This is the week when the producers and stars of the rookie hit drama Revolution find out which piece of well-worn folk wisdom applies to their show:
Is it true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, or is viewer loyalty a simple case of out of sight, out of mind?
The speculative-science series, which stars Winnipegger Tracy Spiridakos and American actor Billy Burke, returns to prime time on March 25 after a four-month absence. Only time (OK, and overnight Nielsen ratings) will tell whether the show's fan base will rejoin it as its world-without-power storyline resumes.
Revolution proposes a near-future world in which a mysterious scientific glitch has caused all forms of electrical power to shut down. The drama takes place 15 years after the blackout, with determined teen Charlotte "Charlie" Matheson (Spiridakos) having enlisted the help of her uncle, Miles (Burke), after armed militiamen killed her father and kidnapped her brother.
When the series aired its "fall finale" on Nov. 26, Charlie and Miles (along with a small ragtag band of rebels) had infiltrated the headquarters of militia leader Sebastian Monroe (David Lyons), just in time to learn that the power-mad general had acquired technology that would allow him to switch the electricity back on.
In the final scene, Monroe's troops took to the air in helicopter gunships, a move that drastically (and, probably, catastrophically) tipped the balance of the battle away from the rebel bunch. It was an exciting sendoff, but does anyone remember or care?
For his part, series producer J.J. Abrams says yes, and as proof, he points to the success his previous project, Lost, enjoyed when it began heavily loading its episodes into the post-Christmas months.
"When we were doing Lost and they (ABC) ended up changing the schedule to eliminate the constant (interruptions)... and unpredictability of repeats, it helped enormously," Abrams said, referring to the fact that serialized dramas (shows with continuing storylines) tend to lose viewers when the sequential nature of the episodes is disrupted by pre-emptions and repeats.
"So when this (fall-to-spring hiatus) idea came up, I was enormously relieved because I felt like we were getting to a place where it would be, for the viewer, the best possible way to present the show."
According to another of Revolution's executive producers, Eric Kripke, the show's first-season storyline also includes a before-and-after element that quite comfortably suits a split schedule.
"There was such a natural break point between the first half and the second half -- they found (Charlie's) brother, and the revolution and battle against Monroe really begins -- that, luckily, the second half really sort of lives as its own continuous piece," he told TV critics gathered in Los Angeles during the U.S. networks' semi-annual press tour.
"I think it's bigger and better and even more exciting, so I'm thrilled to show it to viewers and I'm excited that they get to watch it week after week after week without any repeats in the middle."
Kripke promised a second-half stretch whose pace will be considerably quicker than the first set of episodes.
"The other thing that this little break has afforded us -- which is a first-time luxury for me -- is the ability to take a breath, look at what we've done, really analyze it, and make adjustments," he said.
"I think if we learned any one thing -- and I think we did a lot of things right; the characters are amazing, and the actors are killing it -- I felt like we could pick up the pace of the stunning revelations. I felt that maybe the pace of the shocking surprises was a little bit too slow in the first half.... Basically, we want to make it more shocking, more often."
For Spiridakos, the transition means playing a much different character than when the show premiered last fall.
"I like watching the growth," she explains. "I've really enjoyed seeing Charlie grow from this sort of innocent, wide-eyed girl who trusted everybody into this warrior. I think she always had the strength, but maybe she didn't have the experience she needed to survive in this world. I get really excited to read (each new) episode, genuinely."
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Starring Tracy Spiridakos, Billy Burke, Giancarlo Esposito and Elizabeth Mitchell
Monday, March 25 at 9 p.m.
NBC and Citytv