Does ‘Heroes’ Need Saving?
Entertainment Weekly’s latest issue features an op/ed on the current affairs of NBC’s number two drama Heroes. The article, written by Lost aficionado Jeff "Doc" Jensen, points out that this season averages 9.4 million viewers per episode, down from last season’s average of 11.6 million. This season, the series reached its lowest number ever at 8.2 million viewers. Though Heroes is still a top performer for NBC, it’s no longer the powerhouse it used to be. Jensen offers up five reasons for the show’s failure and recommendations on how to fix the problems.
1) Too Many Heroes
Characters like Greg Grunberg’s telepathic cop Matt Parkman and Sendhil Ramamurthy’s scientist-turned-monster Mohinder Suresh have gotten stale. While Suresh has a newly invigorated story, it’s more or less a glorified version of Spider-Man nemesis The Lizard. Parkman, as EW points out, spent an entire three episodes in the desert learning the yawn inducing details of his future. Jensen suggests killing off some top tier heroes in order to restore the life and death stakes of the show.
2) Absurd Plot Twists
Several plotlines, such as Nathan Petrelli’s (Adrian Pasdar) born again faith in God, Hiro’s (Masi Oka) boredom-inspired "save the world" adventure and the aforementioned Suresh transformation are too far fetched even for Heroes, says Jensen. In order to reinvigorate the show, Heroes needs to break way from such lazy writing by making their characters smarter.
3) Overheightened Reality
Jensen complains that Heroes no longer has a foot planted in reality as it did in the first season. Peter’s (Milo Ventimiglia) nurse gig, Niki’s (Ali Larter) struggle as a mother and even Claire’s (Hayden Panettiere) difficulty fitting into school grounded an otherwise fantasy heavy story. Now, that realism is foregone in favor of characters working for various shadow agencies. Apparently, series creator Tim Kring agrees that the show’s strength comes from focusing on ordinary people chosen for something extraordinary, citing that as the reason for Harry Potter‘s success. He claims the show is trying to get back to those roots.
4) Stale Storytelling
One of EW’s complaints is that Heroes relies too heavily on certain gimmicks, such as "time travel, prophetic paintings, apocalyptic scenarios that must be averted, secret formulas that give or take away powers," and more. We couldn’t agree more with that assessment, and we endorse Jensen’s suggestion that the show abandons those devices (particularly time travel). Additionally, the series needs to shy away from overly used sets such as Claire’s house and Isaac’s loft / Suresh’s lab.
5) Heroes is too Disposable
According to Jensen, Heroes needs a more compelling endgame that the entire series builds up to, ala ABC’s Lost. It’s not enough that the show is a "family drama that deals with two main families in particular, the Bennet family and the Petrelli family," as Kring describes it. Heroes needs to set an end date with shorter seasons and focus on an endpoint. Jensen suggests Sylar’s (Zachary Quinto) redemption as a focal point.
While certainly several pegs above the second season, it’s true that Heroes still struggles to find the consistent entertainment value enjoyed in the show’s first year. It’d be nice to shake up the focus by killing off key characters — Parkman and Suresh are a good start, and losing Peter could really rattle audiences — and taking a brand new approach to the concept of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities. How ’bout a Law and Order inspired Sylar/HRG team-up with new mysteries week in and week out? That sounds pretty Heroic to us. Tell us what you suggest below.