Skip to main content

Second Take: NBC's "Heroes"

Deja Tube. It's that feeling that you've already experienced a show on television before.

Back in May, I reviewed the original pilot of NBC's new superhero drama Heroes... and I was rather lambasted as a result of my negative review. While everyone I know who saw the pilot in Hollywood absolutely loathed it, fans of the show (how can a show have virulent fans before it's even premiered?) lashed out and members of the production staff assured me that what I saw was drastically different than what was scheduled to air in September.

So I thought: I've got an hour. I'll take another look at the series and tune in for the "new" version of the pilot episode ("Genesis"). I went in with an open mind, cleared out an hour of my schedule (and my TiVo) and sat down, fully prepared not to let my earlier feelings cloud my judgment. Guess what: the version NBC aired last night was only minutely different than the version I saw. (Still no sign of Leonard Roberts or Greg Grunberg.)

Sure, there were some differences between the two versions. Painter-turned-visionary Isaac doesn't cut his hand off in an attempt to escape from his self-induced imprisonment in order to quit drugs cold-turkey; instead he overdoses after painting a vaguely apocalyptic painting about the coming test for the heroes... and a picture of Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) flying. (Gone from earlier in the episode is Tim Sale's evocative painting of Simone standing in the doorway with her briefcase, which is a shame as it was a rather eerie and portentous piece.)

There's also a new plot thread with a comic book called "9 Wonders" that seems to come into play in subsequent episodes and which might indicate that the heroes' stories are being told in a comic book. Also tweaked: the pilot ending that has Peter jumping off a building in front of his would-be Congressman brother Nathan (Adrian Pasdar), only to have Nathan swoop up and catch him in his arms. Instead of registering shock (and relief at not having splattered himself all over that alley), Peter pushes himself out of Nathan's grasp. Gasp!

What hasn't changed is some seriously painful dialogue ("I just wanted to feel alive..." "You hero-worshipped him") and awkward and highly expository character development from writer/creator Tim Kring. There's definitely something very... off about the whole show. It takes itself way too seriously from the start. As I mentioned in my original review, there's something wholly ludicrous about beginning a genre show with a Star Wars-esque rolling text sequence and the indication that this is "Volume 1" of the heroes' story. (Talk about optimistic.) And I still feel that the eclipse that all of the characters seem to talking about endlessly comes and goes without any real weight or significance. It seems as though the pilot is building up to something HUGE with the eclipse but it seems to pass with nary an implication so far.

Sidebar: what still irritates me is that incorrect reference to Uncanny X-Men issue in which Kitty Pryde is able to travel through time. The storyline in question is "Days of Future Past" and any X-nerd will tell you that it occurred in issues #141-142, NOT #143 as Heroes would have you believe. Seeing as that error has been widely discussed several months before the premiere of show leads me to believe that someone should have fact checked that. It also makes me question Tim Kring's comic book background/awareness, even if he does have Jeph Loeb onboard as a producer.

This second time around watching the Heroes pilot, I was just as bored and disconnected as before. I'm a comic book fan and have been since I was twelve, and I didn't find anything the least bit rewarding or intriguing about this series, certainly not enough to get me to tune into the second episode. I could see why this series might lure a fiercely loyal crowd looking for a comic-tinged serialized drama, but I for one won't be tuning in.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Heroes (NBC); Gilmore Girls (CW); Dancing with the Stars (ABC; 8-9:30 pm); House (FOX); Desire (MyNet)

9 pm: The Unit (CBS); Law & Order: Criminal Intent (NBC); Runaway (CW); Help Me Help You (ABC; 9:30-10 pm); Standoff (FOX); Fashion House (MyNet)

10 pm: Smith (CBS); Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC); Boston Legal (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Gilmore Girls.

It's the first non-Amy and Daniel episode from new showrunner David Rosenthal. Will he be able to reverse the downwards trend of last season and reinvigorate the dramedy series, now on the newly minted CW network? On tonight's season premiere ("The Long Morrow"), written by Rosenthal, Lorelai deals with the repercussions of sleeping with Christopher but is asked to elope by Luke; meanwhile, Logan gives Rory a plane ticket to London. Check back here tomorrow for my thoughts...

9 pm: Eureka on Sci-Fi.

