Usually when a TV show gets canceled, it's over. Sometimes a show can be resurrected as a movie or another spinoff, or lately, reboots. One unusual way of wrapping up a show — NBC's "Revolution," a post-apocalyptic show that took place after a global blackout, is concluding as a digital comic book, and the entire writers room reunited to come up with the story. (Read the first chapter of "Revolution: Endgame" here.)
Two of the show's writers, David Reed and Ryan Parrott, are writing the comic. They say it ended up happening because fans contacted the producers and pushed them to conclude the story, as the show's second season finished on a cliffhanger that was never resolved due to the show not getting picked up for another year.
One of the show's biggest champions was Jon Favreau, who directed the pilot and remained involved throughout the show's run.
"A lot of times the pilot directors just kind of do their job on the pilot and go off to make movies, but Jon came back to the show several times and worked with us to establish the world of the show, beyond just the look in things. Like, what's in California? What's happening in Canada?" Reed says.
He saw all those fans tweeting online, using the hashtag #RelocateRevolution (since they wanted it relocated to another network or streaming service).
"So he's very invested in the show, and people kept sending him messages on Twitter, basically saying, 'What the hell, Jon? How could you leave us hanging like this?" Reed says. "I think that it weighed heavily on everybody that we didn't get to finish the story, because, especially for a very serialized show like this — if you imagine if 'Lost' had been canceled after two seasons, you'd have a lot of questions."
The writers spent several weeks after the last episode coming up with the story for season 3, Parrott says, but now they have the opportunity to go back and tell at least part of that story in four issues of a comic, truncated down.
There were lots of reasons for the show being canceled, some of which are in the control of the creators and many more which aren't, but Reed says the top reason was cost.
"A show like 'Revolution's' really expensive. It isn't like a sitcom or a more grounded drama that you can just slap up some sets in a soundstage somewhere and film it. It was filmed on location in the first season in North Carolina, in the second season all over Texas, and it's the sort of production that you really need a network to get behind."
That means they likely wouldn't have received the budget needed to support a show of its scale from a streaming provider. The show also faced scheduling changes, as well as competition from other post-apocalyptic shows.
"We're in the world of television right now where you have to succeed immediately, and stories are designed for that. You have to burn through story very quickly, and you have to really retain all of the eyeballs you can. And because 'Revolution' also is very expensive, it has to succeed at a higher level than other shows would," Reed says.
Still, he thinks that the show had its chance.
"I think that's it's definitely fair to say that we got our fair shake. There is just a lot of TV, right now. We're in the golden age of television, and there's so much to watch, and I guess not enough eyeballs were on this particular thing," Reed says.
Parrott says that the TV landscape has changed and expanded in many ways in the past five years, and audiences are being pulled in a lot of different directions.
"I watch 25 shows. That's a lot of time," Parrott says. "There's been several times, where I'm watching a show, I'm like, 'Oh my God, I completely forgot, I've been caught up in three other shows, I forgot that was on.'"
This opportunity came about thanks to the show's fans — and Parrott says they were plugged in to what fans were saying all along the way.
"I used to think that shows were less aware than they actually are. We actually were very aware of the fans' reactions to several of the choices. Ironically enough, we discovered, and this is maybe bad or good, that they knew stuff about the show — they had a better handle on the show than we did sometimes," Parrott says. "We would watch episodes, and I would literally just be spinning through the Twitter feed as I was watching the episode."
While they may not have made it into the actual show, Parrott says they were aware of ideas fans had for what would or should happen next when they went into the writers room. Reed says that there are times he's gone from being a fan to working on a show he was a fan of, and it's given him a new perspective.
"When you're creating the show, it's all about possibilities. Anything can happen, literally. You'll discuss 15 different ends for every single episode. And sometimes you forget the final choices. Even in post-production, things will change, a line will change, you'll take out some reveal that you thought was going to be very important. And so sometimes the fans will remember things better than us, because they're the ones who've just seen the final product," Reed says.
Reed says that having the writers team reassembled was a great experience, but it was also a lot of pressure.
"It put a lot of weight on us, I think, because when we started on the show, I think we both had fantasies of this show lasting seven or eight years," Reed says. "Being given that responsibility was daunting, and also amazing."
Reed says they picked up right where they left off. For Parrott, he's been on the show even longer — he worked at J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot when show creator Eric Kripke first came in to pitch the idea to Abrams. Now, it's all coming to an end.
"It definitely has an ending," Reed says. "The ending that was intended for the show, we're going to get out in these four issues. And what is left beyond that, the way that we like to look at it, is the story that we've been telling from the beginning is over at the end of this comic series, and the world obviously is not. Just like any of these grand kind of sci-fi universes that have infinite possibilities for storytelling, 'Revolution' could be the same thing. But the most important part for Eric Kripke in doing this is he didn't want to leave people hanging, and he wanted people to know that when he starts something, he'll finish it."
The writers say that season 3 initially had a treasure hunt story that was going to be in the first half of the season, but they're going to be skipping ahead to what was originally the second half of the season, dealing with the show's unanswered mythology.
"The truth is, most of my favorite shows have good endings, and I think that's what makes them my favorite shows," Reed says. "Just as a writer and as someone who really appreciates a good story, if it doesn't have an end, what's the point? That's why I felt so strongly that this was a good idea, because it takes 'Revolution' from being that show that was around for a while and disappeared, into something with a definite end."
Both Reed and Parrott have worked in comics before, on Batman, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. They say that one of the advantages of working in comics is, ultimately, facing fewer constraints.
"When you work in television, you're up against time and budget, because you only have an hour to share your show. If you have an extra 20 minutes, you can't do an hour and 20 minute long show. But in comics, you're only dealing with space. It takes the same amount of space on the page to show two people sitting around drinking coffee as it does showing the world explode," Parrott says.
He says the show has given them the opportunity to do things that you could never do on television, both in scale and in terms of violence and language. They were also able to use the show to provide plenty of visual reference for the comic's artist.
"The hardest part seems like it would be creating something from whole cloth, and in a case like this, where you can go and you have the likenesses of the actors, and you have the very lush world designed for television, I think that that gives them the leg up from the beginning. But we also have a bunch of stuff in there that we never ever would have been able to do on TV, and we get to kind of let the imagination run loose a little bit," Reed says."
Parrott says that Eric and everyone else have been hugely involved in the process.
"We're not really writing it by ourselves. Even Tracy, the actress, who played Charlie — she was in the room with us, and nobody knows Charlie better than Charlie," Parrott says.
They both plan to continue working in comics and TV. Parrott says that working on the "Revolution" comic has opened some new doors when it comes to comics, and Reed worked on the new NBC show "Aquarius" — which caught headlines by being the first network show to follow Netflix's model in dropping all their episodes online the same day it debuts, later this month.
The comic may move from being digital to being reprinted in a physical comic, but you probably shouldn't hold out your hope for more "Revolution" as a TV show anytime soon, Reed says.
"The thing about all of our actors is that they all are really good actors, and they all have different jobs. In the same way that people are constantly clamoring for more 'Firefly,' and then you're like, 'Well, but Nathan Fillion has a job!' So if you look at our actors ... Everybody's got a job!"
Fans, meanwhile, have a conclusion — a chance to find out the next stage in the story of a great blackout, even after the fade to black.