Is Esposito Too Good for 'Revolution'?

Despite its high ratings, the NBC drama suffers from a weak premise and an underutilized star.

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(The Root) -- NBC has decided to renew three shows this fall, including the futuristic/medieval show Revolution, which takes place 15 years after the world goes dark because of the end of electricity. Despite the show's failure to address the fact that the world indeed existed just fine before methods of conducting electricity were discovered, Revolution won the 10 p.m. slot during its first two weeks on the air. The second-week ratings showed a 53 percent increase in viewers ages 18 to 49, a highly desirable demographic to advertisers.

The show is averaging about 10 million viewers each week, making it a breakout hit and helping NBC win premiere week over its fellow networks for the first time in nine years. Add fellow NBC breakout hits The New Normal and Go On, and the network is poised to be a ratings darling, at least on Monday and Tuesday nights, when the shows air.

While NBC is celebrating a ratings win, Revolution has received mixed reviews from critics. The excitement over another J.J. Abrams (Lost and Fringe) project with indie darling-turned-Hollywood blockbuster director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) was warranted, especially with the casting of iconic actor Giancarlo Esposito, who has been building his reputation as an outstanding actor one film and television show at a time.

Esposito was recently nominated for an Emmy for his stellar performance as criminal mastermind Gustavo "Gus" Fring in AMC's hit Breaking Bad. His body of work also includes brilliant performances in Homicide: Life on the Streets, King of New York, Do the Right Thing, Law & Order and Detroit 187.

The delivery of a ratings hit is not surprising; what is surprising is that despite all this talent, the show is pretty bad.

In addition to the unrealistic premise that the world would implode based on a lack of electricity (solar power, anyone?), there's the idea that in order to survive, one has to flee the cities, which have gone to pot, for the suburbs, which are the only places where one stands a chance of surviving. Really. Why? That’s not explained well, either. One could imagine that there might be some magical or supernatural answer to these questions, but one cannot imagine that the genre clichés, cheesy dialogue and poor acting will disappear.

These are the issues plaguing Revolution. Esposito, who is clearly the most talented actor of the ensemble cast, plays the role of Captain Tom Neville, a murderous member of the militia. While everyone else is given a backstory (through an obscene number of flashbacks), Esposito’s character is flat and is basically a murderer for no reason. How sad is it that even in the future, cities are painted as cesspools from which people need to escape, and black men as maniacal murderers who need no motivation to maim or murder?

Add to the mix elaborate fight scenes, a coming-of-age tale, an emerging love story, a soundtrack that supersedes the action sequences and a "secret" that even Stevie Wonder could see coming, and Revolution is doing too much. With Esposito as well as Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost) and David Lyons (ER, The Cape) on board, and presumably seasoned writers including Abrams, the show should be better and hopefully will improve. Otherwise, viewers may eventually revolt against Revolution, sending NBC back to the drawing board.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.

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Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large at The Root and founder of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.