Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why “Heroes” doesn’t do it for me anymore

When it first premiered seemingly seven or eight decades ago, I eagerly tuned in to “Heroes” thinking the premise sounded astonishingly brilliant. And I watched it for the first full year, ending up with more of a luke-warm feel about the whole thing rather than that shiny enthusiasm I’d initially cultivated. Then the second year totally lost me and I bailed on it completely. Last night, I thought I’d give it another chance – and it was good – but it just couldn’t sustain my interest. Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what soured me on a show that had me in its superhero-y grasp so tightly in those first few months. Here’s what I think:

Characters versus plot
When it comes to character-driven shows versus plot-driven shows, I am by far a bigger fan of character than plot. Original, three-dimensional characters are why shows like “Buffy,” “West Wing” and “Battlestar” earn my unmitigated devotion. Those are the shows I’ll watch again and again. Which is not to say that plot-driven shows like “24” are not without merit. Those shows are addictive and fun but in the end, they’re also disposable. Shows that achieve a careful balance of the two, like “Lost,” are few and far between. I think “Heroes” tried to achieve one of those balancing acts. The trouble is, as good as the characters looked on paper, they were never fleshed out enough to really take hold and in the end, they simply seemed to exist to service the plot. I didn’t care what happened to any of them, really, and when your plot hangs on who lives and who dies and who’s a bad guy and who’s a good guy, well, it helps to have your audience invested enough in those characters for those revelations to actually matter and hit home.

An exclusive club
Speaking of plots, “Heroes” has always been so densely structured that if I accidentally sneezed and missed a line of dialogue, I would get completely scared that I’d missed a major point that would be imperative for me to know six months down the line. There are certain shows that just lock you out if you miss an episode or two. Like with “BSG” or “Lost,” I would never tell someone, “Oh yeah, there’s this great show. You should tune in this week.” That person would be frustrated out of their mind and would turn the channel immediately. With some shows, you just can’t climb back on board in the middle of the ride and with “Heroes,” I got tired of trying.

Marketed to death
During the second season, it almost didn’t matter that I wasn’t watching the show because NBC flogged their “Heroes” marketing horse to death seemingly ever single night of the year. “Heroes” comic books and photo shoots and I’m assuming some sort of underpants tie-in – the show was everywhere and I was constantly being told how awesome it was and how it was “event television” and I would die a shameful death if I didn’t hang on every word written about this incredible show. Except it wasn’t incredible. It was average. Consequently, I had a really tough time jumping on a band wagon filled with mediocre. If acclaim isn’t earned, it’s just hype. And I’ve got enough of that in an election year.

Anyway, I feel bad about not liking “Heroes.” In a way, I feel like it lessens my nerdy street cred, but I have to be honest. I just don’t feel the “Heroes” love.

What do you think of the show?


onepinkshoe said...

I totally agree with everything you wrote. I watched the show last night and realized I could not remember any major plot points from the previous 2 seasons. My husband kept asking me "isn't that guy/girl dead?" I was lost and I'd seen every episode! It's a frustrating show to watch.

Kathe said...

The hubby and I haven't watched the episode yet, but we will. Truth be told, I was getting seriously bored with it last season and had hoped it would pull itself back out of the "meh" pile. But based on the previews, I'm not sure it will do it for me this year either...stay tuned! HA! ;)

RedCochina said...

I watched the first season on Netflix and it helped to see many episodes at one time. Lots of characters! Cool powers! Save the cheerleader!

Two episodes into the second season and I was meh. Four episodes in and I was downright pissed. Why am I tuning in every week when nothing's happening? Claire's boyfriend is lame! When is Sylar going to kill those annoying twins already? "My power is the ability to perform acts I've seen on TV even though I have no prior knowledge of said acts." LAME.

I stopped watching and will not go back. When the creator has to apologize via EW for dropping the ball, I've lost respect for the show.

crone51 said...