The whimsical new sci-fi drama that's more Northern Exposure than Stargate. On tonight's episode ("H.O.U.S.E. Rules"), Carter's sentient house gathers together the gang and traps them inside until they resolve their differences. My house never does anything except sit there and gather dust. Hrumph.

10 pm: Smith.

On the crime drama's second episode ("Two"), Hope is worried that Bobby had something to do with the museum robbery in last week's premiere episode, while Annie asks Tom and Jeff to work on another job involving identity theft.


Anonymous said…
I couldn't agree with you more. Heroes does take itself too seriously, which is a huge mistake for a show about people with super powers. In the few scenes when it relaxes a little bit, particularly the ones involving the Japanese guy, Hiro, it shows a little more promise.
Anonymous said…
It's hard to discern which was worse, Ventimiglia's acting or the laughable dialogue he was forced to keep muttering. Most people who have recurring dreams about flying know enough Freud to assume it just means that need to get laid more often. But not this health worker. He knows that a cigar is always really a cigar, and flying dreams means you are one of the 'special people' who really can fly. Physics be damned! No boring Man-of-Science doctor on this island. It's off to the roof and a giant leap of faith because some random cab driver (who's not really so random) apparently missed out on the Indian translation of THE INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS.
I had high hopes for "heroes" but found it to be rather boring. It's certainly not the worst thing on television but definitely not worth all the hype either.
Anonymous said…
that was me....tried to log in w/my google account, but it read it as my blogger account....
Anonymous said…
I thought Garbage Disposal Resistant Girl was a long overdue superhero, and I can't wait to see what sorts of mangled silverware she rescues next week!
Kevin Sole said…
Thoroughly enjoyed it, looking forward to the next episode.

This is shaping up to be a hell of a season eh?

House, LOST, Veronica Mars, Battlestar Galactica; and now Studio 60 and Heroes?

Along with all the mediocre shows. :)
Anonymous said…
I'm not sure which version you originally saw (hoo-boy, does that ever sound like the start of a flame) but compared to the 72 minute pilot screened at San Diego I thought the version that was broadcast had some greatly improved pacing. My initial impression of the series was similar to Carnivale -- interesting ideas that took forever to go anywhere -- but I didn't find myself feeling restless monday night the way I did with the 72 minute pilot.

The professor's exposition is still very clunky, but the opening scenes came off a little less pretentious. I think, too, it helped not to see a "Chapter 2" card like in the 72 minute version, because that made the show feel even more slow-paced.

Then again, maybe it helped that I felt free to talk while watching the show at home.

YMMV, of course.
When setting up a first episode with an ensemble cast from different walks of life having different powers it is expected to be filled with exposition. In the 55 minutes you're introducing 7 major characters each with their separate storylines. That gives each of them an average of 7 plus minutes. And in that time you need to establish who they are, what their personalities are, and also demonstrate their abilities. But once you get that out of the way the storyline would move faster. I suspect that will be the case once episode 2 comes out. I was expecting this to happen anyway so I wasn't frustrated about this. Remember it's broken into two parts and it wouldn't be wise to blow your load on part one.

Since I've never seen any episodes of "Lost" I have no comment about the character comparisons between the two shows nor which show is better. However the African American kid on "Heroes" haven't displayed any unusual powers that you speak of other than he's precocious.

I do agree that some of the writing is contrived and plots awkward. I wonder why the cheerleader is depressed about her powers like it's ruining her life? And how does the shoplifting mom fit into the storyline? And the symbolic eclipse seemed wasted since it had no visible effect to the already superpowered characters. Perhaps more will be explained later...

But despite its flaws I'm still intrigued on how this all comes together. Perhaps Hiro( which BTW is my favorite character) will be instrumental in bringing the L.A. cop, the Texas cheerleader, and the Las Vegas stripper to New York with his teleporting abilities. And how would that come about I wonder? From the guidance of Suresh or that evil Government guy who's also the father of the cheerleader? Or perhaps the visions from the strung out artist with precog abilities?

All and all I still liked the show alot and I hope it gets better. The preview for next week's episode seems very promising with Hiro stopping time to what looks like an attempt to save a little girl from a colliding bus. And the telepathic cop getting captured by that evil Government guy looks good. My interests were also piqued when we discover that exploits of our characters are also depicted on some comicbook that Hiro picks up from New York. So I'm still very optimistic about this...
BTW, the thrashing that you got from your earlier review was pretty legitimate. You made poor comparisons between shows and archetypes that was way out of context.

