Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

A Time For Heroes

with 4 comments

When Heroes was first shown in the UK a great deal of fuss was made over it, both by the BBC (who broadcast it in this country) and by British SF fandom. I watched the first couple of episodes, thought it was bollocks and switched off. I did promise to return to once it was released on DVD and I didn’t have to make it a weekly commitment though. I have now done this and, in fact, I devoured them. This is not because Heroes is any good, it is because Heroes is crack.

In a recent discussion about spoilers I suggested that:

You’d have to have a pretty mechanistic way of consuming art if the only thing that held your interest was wanting to know what happened next. Equally if that it is all there is to it then it would be a pretty lousy work of art.

Heroes is just such a work. The whole point of the programme is finding out what happens next. There was some kerfuffle over the fact that the whole of the season was nominated for the Hugo in the Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form category. Every episode ends with “to be continued” because it isn’t really an episode, simply a sliver of the whole, and the cliffhanger at the end is no different from the cliffhanger at the end, apart from the fact it further escalates the arms race of gotcha moments. You can forgive everything – the awful writing, weak acting, Sendhil Ramamurthy’s voiceovers – in exchange for the glee with which they endlessly pull rabbits out of hats. Characters aren’t really characters, rather they are endless malleable pieces of scenery, anyone could die but only because anyone could come back to life, it is utterly free of any need for consistency. It sounds awful but somehow it is not. Actually, it sounds like Lost, a programme I similarly gave up on after a couple episodes and also keeps a drug-like hold on people.

Apparently seasons two and three are shit. So it goes. I’m interested to see what “shit” means in this context though.

Written by Martin

23 July 2009 at 21:21

Posted in sf, television

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. In this context, it means exactly the same as the first season but missing that glee and the zaniness of the revelations. It’s as if the writers got scared by their own success. You can see them desperately striving to recreate by force what had previously come naturally. Basically, they ran out of story, and refused to do the only thing that could have given them more story – actually change the show’s setting.


    23 July 2009 at 21:49

  2. Abigail:

    That is, somewhat unfair on the writers. For one thing, it understates the influence of studio pressure – “Give us more of the same!” – against the original intention of the creators to jettison a lot of the cast after the first season. Your final point: that the setting wasn’t changed – is down to the network wanting more of the same, not the writers being too scared to write something different.

    Also, with the original cast members/characters now having their fans, they then had to make sure all the ‘key’ members of the cast; Peter, Claire, Parkman, Mohinder, Sylar etc. all got plenty of screentime, often to the detriment of pacing and structure. The rise of Sylar is probably the most obvious example here.

    For me, however, the main thing missing was that while the first season had a clear vision of where they were going from beginning to end, the other seasons didn’t. Where the first season had each episode, essentially, as a building block in the story, the other seasons just had the sense that they were making shit up as they went along, which among other things had an exceedingly negative effect towards the individual episodes as building blocks. Instead of being discrete, they all ran together horribly. It also meant that they’d do a run of episodes, realise they weren’t working, and reset the story. Essentially travelling from A to A instead of A to B, which has the next result of making the viewer ask “What the fuck did I just watch all that for, then?”

    Another point I’ve seen elsewhere is that the show went from being about ordinary people in extraordinary situations to about extraordinary people in extraordinary sitations, which just doesn’t have the same appeal.


    23 July 2009 at 22:06

  3. I don’t doubt that network pressure played a part in Heroes‘s calcification, but it should surely count against the show’s writers that they were unable to work within such an easily foreseeable restriction. As you say, there’s no thrust to the second and third seasons, and the fact that the writers’ original plan to jettison the first season cast had to be abandoned isn’t a good enough reason for that.


    23 July 2009 at 22:47

  4. Well, I’ve just seen the second season so I see what you mean. I suspect I will watch the third one but it is definitely getting painful.


    1 August 2009 at 21:55

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