Agreed. I also think there are too many frakkin' characters and none of them are particularly fascinating. I too was scratching my head last night and then finally just yawning a lot. I really enjoyed the first season and was fairly bored during what there was of a second season but last night I found myself not only not caring about the characters but actively disliking them- even Hiro who I adored first time around.

Jen Anderson said...

Heroes completely, though last season certainly tested my patience. I watched the 1 hour special they had beforehand to get caught up on where we left off with everyone. Plus, io9.com had a post yesterday about the 5 things you need to know so the season premier would make sense.

I've only watched the first hour of last night's episode and I'm taking a wait and see attitude. The thing is, because of the miss one sentence and miss major plot points thing, I'm afraid to stop watching. What if it gets good again and I can't make any sense of it because I skipped 3 meh episodes?

lilacsigil said...

Very much agreed - I stopped watching during the second season and see no reason to tune in again. I have nothing against a plot-driven show, but when said plot requires everyone to be extremely stupid (except when they suddenly develop the power of deus ex machina for five minutes) Hiro, Ando and Monica are just not enough to keep me watching.

Alyson said...

You know, I like it. But, I think I am different from a lot of your readers -- I am not usually into the fantasy/sci-fi type shows. (With Buffy and Angel being the exceptions, but even Angel wore on me after awhile.) I don't watch Lost, and I don't watch Battlestar, and I think because of that, I don't take Heroes as seriously as most people do. I just think it's a fun show, and I like knowing that at the end of every episode, there will be a twist. But, by all means I do not think of it as Good Television. It's just a fun hour.

I do agree with you on the "sneeze and you'll miss something" theory. I was trying to explain the show to my roommate on Monday, who had never seen it, and, well, this is pretty much impossible to do.

Shanna Swendson said...

I made it five minutes into the season premiere, then decided I just didn't care. My problem was that there were too many characters, each with their own story line, and that meant that each character and story line got maybe five minutes of development per episode, which meant I never really got a chance to get to know any of the characters enough to care about them, and the plot seemed to be moving at a glacial pace. The only episodes I got into involved several of the characters coming together and combining plot threads, but then they'd split up again.

~k said...

Why doesn't heroes work? I think it's because they have turned it into a soap opera. While you can't figure everything out that has happened in the last five year on the show in one episode, there are a ton of plots, sub-plots and characters.

agent57 said...

Point #2 is why I never got into Heroes, Lost, or BSG. I'm bad at remembering to watch things week after week, and after a while it just got impossible for me to break into those impenetrable plots. Even now, if I had time to rent the DVDs and catch up, I feel like I've kind of missed my chance to really love the shows or be part of the fanbase or something like that.

Also, point #1 describes my feelings about X Files, in a way. It sort of combined character- and plot-driven aspects, but not always at the same time. I always loved the one-offs, because they really focused on characters, but I could never wrap my head around the arch or even care about it much.

This is why my friend didn't like the first movie because of its plot holes, and meanwhile I just think "but... but the hallway scene!"

But... enough tangent.

Riana said...

There are two very shallow things that I like about Heroes. Kristen Bell and Masi Oka referencing pop culture in Japanese. Is it enough to watch every week? No. But I'm okay with that.

Beth said...
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jendoop said...

I agree with all these reasons for Heroes' sad demise, we had such great hopes didn't we?

After a while I didn't trust it. Once I saw an interview with Speilberg (a great movie nerd) He mentioned that a director has just once chance per movie to pump fake the audience, if they do it more than that the movie loses credibility. (The shark head popping out of the water at an unexpected moment in Jaws was his example) That is how I feel about Heroes. They prompt us to continually fear for the same characters in the same ways. I'm done worrying, kill the cheerleader.

Anonymous said...

plus if the center is this big place where all the bad guys and ladies with powers are locked up why is it that NO one else is ever there but clares father and nathans mother? wouldnt it have more support? more protection? this show sucks big time