After another bad week for Heroes which saw more poor reviews, falling ratings and ultimately the show’s creative team being collectively dismissed, I’ve really been left scratching my head at how I managed to fly in the face of public opinion and enjoy another episode. I like to consider myself an intelligent type with a decent understanding of what’s going on in tellyland. In fact, I pride myself on my ability to spot a Firefly from an Andromeda at fifty paces, and yet it seems that I am one of the only people on this site, and it seems in the viewing public, who is still enjoying this series.
The thing that makes it even more confusing is that I’m a cynical old git – I enjoy watching babies cry, for instance, and have a track record of stealing over-sized novelty lollipops and kicking puppies, especially cute ones for which I put on my special puppy stomping boots – but I sit down to watch Heroes and I just get sucked in. The thing is, I’ve actively tried to dislike the show as I’m starting to feel like some kind of cheery freak flying in the face of all this criticism.
For those of you who don’t know, Billy Grifter is also writing Heroes reviews for Den of Geek, producing some fantastic articles to coincide with the US release of the show, and despite the fact that we’ve got very different views of the show, I really enjoy reading his reviews which are always critically insightful.
Now, I normally read Billy’s reviews after I’ve sat down to collect my thoughts on the latest BBC 2 episode, as it’s always interesting to compare how two people can read the same programme in a completely different way. But this week I decided to read his review before I watched the episode, hoping his observations would help to cast off the rose tinted glasses with which I may be watching the show, spoil my good mood and return me to the belligerent cynical bastard I know and love.
But it just didn’t work. Yes, I spotted and agreed with all those rubbish moments and poor plot holes that Billy had rightfully pointed out, but somewhere deep inside my psyche I cheerily glossed over them, because whilst there are things that are really beginning to grate, the things which people often complain about, such as the convoluted plot lines or the increasingly expansive cast, are things which I enjoy about the show. I like being forced to work for my entertainment and, like Sylar, find myself engrossed with a hunger to piece together the plot and solve Heroes’ mysteries. But what does get my goat, and which was painfully in operation in last night’s show, was the dumbing down of the plot in order to let people catch up, a sort of visual Cliff Notes for the televisually impaired.
It was there in abundance this week with the symbol, Suresh and the pre-cog even; everything has to be explained and re-explained in minute detail for those who might not be keeping pace. There are also painfully ham-fisted plot twists which seem to be employed to keep the story ticking along but which are starting to wear painfully thin. If I have to see one more person put into a level five cell or induced coma, for example, I think I’m going to do my nut.
This reeks of lazy storytelling as Kring seems to believe that the audience can’t handle too many powered people running around at the same time. But these flaws are just restricted to the plot.
The symbol, the DNA helix so prominent in season 1, made a reappearance this week but, rather than forming an enjoyable backdrop that weaved its way quietly throughout the plot, it was thrust into our faces, and its association with the new Pinehearst company painfully mapped out for those who haven’t twigged its importance yet.
Audibly too, Kring seemed intent on treating us like five year olds with a laughable piece of dialogue that might just challenge the ‘younglings’ from Revenge of the Sith as one of the hammiest moments in entertainment history. As the rogues gallery collected by Daphne assembled towards the end of the episode, we were not only treated to a lingering close-up of the southern flame thrower (apparently Kring’s go to bad dude) we were also treated to a delicate little piece of dialogue where Arthur Petrelli greeted his team as his ‘bad guys’; oh, that’s what they were, thanks for that Tim; hadn’t quite caught on to that yet.
Of course, I’m nitpicking and television can’t be elitist, but many great shows have aspects of high idealism cheerily co-existing with a dose of slapstick for the idiot masses. Frasier, the brilliant Cheers spin off and one of the most successful shows of all time, is a fine example and each episode seamlessly throws together a combination of cerebral wit and slapstick comedy; it has something for everyone and is a show that can engage with viewers at all levels. The first series of Heroes also achieved this and its worldwide audiences, alongside critical acclaim, is testament to the fact that different people could enjoy the show for entirely different reasons without even noticing if they were missing out on something.
But this season it feels like Kring is constantly tripping himself up on an insistence to make things easier for the average viewer, allowing them to catch up with every little detail of the plot and, as a result, the show is stifled.
He’s become a victim of the show’s success, which means he has to pander to the ignorant masses, helping them to keep up for the sake of the ratings. But I say leave them behind; if they can’t keep up screw ‘em. Let the rest of us get on with enjoying the show without having to backtrack every 5 minutes.
At school the smart kids were put in one class, left to work on focussing on Shakespeare and trigonometry, whilst those that were born in a paint factory were allowed to colour in and discuss the finer merits of spot the dog. Asking everyone to keep up with Heroes’ fast moving storyline is like asking those kids to sit in on the quantum physics lecture because the teacher got great reviews; it just makes no sense. So rather than spoiling the fun for the rest of us, they should be allowed to go back to learning at their own pace, which in tellyland translates to going back to the remedial environment of Ugly Betty and endless re-runs of Will & Grace.
The sooner Heroes stops trying to be all things to all people and finds its direction again, the sooner the show will be back on its feet. It is a shame to see Loeb and co pay the price. I’m not a fan of networks who are all too quick to cancel or re-write perfectly good shows, but in this case, I think NBC have made the right choice and hopefully a new team of writers will bring anew direction and a new identity for Heroes come season 4.
Oh, look at that. I did it. I criticised the show. Yey, I’m cured. I don’t have time to dwell on it though; a dishy new guy has just moved in to Will & Grace’s building and get this, they both fancy him…I can’t wait to see what happens. This is going to be like, soooo totally hilarious!
Read Daniel’s prior review and predictions here.