Rollin' Like Sisyphus

When the Lights Went Out in Schenectady

Posted in Greatest Hits by Huckleberry on June 16, 2012

Birthday parties will never be the same after the Blast. Plus, the real apocalyptic nightmare is a world where the catalogs for Abercrombie & Fitch and Crossbow Quarterly are indistinguishable.

This is going to be one of those posts about a TV show that’s coming out in the Fall, so if that is of no interest to any of the six of you who still read this blog, this is your off-ramp (seriously, click the link anyway).
We’re at a weird time and place where everything is a source of “entertainment” for a diminishing industry whose sole commodity – access to infrastructure – is no longer necessary. This is why we have
movies that are remakes of remakes of remakes, movies and shows about all sorts of non-narrative, not-really-interesting things like board games, Web forums, Twitter feeds, coffee table books about coffee tables, warning labels, and God knows what all else.
A quick perusal on the TV dial shows a remarkable trend – programs about disaster preparedness, so far all “reality” with a range between “Freakball Whackjob Crackers Who Hate Everything” to “Let’s see if we
can make these Freakball Whackjob Crackers Who Hate Everything more paranoid.” Picking up on this trend, NBC is coming out with Revolution, a scripted show that tries so hard to hit this mark, and
just utterly fails because apparently no one in the writer’s room understands what electricity is or how it works in our physical universe.
Watch the trailer, then come on back and see if you reckon the same basic, fundamental flaws in premise that I reckon:

Go on, I’ll wait.
Do you see it?
Apparently, an EMP blast goes off and takes out all of the electricity in the world at the same time. Now, EMPs are nasty pricks, but even with an atmospheric burst for maximum range, one EMP is not wiping out the world, or even half of it.
The Earth is fucking curved, people!
So if we forget that ridiculous folly (and for the sake of the Suspension of Disbelief, I’m willing to overlook a dinger or two), we move on to a world 15 years post-EMP (a fucking decade and a half),
where electricity still inexplicably doesn’t work at all, anywhere on the globe. Not just the active electric components affected at the time of the blast. According to the premise, electricity just doesn’t work at all anymore.
No light bulbs!
We have to use hand tools!
And swords! (Because guns, like the night, are electric!)
And grow organic produce in Prius planters!
This is where the premise heads into the weeds and loses me forever.
An EMP blast doesn’t eliminate the existence of electricity until the end of Creation, it overloads active and unshielded circuits to the point of failure. The damaged components can be repaired or replaced, while the fundamental physical laws that govern the operability of electricity remain intact. The flaw in the show’s premise is that electricity itself seems like a manmade creation, an invention of civilization that can somehow be lost when the walls come tumbling down.
No Electricity!
No Engines!
No Cars!
No iPo/ads!
Of course, the writers don’t seem to realize that diesel engines will work flawlessly following an EMP blast, because diesel engines do not rely on electricity to fire. They use compressed heat to provide
ignition. Also, the time-tested steam engine can certainly power basic industry in the short term until manufacturing got back on its feet. Since combustion is not electricity, I’m not sure why gun tech post-musket is suddenly rendered useless. In addition, it seems that the entire world’s manufacturing, distribution and retail base has blinked out of existence, but The Gap has weathered the storm well, since everyone’s impeccably clothed.
If all electricity everywhere just stopped working, well, you’re looking at nothing but a pile of bodies. Not a single group of hardscrabble survivors, no matter how good looking and swamped in drama,
would be around to crack wise and take charge, because electricity is the fundamental force of life. Mary Shelley understood this with Frankenstein, Da Vinci knew this as a matter of course as far back as
the Renaissance, but when writers who’ve only ever studied writing get together into a room, tinged with desperation to cash in on a trend that they don’t understand, the world ceases to exist as we know it.
Don’t mistake this as one of those Star Trek BBS nitpick things like “Well, in Episode 12 of the Original Series, the Warp Drive looked like a slow-cooking boiler, but in Episode 94 of Enterprise, it looked like a headless sea bass stuck on its side.”
This isn’t that.
I’m perfectly willing to accept the mitigation of physics for all sorts of things in a fictional world, so long as that world is presented in a way where such things are possible. With Revolution, this isn’t some special, altered magical wonderland; the conceit of the show is that THIS COULD HAPPEN TO US TOMORROWZ!!!11!1! This means you have to get the basics of the physics that underlie the entire
premise of the narrative to a point where it’s plausible. If the entire story is focused on electricity not working anymore, there needs to be a better cause than something that can’t possibly be that cause, as well as an explanation of why non-electric-ignition engines/equipment no longer function, and why, if electricity no longer exists, everything is still alive. I want to get into the story, but basic foundational flubs make it impossible. These aren’t nits to be picked; they are glaring signs that writers who have never encountered anything in the world but the local STAPLES or Coffee Bean aren’t willing to perform even the five minutes of research necessary to fill the glaring holes that slapped me in the face for the entire four minutes of that trailer.

