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‘Revolution’ turns lights out on Chicago, has flashes of fun

REVOLUTION -- 'Pilot' Episode 101 -- Pictured: Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie Mathes-- (Phoby: Bob Mahoney/NBC)

REVOLUTION -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie Matheson -- (Photo by: Bob Mahoney/NBC)

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9 to 10 p.m. Mondays on WMAQ-Channel 5

Updated: October 17, 2012 6:24AM

NBC’s new fantasy adventure “Revolution” poses an interesting question: What would life be like if all the lights went out? If any circuit that carries an electrical charge stopped working and everything our technology-obsessed culture relies on — cars, planes, TVs, phones, computers — became useless?

That’s what happens in the first few minutes of “Revolution,” from creator Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”) and co-executive producers J.J. Abrams (“Lost”) and Jon Favreau, who also directed the intriguing-yet-imperfect pilot.

“We really vetted it to make sure that it was accurate from the scientific point of view,” said Kripke, who ran the premise by a consulting physicist. “His face just lit up. He was like, ‘That is absolutely possible.’ ”

In the pilot, the cause of the permanent blackout remains a mystery. But Kripke promises that question — and many others that pop up along the way — will be answered sooner rather than later.

“I like solid, aggressive, red-blooded storytelling,” he said. “I like to know where the mythology is going. I like to get there in an exciting, fast-paced way.”

Set in Chicago, at least initially, the show quickly jumps ahead 15 years to a world where most people have fled the cities and are living in the outskirts off homegrown crops and candlelight. They’re also living in fear of a roving militia. (“Breaking Bad” fans rejoice: Giancarlo Esposito is back as one of the heavies.) Chicago has gone to hell; lawlessness reigns, State Street is underwater and Wrigley Field is covered in vegetation like some abandoned ruin.

One man (Tim Guinee, “Iron Man”) knows a lot more about what caused this worldwide blackout than your average citizen. He hightailed it out of Chicago and moved his family to the Wisconsin countryside. But events force him to send his spunky, bow-and-arrow-wielding daughter, Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos, “Being Human”), back to a dystopian Chicago in search of her estranged uncle (Billy Burke, “The Twilight Saga”).

Most of the action takes place 15 years after the lights went out, but every episode will have flashbacks that serve as “EpiPens of adrenaline,” Kripke said, showing viewers what happened in the immediate aftermath.

“While we’ll spend some time in that environment, that’s a story about a society falling apart,” he said. “We were very much interested in telling a story about a society coming together.”

Charlie and her ragtag band of survivors have an intimidating to-do list that includes rescuing her kidnapped brother, overthrowing the militia and restoring the United States of America.

Seems like every season television offers up a high-concept sci-fi drama, and they often collapse under the weight of their own ambition (R.I.P., “Terra Nova”).

“Revolution” could easily fall into the same trap.

It’s already clear, however, that the writing can be a bit corny, the action sequences a tad ridiculous and the plot prone to nit-picking. Will an asthma inhaler really work 15 years past its expiration date? What about solar power?

The hourlong pilot had a strong start and finish. It was the stuff in the middle that gave me pause. But before I pull the plug, I’m willing to hang in there for a few more episodes to see where this “Revolution” is headed.

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