Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ah, Heroes

I don't write much about tv, although I watch my fair share of it. Not as much as I used to; that's both a conscious decision and a response to the lack of shows I'm actually interested in this season. I have a soft spot for competitive reality shows - "The Amazing Race," "Project Runway," etc. - shows where people compete for a prize by doing something they enjoy doing or have made a career of. (In some cases, like "Survivor" or "The Real World," both of which I've lost interest in lately, it's making a career of being D-list level famous.) I hate reality dating shows, night time "game shows, and celebrity "watch me" shows. ("The Osbournes" was brilliant because it was fresh and different, but even it crashed and burned in its second season, and I've hated every copycat I've sampled - the Jessica Simpson debacle, Whitney Houston & Bobby Brown, Danny Bonaduce, Anna Nicole, etc. (shows so interchangeable I don't know their actual names.)) "The Apprentice," which I used to watch faithfully because it was set in New York and continually featured locations and things I knew (twice filming in my neighborhood, twice in front of my office building), has become unbearable, and not just because it moved to gloss and slick LA.

So I have a handful of shows I watch regularly, and naturally, many of them are on at the same time, while hours exist without anything even remotely interesting. ("Remotely." Ha!) There is Monday night, with "Heroes" vs. "24" and Tuesday night with "House" vs. "Veronica Mars" and Thursday, with the head-spinning triple bill of "Survivor" vs. "The Office" vs. "Ugly Betty." (Solution: Tape "Ugly Betty," watch the first half of "Survivor" and then "The Office," switching back to "Survivor" during commercials. I can always watch "Survivor" on line if I need to fill in the blanks, but due to my waning interest in the show, that hasn't happened yet.)

I sat down to write about "Heroes," and three long paragraphs later, here I finally am. I didn't start out watching it, but a friend recommended the show about 5 episodes in, so I used the website and iTunes to catch up, and became quickly hooked. It's a fast-paced, well-dramatized show with an array of appealing characters and focused mystery arc. On the other hand, some of the characters' stories can be deadly dull (one more scene of Niki/Jessica and I'll throw something at the tv - since when is a multiple personality disorder a super power? I really hope that she gets "cured" of what is just a psychological disorder and retains her super-strength, and that turns out to be the real "heroic" specialness, not the dual personality thing.)

(Oh, this morning I am falling victim to parentheses.)

The other problem I have with the show is the inconsistent choices characters make to drive story forward. They do things that, if you stop and think about them, make no sense, yet you usually don't stop and think because you're riveted to the result. Let me be less cryptic. In an early episode, we have Niki, who has been portrayed as a fiercely devoted mother who is freaked out when she wakes up one morning to discover the mutilated bodies of two thugs lying in her garage studio. Her last memory was of the two, sent to her by a mobster whom she owes money, attacking her. So she takes her son and runs to a friend's, and eventually returns home. I may have the details slightly fuzzy, but here's the part that made me scoff, "No way!" She gets home, and, knowing that the mobster is still out to get her, probably even more out to get her now that she (or someone) has killed his men, sends her son alone into the house while she checks out the garage. Nothing happens to him, because the story wasn't about that, it was about what she sees when she goes into that studio alone, but she sent her son alone into a house that she had no way of knowing was safe. It really bothered me.

Little things like that seem to crop up regularly, and it makes me wonder if comic-style stories are just naturally more plot-focused than character-focused, and yet, the creators of the show seem to be proud of their strong character development. Here's another recent tidbit: a young girl, in search of her birth parents, tracks down her birth mother and pays her a visit. There is the usual (for tv) touching reconciliation scene, and of course the question of birth father arises. On a subsequent phone call, bio-mom announces she's found bio-dad, and guess what? He's coming to town to drop off some money for them. And then bio-mom is taken aback to hear the girl say she wants to meet him. Huh? Why would she be surprised, knowing how much the girl went through to meet her? Why would she even tell her that he was coming, if she didn't plan on letting them meet? Oh, yeah, because it forwarded the plot, in that the girl went over to bio-mom's house and spied on the couple's "reunion." Which led to another implausible moment: the bio-mom mentions the girl wants to meet him and he pauses, a moment so long you can hear crickets, and instead of jumping up and revealing herself, the girl continues to sit and hide, for no understandable reason than that she needs to hear him say that he doesn't think it's a good idea. So now we're set up for her to go on a quest to find him, even though she just had him, and gave up the opportunity to meet him for a reason that didn't exist until after she passed it up.

I really like the show, don't get me wrong, but wouldn't miss some of these contrivances. Too many and I'll start to lose interest and go back to "24."


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