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6 Responses

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  1. kfc said, on July 28, 2012 at 17:16

    I already alluded to it on FB, but I just love this post so much. I laughed so hard, and I even learned a little something.

  2. Huckleberry said, on August 19, 2012 at 19:22

    Thank you.
    I didn’t even get into the ridiculous fight scene, the one where the guy swirls the sword over his head, around his back to fend off four guys lunging at him with their own swords. Again, the physics (and kinesiology!) stymies these writers at every turn.
    The sad thing is, the main guy, Eric Kripke, wrote and created Supernatural, which I consider a very well-written, well-structured show. Revolution doesn’t seem like its up to that caliber.
    Also, I stumbled upon some kind of something, where Kripke and Abrams were talking about Revolution and saying it wasn’t an EMP after all, its “a mystery” that fans are just going to have to “go with” and really, the show is more about “family” etc blah etc and my only retort is “we ain’t fans yet.”
    And by yet, I mean never.
    My TV watching time is at a premium these days, and I’m not wasting it on this shit.

  3. kfc said, on September 11, 2012 at 14:25

    What’s an EMP (asks the mouth breather)? What are you watching, Huckaboo? I think it’s funny that we now live in an age where tv programming (at its best) is better than most film offerings. Who ever would have seen that coming? I’m content, it’s cheaper! Have you seen any of AMC’s Hell on Wheels? The writing is super spotty, and the characters often seem to jerk 90 degrees more than they “arc.” but I sure am keen on the lead… That said, I can’t really recommend it. Really loved Joel Kinnaman and Mirelle Enos in The Killing too, but that show suffered from the stench of too many red herrings. Still, he’s going to be a major talent.

    But those aren’t my favorites.

    • Huckleberry said, on September 15, 2012 at 18:24

      ElectroMagnetic Pulse. It’s a byproduct of a nuclear detonation, but there are also weapons capable of creating the pulse without a blast.
      As for TV, I don’t watch much anymore, and I’m not too convinced its all that great these days. In the early/mid 2000s, TV was going in a great direction, but now I don’t know. I don’t care too much for True Blood, Game of Thrones, Newsroom, or anything else on HBO/Showtime. There hasn’t been a new show that I’ve been able to get into since, I guess, Supernatural. I really like Psych. Also, Sons of Anarchy, to a point, because it is very well written and produced, but I grew up in that lifestyle, so I really don’t need much in the way of ficitionalized representations of it. Also, I’m a huge fan of Justified, mostly because I love Elmore Leonard’s books, but other than that, TV is a wasteland anymore. Mostly I watch NFL Total Access, Dodger games, NFL Game Rewind (because I am a gambler, but luckily not degenerate), and college football/basketball. I think I gave up on scripted TV a fundamental way when FX killed the absolute best show I think I’ve ever seen, Terriers. I loved that show, it was damn near perfect, and FX killed it for Louie. I hate Louis CK, the most miserable, unfunny comedian in the history of human existence, so I’m pretty much done with it.

  4. kfc said, on September 13, 2012 at 22:53

    Maybe Abrams saw your EMP post and got all embarrassed.

    • Huckleberry said, on September 15, 2012 at 18:25

      Actually, maybe.
      A few weeks ago this post got 35 hits over the course of an afternoon from an IP in Burbank.

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