Saturday, September 10, 2011

Spotlight - Five Things 'Heroes' Did Wrong

Remember that show called Heroes? It ran from 2006 - 2010 on NBC, and was sort of a X-men for the modern age and on television? It was widely acclaimed during most of its first season, but started to go downhill in quality from the first season finale? Critical ratings - and soon after, viewership - tapered off into a spiraling disaster that resulted in the show's cancellation after four seasons?

It's a little bit late (all right, a lot late), but here's an analysis of what went wrong in the series.

1. Characters meant to last only one season were dragged on for three more.

Did you know that Tim Kring, the creator and executive producer of the show, had originally intended for the bulk of the first season's main cast to be replaced by the end of the first season? His original vision was actually to have the show feature a rotating cast each season. This became painfully obvious as early as the second season. Character development for characters that were only intended for one season's worth of stories either became ground to a halt, or involved 180 degree flips in personality.

Case in point #1: how many times did we as viewers have to see Claire and her dad work out the same tired old issues?

Case in point #2: Could Sylar have gone from bad to good to bad to good any more times?

2. The Powers. Oh Lord, the powers.

From the very beginning I was hesitant about the inconsistent and seemingly random assortment of powers possessed by the protagonists. Fortunately, for one season I was pleasantly surprised at how well the writers were able to weave these over-the-top abilities into compelling storylines. That one season was about as much as we could hope for. From Time Travel to Freezing Time to Power Mimicry to Power Stealing ... the sheer strength of these powers forced the show's writers into tight corners from which they could only struggle to dig themselves out of.

I was especially peeved with time travel/freezing time being one of the most-commonly used powers. Time travel itself is already a difficult subject matter to write convincingly, which is why I'm guessing shows often do it only as standalone "what if?" episodes. The Fact that one of Heroes' main characters had the ability to time travel only ended up forcing the writers to either explain why he couldn't use the ability as a Deux Ex Machina to resolve any and all conflict on the show, OR (and sadly this was the direction they chose) to send him on ridiculously convoluted plots to get him out of the way.

3. Plots were abandoned with ... reckless abandon.

So ... remember in the second season, how Peter hooked up with that Irish chick? Remember how Peter accidentally time-traveled (UGH!) them both to the future. And then remember how he LEFT HER THERE WITH NO WAY OF GETTING BACK?

Yeah, how did that get resolved again? Oh. Right. It didn't. Ever.

And did Peter feel bad about leaving his romance in scary future time? Not according to the following seasons. He seemed to have conveniently forgotten that she even existed.

4. Heroes was a comic-book trying to be a television show. But some things that might fly in comic-book storytelling just don't work on TV.

I'll say this once: when you have to turn to a magical potion and Eclipses to explain how people acquire powers ... something is seriously wrong in your story. Seriously, I wouldn't buy this even in a comic book.

5. Broken Promises

The worst thing about Heroes was that it actually managed to be good for a whole season. Compelling plots, excellent pacing, and strong character development marked the first twenty-two episodes, and convinced me that maybe this show was worth watching. Three seasons later, I feel like I've been misled. Deceived. Like I went to a Chinese supermarket to buy quality Asian ramen, only to find that the inside of the box was filled with Maruchan brand cup noodle.

After the first season, the show became quickly known for its utter lack of focus. Characters were constantly forced into out of character situations. Plots were lackluster, either petering out before any resolution, or just unsatisfying in general. While Heroes was sparkling with promise in its first season, unfortunately, the show just never lived up to that promise.

Here's to hoping Tim Kring's next venture Touch, about a father whose autistic child can predict the future, does better. Even starring Kiefer Sutherland, however, this new show seems to not have much promise at all.

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