major Tom Neville of the Monroe Militia, Tracy Spiridakos in the driver's seat as Charlie Matheson hasn't been as well received.
In October, The Huffington Post's Maureen Ryan wrote, "If Spiridakos has any strengths as an actress (and that's not at all apparent), the show's writers haven't learned to write to them, and every week, despite 'Revolution's' general efficiency and the skills of its other cast members, there's a clunky Charlie moment that makes me want to delete the show's Season Pass from my DVR."
CNN.com commenter Bret agrees: "Charlie is such an annoying, whiny, stupid character. It's not all the fault of the actor. The writers give her such dumb dialogue. Danny (Graham Rogers) is a much more interesting character, but the entire season is spent trying to rescue him (from the militia)."
While other supporting characters like Zak Orth's Aaron Pittman and Elizabeth Mitchell as Rachel Matheson have garnered more positive feedback, TVLine.com editor-at-large Matt Webb Mitovich reminded viewers not to get too attached in an October recap: "NBC's 'Revolution,' in its fourth outing, busted out one of the oldest tricks in the book: inviting us to care, more than we had done to date, about a major-ish character, before killing that person off."
"I believe that people love exploring 'What if?' scenarios, and the one at the heart of 'Revolution' is compelling, especially in an era where so many of us are 'wired in' and immersed in a digital age," Webb Mitovich told CNN via e-mail.
"If anything (detracts) from the 'Revolution' experience -- and mind you, this is a show whose producers vetted with a physicist the very foundation of the global blackout -- it is other 'leaps' and lapses in continuity," he continued, "such as the seemingly fresh-from-Urban Outfitters wardrobe and a surprising dearth of bicycles."