Everything Is Nice

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

Posts Tagged ‘heroes

Blood And Treasure

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You might remember that the other day I noted that there wasn’t any SF on HBO in a conversation about realism in genre television. Of course, that isn’t true; at the very time I wrote that I was also watching the first season of True Blood on DVD. Based on Charlaine Harris’s bestselling Sookie Stackhouse series of paranormal romance – or what ever it is being called this week – novels, it might not be science fiction (which is where that conversation started) but it certainly fits under the broad umbrella of speculative fiction. And yes, despite its kitchen sink approach to paranormal tropes, it is far more realistic than Battlestar Galactica, not to mention a hell of a lot more fun.

Now, your Adam Robertses or your David Moleses might complain that that opening is excessively strucuralist. I’m going somewhere with this, guys, honest. Those of us in the SF community have a tendency towards loose language (even “SF” itself is ambiguous). Take for example our pretty much indefensible fondness for the term “mainstream”. Or our casual equivalence of “genre” with SF when SF isn’t even a genre, let alone all genres. One of the create things about True Blood is that it is all genres: SF, romance, crime, drama, melodrama, sitcom, soap opera, gothic, it is all there. As a result it is messy, silly and, I think, rather loveable (despite the major flaws Roberts points out in the review linked above, particularly regarding the symbolic representation of prejudice). It is that kernel of realism mentioned at the beginning, a kernel that simply doesn’t exist in mainstream American television (more loose language), that holds it together and allows the reader to overcome the issues; alas, I can already feel it slipping away in the face of other inherent pressures of serial television. The urge to expand the universe and to top each cliffhanger with an even bigger one means that even as the season ends, they are already wheeling out the lost relatives with special powers for the next one.

Which brings us nicely to Heroes. I promised that I would quit while I was ahead but no, I went and watched season three. And it was very bad indeed. What started as a compulsively addictive obsession with the cliffhanger was ballooned into a showcase of everything that is wrong with the word “reboot”. This term is bad enough when it is applied to some innocent culture artefact of the (not so distant) past but Heroes had already taken it to the next level by rebooting at the end of every season. Now they not only have a complete reboot half-way through the season, they also have mini-reboots running through the season like a series of minor strokes. So, for example, Sylar’s personality can change entirely literally every single episode (and this wild oscillation is not confined to him, he is just the most extreme instance). Any attempt at consistency or realism has been abandoned with the result that the show has become untterably boring. It is postmodernism gone mad, I tells ya.

Written by Martin

21 April 2010 at 11:57

Posted in sf, television

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A Time For Heroes

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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

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