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Saturday September 9, 2006
Heroes the TV Series
Last night I watched the premiere episode of Heroes, with the help of an iTunes promotion, and a friend who had an extra coupon.
It looks like it's going to be a good series. It also looks like it is going to cover a lot of the same ground that has been covered in mainstream superhero comics over the last 50 years, only without the skin-tight costumes and fantasy-borne physiques.
It's hard to avoid the re-tread. You have ordinary people who discover that they have extraordinary abilities. How do they react? How do the people around them react? Do they go out and buy tights and capes? Why or why not?
But since most of us have fantasized at least once about having super-powers of some sort, there's good reason to go ahead and cover this ground again -- especially if we can cover it with people who look and act more like real people. I, for one, think it would be great if a generation of dreamers could avoid getting their power-fantasies tangled up with pictures of mostly-naked Adonises and Venuses.
The premiere episode's primary weakness lies in the sheer number of characters who must be introduced. It is quite the onslaught, but the writers and director have mitigated the problem by finding clever ways to link the characters together. We segue, for instance, from the japanese comic-book fan who has a purple godzilla for a desktop background at work, to the young son of the exotic dancer as he reads a comic book with that same purple-zilla image on the cover.
The only other thing that bugged me was the intro, in which an indian professor (to the right of the cheerleader in the photo above) lectures about the genome project, and how it seems as if tiny changes in human DNA are unlocking hidden potential in otherwise ordinary people. Hello, X-men. But it's not the re-tread/ripoff here I dislike. No, I'm upset because by using science to explain the mechanism for "who becomes supernaturally endowed," the series seems to think it can trick us into not asking questions like "how can a particular protein sequence result in anti-gravity as a natural ability?" Just because a lottery's organizers have a system for announcing the number of the winning lottery ticket doesn't mean they have the money to pay the winner.
If you can get past those two bits -- the large ensemble cast (which by mid-season should be quite a strength to the series) and the pillorying of genetic science -- you'll probably enjoy the show. The characters are interesting, their problems are recognizable, and they come off fairly believable. The writing is compelling, and there were three very cool "reveals" towards the end of the 56-minute premiere. Each of them alone would have been sufficient to convince me to tune in next week.
Well, if I had cable, dish, or a TV antenna. I doubt I'll be spending $3.00 a week to watch the series on iTunes. I'm cheap that way.