Friday, October 24, 2008

First, kill Mohinder

I was initially on the Heroes bandwagon. It was nice to see someone bring the superhero mythos to the small screen. Sure, it had been done before, with known characters (Adam West's camp-fest Batman) and those created for the tube (such as poofy-haired theme song, Greatest American Hero). You could even argue that Buffy and Angel were sideways takes on the superhero, wrapped in the supernatural. But this was a genre show that put its geek aspirations right in the damned title, and sought to create an original lineup of "heroes," even if the superpowers and storylines were a bit familiar (if charitable) or derivative (if not so charitable).

The first season mostly delivered, with a couple of slices of top shelf television ("String Theory" and "Company Man"), before fizzling out with one of the most disappointing season finales I can remember. The less said about the strike-shortened terrible second season, the better (though anytime Kristen Bell is on my TV, it's is a good thing).

So now we find ourselves in the midst of the third season. Ratings are down considerably and the show has lost some of its cultural cache and buzz. Granted, the show has improved over last season (not a very high bar to jump), but it's still not on solid footing creatively. Yeah, I still watch, but Heroes has gone from "must watch live" to "I'll watch it later Monday night after catching up on Sarah Connor and Chuck" to "oh, that's in the Now Playing list, I guess I'll watch it." EW just did a cover story on the show, and how to fix it. I agree with many of their findings and recommendations. Here's my take:

Thin the herd.
I appreciate the attempts of S3 to quicken the pace and keep things moving. However, there are just too many new and old characters to care about. Marked for death in the TNRLM reaper's ledger: Mohinder. I know, the ladies like him because he's hot. Hell, I have my own set of Heroes eye-candy, too (Claire, Claire's real mom, Elle, and Daphne, to name a few). But the ponderous voice overs, Cronenberg Fly rip-off plot and shallow acting doesn't really add that much. And Maya? Dear god. Not only is that one of the lamest superpowers ever (my eyes get black and kill everyone!), but no one's going to be polishing an Emmy for that performance. Niki/Jessica/Whatever. I didn't care about the stripper, and I don't care about the mistress of ice cubes political handler. Peter. First, he was wimpy and confused. Then, he was waaaaay too powerful. Then, he was trapped in a caricature of an Irish mob movie. Finally, he's been de-powered, but the fact remains that I loathed him on Gilmore Girls, and I loathe him now. Buh-bye. Parkman. I actually like Greg Grunberg, and find him a talented actor, but his plot has gone nowhere. Why doesn't he read minds with everyone he comes in contact with?

Stop with the time travel.
Yeah, it's a cool power. Yeah, it can fuel plot twists. But it's just too damned much. And worst of all, they don't seem to have an internal logic about how it works. Lost, for example, has "time travel" plotlines, but they've worked out a logic and methodology that actually makes sense, is easily understandable, and they stick to it. With Heroes, sometimes it works. Sometimes, it doesn't. They throw out "butterfly effect" explanations, but abandon them when it's inconvenient. It's a limitless power, but too many people have/had it and it's inconsistently applied. Just stop.

Stop using the world "abilities."
If this was a drinking game, we'd all have engorged livers.

Abandon the "formula to give everyone powers" plot.
The 4400 already did this, and did this better.

Make death count.
How many people have died and come back? Hell, I've lost count. Virtually every genre show has had the "shocking death" and return (including top tier programs like Buffy and Angel) but it reaches ludicrous levels with Heroes. Just off the top of my head, we've seen Sylar, Claire, HRG, Ando, Adam, Linderman, Nathan, Niki, Peter and others all "die," only to come back in one form or another. If everyone does it, it loses its power to shock, move and surprise.

Put the best actors front and center.
Heroes has a telegenic and appealing cast, but they're not all blessed with the same acting talent. Give the meaty stuff to the actors who can pull it off: Adrian Pasdar, Robert Forster, Jack Coleman, Kristen Bell, Zachary Quinto, Christine Rose, Malcolm McDowell.

Stop making the characters stupid to service stupid plot points.
Nathan, the conniving politico, finds god because he survives an assassination attempt and sees Linderman? In a world he knows is populated by people with awesome superpowers? Really? Hiro is told expressly not to open the safe, and then he does, only to lose a game-changing formula? And can't go back in time 5 minutes to NOT open the safe? Peter does....well....Peter does just about anything that Peter does. STUPID. Shows like Buffy and Lost have characters operating in a world with extraordinary circumstances, unnatural powers and twisty plot machinations, but they all behave in a way that is true to the characters.

Save the logic, save the show!

I'm still watching, but unless some of the nonsense stops, and stops soon, I probably won't be for much longer. I could go on, but that's my short list. What's yours?

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