Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We Don't Need Another 'Heroes' (season), Do We?

Season 3 of "Heroes" wrapped up last night. Don't worry, this is a spoiler-free post. Mainly because I have no idea what's going on in that show, because I haven't seen a single frame since I saw the Season 3 premiere @ Comic Con last summer. Which really says something about the decline of the show.

When an uber-geek like me isn't watching a show about people with extraordinary powers (airing on NBC, the network that signs my checks, BTW), a show that owes a HUGE debt to one of my favorite comic series, The Uncanny X-Men, then something's wrong.

Zach Quinto, who plays the main baddie on the show, Sylar, is dropping by the REEL TALK studios today to talk up "Star Trek." In case you've been locked up at ShadyBrook the past few weeks, he plays Spock in the reboot, which is FANTASTIC.

But Trek is a post for another day. Today is about "Heroes" and whether it should return next season. I'm looking forward to hearing what Zach thinks should happen with the show.

It will return, FYI. NBC is planning on bringing it back for 18-20 episodes, slightly fewer than this season. From what I hear, the show does great on DVD and overseas, so financially it's still a winner for the Peacock (yippee for us!).

But creatively, the show just has never been able to follow up the incredible promise it showed in its first season. Part of that is unavoidable. How do you follow up "Save the cheerleader, Save the world?"

It's the same problem "24" had in season 6, when they nuked LA in hour 4. How the hell do you build on that and not come up short? Serial dramas, especially those like "Heroes" that are based in the sci-fi/fantasy genres, with alternate realities, time travel, superpowers, tend to lose steam after awhile because you simply run out of ways to keep the audience interested.

The mythology gets too convoluted, characters get stale, plots get recycled....any of this sound familiar to you "Heroes" fans out there?

The creative team behind "Lost" recognized this problem, and took steps to fix their ailing show when it went off the rails with Season 2. What did they do? Well, besides burying Paolo and Nikki alive, they decided to end their show. They announced season 6 would be the end of it.

Ask anyone who watches "Lost" and they will tell you that ever since an end-date was set, the show has been firing on all cylinders. It's as if the writers, seeing the finish line, have been freed to do anything & everything to make the last few miles of this mystifying, occassionally maddening marathon of a show as fascinating as possible.

The argument has been made recently that high-concept shows like "Lost", "Heroes" and the unfairly short-lived "Life on Mars" would be better served to run as limited run series. Perhaps a single season, or 2 or 3 seasons at most.

Not only would it give the writers a chance to map out a clear journey for the storyline and its characters, but it would also improve the chances of drawing top- caliber actors to projects, because they wouldn't have to worry about committing long-term to TV work, which, due to the long seasons, tend to be much more grueling than film work (I know, poor little actors, having to spend all day in luxury trailers).

Would "Heroes" be better served by announcing that next season would be its last? I think so. Then we could FINALLY see the show's creative staff stop holding back and let these characters realize their true potential. As it is, I think the show's ultimate legacy is that of disappointment. "Heroes" is like the cant-miss college football prospect taken #1 overall in the NFL Draft, who, while not a complete Ryan Leaf-like bust, falls far short of a Hall of Fame career. A journeyman QB, who once he retires, leaves no lasting accomplishments.

Considering how good "Heroes" was at the beginning, that would be a shame. Unfortunately, unless the PTBs make some dramatic changes, that's exactly where it's headed: The Hall of OK TV.

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