Monday, October 27, 2008

A bit dramatic, don't you think?

So the latest edition of Entertainment Weekly proclaims that Heroes is a show in crisis, and needs to be saved. I mean, yeah, the ratings have admittedly dipped and many of the people who gushed over the show now seemingly don't have a nice thing to say about it, but isn't this just a TAD dramatic? It would be borderline suicidal for NBC to cancel the show, and I think they know it. While Heroes isn't one of the top 10 highest rated shows on TV right now (it may not even be top 15), it's the second highest rated drama on NBC. It's also among the highest rated shows in regards to the 18-49 year old demographic (the one that advertisers pay the most for). And while it may no longer be a ratings juggernaut, the series is still highly marketable and well known. I suppose that may not mean much if people aren't watching, but NBC would be hard pressed to find a new show that could match the overall exposure that Heroes receives. I'd be utterly shocked if this show is even near the verge of almost being cancelled.

And while there is a very vocal group of people panning the series they once loved -- and Nielson ratings have declined -- it's still the #1 top rated show on, beating out shows like House, Lost, Prison Break, Grey's Anatomy, and other popular or highly rated shows. Ditto for (which is surprising, considering how much the posters there tear it apart).

Honestly, I think a lot of the criticism aimed at this season has more to do with the bad taste last season left in the fans' mouth than anything they're seeing this season. That being said, the show REALLY needs a smack to the back of the head. While I have really enjoyed this season, there are some inherent flaws that the show hasn't addressed since the beginning of the series.

For example, let me lay out this story arc, and you tell me which season I am referring to (including this one): A character goes into the future, sees that something cataclysmic is going to happen, and returns to the past to attempt to prevent it. Along the way he hits some obstacles and makes some bumbling mistakes. Peter, meanwhile, puts his trust in the wrong person and comes to discover that HE is the person who will be responsible for the future devastation, only to be talked down by Nathan, who presumably dies in heroic fashion. In a somewhat unrelated story, Suresh does experiments while unknowingly working for the bad guys. HRG does some morally questionable things to ensure that his family remains safe, only for an angst-ridden Claire to begin to distrust him. While this is all happening, Angela Petrelli acts cryptic and all knowing, and has this "the ends justify the means" mentality.

So, which season did I just describe?

Even a show like Lost has gone through its fair share of slumps, but I honestly don't think you could use the same blanket description in reference to each season.

And this criticism isn't even necessarily about the repetitiveness, although that is a HUGE problem (as I have noted in my Special Heroes Special Report, why should we care about the heroes saving the future when we know that there's an equally crappy future waiting in the wings?) You also have to consider that the characters' growth has been so stunted that they can continuously fall into these same predicaments. All three seasons we've seen Hiro desperately want to go on a heroic quest, only to constantly watch him make idiotic mistakes along the way (and, as the EW column noted, did we honestly just see Hiro lose a destructive formula BECAUSE HE WAS BORED???) Peter is still that naive, all trusting guy that hitches his horse to the wrong wagon, necessitating an 11th hour save from big brother. And, for the love of God, how many times do we have to watch Claire trust, not trust, and then trust her father again? AND EACH YEAR THE TRUST ISSUE IS OVER THE SAME MATTER!!!! In the three years that this show has been on, Peter, Claire, Hiro, and all the rest haven't developed to the point that they no longer fall into the same trap time and time again.

Along with that, one of the strongest points of the first season -- its ensemble cast -- is now arguably its greatest weakness. What made season one so fun and exciting was that these individual characters each had a strong story, and it was genuinely enjoyable seeing them come to meet each other. It was this great feeling of everybody being connected. Some of the connections were strong, and others were loose. But in the end, they were all intertwined. I still get goosebumps when I think of the scene in which Peter and Claire first met. Or when all of the central characters were together in the finale at Kirby Plaza. They came from Texas, Vegas, Japan, India, and elsewhere....but they all ended up in New York City, and for different reasons.

That thrill is now gone. All of the characters basically know each other now, and most of the pairings have been exhausted. Yet the show seems so pathetically desperate to hold onto these characters/actors. I cannot think of a more boring, more useless character than Parkman. Yet he's still around. He seems like a nice guy, so why not give just write him off by giving him that happy ending he deserves? Ali Larter is fun to look at and a fine actress, but for whatever reason, she's just not meshing with this show. Her storyline is constantly the weak link of the season. It's time to let her loose. Maya.....holy hell, what more can be said about her? I truly hope she's dead (not only because she's a terrible character, but also because it adds a little weight to the deeds Mohinder has committed). And while I've actually really, really enjoyed Mohinder's dark turn this season, I also think he's at the point of no return. Kill him off by the end of the season (or volume, preferably). I also think that having him die as a man who tried to do noble, great things, but ultimately became obsessed with achieving grandeur -- to the point that it literally turned him into a monster -- can be very poignant.

Two characters that I will defend, though, are Nathan and Claire. Most (vocal) fans believe they've either run their course or are unbearably annoying. While I do think they need to grow a bit more (especially Claire), I also feel they are crucial to the overall story. And I think people fail to realize that Nathan has become one of the strongest characters on the show. Tim Kring has often said that this series, at its core, is about families, priarily the Petrellis and the Bennets. I think it would be a mistake to take away the two members that connect those families.

The thing I've come to realize is that the writers of Heroes are great storytellers, but only "good" writers. If anybody ever listened to any Chris Jericho interviews during his book tour, he explains that there was a ghost writer, but that he (Jericho) wrote every word of the book. As the former Undisputed Champion explains, he's perfectly capable of telling stories and putting words on paper, he just needed help with the overall structure. And I think that's one of the weaknesses of the Heroes writers: They're fully capable of writing, and they're great at telling stories, but they have a really tough time doing it in a cohesive, well paced, logical manner. Consider that season two was entirely too slow, season three has been on speed, and season one was a combination of both. This also explains why there are so many apparent plot holes and inconsistencies.

Let me offer a few comparisons: In my opinion, while the Heroes staff is great at story telling and only good at writing, I think the Smallville writing team is the opposite: they're great writers but only good at telling a story. And finally, I think a show like Lost does a phenomenal job at both. Ultimately, I think Heroes knows where it wants to go, but it has a lot of trouble getting there.

The good news in all of this, in my opinion, is that IF this season is successful -- and I think it definitely can be -- the skeptics will, for the most part, shut up. Like I said earlier, I think a lot of the negativity towards this season is more about last year than anything happening now. It's up to the writers to end this volume (and, ideally, season as a whole) on a high note, so that the next installment has the benefit of coming off of a strong ending.

Trust me, while Heroes may not be perfect, it's very far from the chopping block.