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Monday newbies are a mixed bag

BY ROB HEDELT

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

TWO new shows airing tonight couldn’t be more different.

The better one, NBC’s “Revolution,” creates an interestingly new “old world” where everything electrical or mechanical has shut down.

The other, Fox’s “Mob Doctor,” tries but struggles to connect a young woman’s worlds. She’s a brilliant surgeon but also does medical mop-up for the mob.

“Revolution” is the one that has all the big names and TV reputations going for it, and it showed in last week’s pilot episode.

With J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”) behind the scenes and “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau behind the camera, the first episode moved swiftly and surely.

It started with a big city family, the Mathesons, witnessing an event that shuts down power and anything motorized worldwide.

Flash forward a dozen or so years and they are living in suburban housing augmented with gardens and animal pens. Because the government has fallen and a tribal society has sprung up, folks carry crossbows and swords to deal with troublemakers in this Colonial sort of lifestyle.

The stakes are raised when the father, Ben, is mortally wounded in a struggle with militia members sent to capture him.

In the same fight, son Danny is kidnapped, and daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) is tasked by the dying father to find her Uncle Miles (Billy Burke) to rescue Danny.

It’s no coincidence that this all starts to look and feel a lot like “The Hunger Games” without the games.

The violence that’s such an integral part of “The Hunger Games” is present here, with bodies falling like flies from swords and arrows in a scene at Uncle Miles’ bar. Turns out he’s some sort of military-trained killing machine. When he’s not swinging his sword, Burke makes him an interesting character.

The show works on two levels. It will be action-filled—albeit violent—as the family struggles to make its way in this world where the old ways are new again. It will also be a vehicle to examine how people react when all their modern technology and gadgets are stripped away, requiring them to get by on personal strength and substance.

There will be plots within plots, and secrets galore. What’s the deal, for example, with these lockets some characters have that help electrical gadgets work again?

And who did the woman in the farmhouse communicate with on something that looked a lot like a computer?

It has a shot at success because Spiridakos and Burke are lead-worthy, because the post-apocalyptic backdrop is interesting and because it’s a neat place for good to square off against evil.

CALLING DR. MOB

Jordana Spiro (“My Boys”) does about all you could ask an attractive, talented young actress to do to make Fox’s “Mob Doctor” work.

She’s especially good at making a connection as surgeon Dr. Grace Devlin, who cares about her patients enough to go the extra mile.

Yes, that story’s been done to death, but the characters and action the show creates at Chicago’s Roosevelt Medical Center aren’t bad.

The problem comes every time the good doctor has to run off and help the mob. It stretches believability to the point where we don’t buy it.

One minute the good doctor is saving someone with a difficult brain surgery. The next, she’s bashing a mob boss’s car with her Jeep.

We understand why she’s in debt to these wise guys. It’s her way of canceling her brother’s gambling tab. But it is a leap too far.

Dr. Devlin doesn’t mind prying the occasional screwdriver or pulling the occasional slug from bad guys the mob cares about. But she draws the line at killing a mob informant when she operates on him.

First, her service to the mob comes with a young boss who threatens to kill her. Then it’s an older and smoother mob boss, nicely played by William Forsythe. He saves the pretty doc’s bacon one moment and begins to fry it up the next.

The cast is good, with one of my favorite young actors, Zach Gilford of “Friday Night Lights” fame, playing Devlin’s doctor boyfriend.

Spiro is solid, but her character’s two lives are so far apart that this show needs a fix even a script doctor would have trouble delivering.

WANT TO WATCH?

What: “Revolution”

When: Mondays, 10 p.m.

Where: NBC

What: “Mob Doctor”

When: Mondays, 9 p.m.

Where: Fox

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/features/2012/09/24/monday-newbies-are-a-mixed-bag/