09/18/2012 10:40 am ET Updated Sep 18, 2012

NBC's 'Revolution' And The Rise Of The Bland Female Action Actress

My friend, the Time television critic James Poniewozik, in discussing "Revolution", NBC's new post-apocalyptic television drama about a world without electricity that begins airing tonight, described the character distribution as "a kind of TV bialy, very, very flat in the center." In an attempt to appeal to the kids these days without appearing to insult the adults, "Revolution" has seeded itself with a number of intriguing grown-ups in the margins, including "Breaking Bad"'s Giancarlo Esposito as a militia enforcer who helps patrol an America returned to a Revolutionary War-era state, but it's chosen as its main characters two young, pretty things—Graham Rogers and Tracy Spiridakos as the son and daughter of a scientist who knows the secret to a world-wide blackout—so bland that it's as if NBC drafted them from the CW. In that sense, "Revolution" may herald not the return of quality science fiction to network television, but something rather different: the rise of the personality-free female action star.

Hollywood has a curiously inconsistent attitude towards failure, condemning some actors or directors to outer darkness after a box office disaster or a ratings humiliation, while giving others chance after chance. Action movies and television shows in particular have acted as a kind of cushion for male actors who wouldn't have the chops to make it in more tasking roles, while also shielding those stars from being judged as box-office poison.

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