I'm curious, how would you've envision this show to be if you were writing this?
Anonymous said…
Illegal Aliens Productions,

Regarding your comment "You made poor comparisons between shows and archetypes that was way out of context," I assume you're referring to the "Lost" comparison but you said you have never seen "Lost" so how do you know the comparisons are poor? Personally, I thought they were right on.

And, yes, pilots are always filled with exposition but it's how the writers get the exposition across that seperates the good storytellers from the mediocre ones. I agree with Jace that this show falls in the latter category of mediocre storytelling.
rubixcubeman said…
Mission 7: Find one who can walk through walls.
Can you walk through walls? Let me know if you can.
Got a Heroes site? Link to my blog.
Anonymous said…
Many months after the fact, I know. I've only recently watched Heroes, and while I like the show - I know it's not for everyone and that I don't have to agree with you.

However, I just wanted to point out that your two examples of changes/actions are wrong.

Isaac overdoses and THEN paints the image. Peter doesn't push Nathan away, their hands slip. In the instance of Isaac, it may not have been as clear that those things happened in that order, but it becomes clear in later episodes. He 'needs' the heroine to paint. There's another tidbit about how Peter did fly, after he slipped from Nathan's grasp.

I've never watched Lost. I'd like to one day (no, I don't watch television, as a general rule). If Heroes didn't take itself seriously, it would not be as interesting (to me).

It isn't just a show about people with superpowers. It's a show about people. About how people's lives are affected by such drastic changes to the reality they've known. Suddenly they are freaks, weirdos, with no one in whom to confide.

I like that the show puts that into perspective from time to time.

Popular posts from this blog

What's Done is Done: The Eternal Struggle Between Good and Evil on the Season Finale of "Lost"

Every story begins with thread. It's up to the storyteller to determine just how much they need to parcel out, what pattern they're making, and when to cut it short and tie it off. With last night's penultimate season finale of Lost ("The Incident, Parts One and Two"), written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, we began to see the pattern that Lindelof and Cuse have been designing towards the last five seasons of this serpentine series. And it was only fitting that the two-hour finale, which pushes us on the road to the final season of Lost , should begin with thread, a loom, and a tapestry. Would Jack follow through on his plan to detonate the island and therefore reset their lives aboard Oceanic Flight 815 ? Why did Locke want to kill Jacob? What caused The Incident? What was in the box and just what lies in the shadow of the statue? We got the answers to these in a two-hour season finale that didn't quite pack the same emotional wallop of previous season

Have a Burning Question for Team Darlton, Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, or Michael Emerson?

Lost fans: you don't have to make your way to the island via Ajira Airways in order to ask a question of the creative team or the series' stars. Televisionary is taking questions from fans to put to Lost 's executive producers/showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and stars Matthew Fox ("Jack Shephard"), Evangeline Lilly ("Kate Austen"), and Michael Emerson ("Benjamin Linus") for a series of on-camera interviews taking place this weekend. If you have a specific question for any of the above producers or actors from Lost , please leave it in the comments section below . I'll be accepting questions until midnight PT tonight and, while I can't promise I'll be able to ask any specific inquiry due to the brevity of these on-camera interviews, I am looking for some insightful and thought-provoking questions to add to the mix. So who knows: your burning question might get asked after all.

Pilot Inspektor: CBS' "Smith"

I may just have to change my original "What I'll Be Watching This Fall" post, as I sat down and finally watched CBS' new crime drama Smith this weekend. (What? It's taken me a long time to make my way through the stack of pilot DVDs.) While it's on following Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars on Tuesday nights (10 pm ET/PT, to be exact), I'm going to be sure to leave enough room on my TiVo to make sure that I catch this compelling, amoral drama. While one can't help but be impressed by what might just be the most marquee-friendly cast in primetime--Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen, Jonny Lee Miller, Amy Smart, Simon Baker, and Franky G all star and Shohreh Aghdashloo has a recurring role--the pilot's premise alone earned major points in my book: it's a crime drama from the point of view of the criminals, who engage in high-stakes heists. But don't be alarmed; it's nothing like NBC's short-lived Heist . Instead, think of it as The Italian