It's no wonder cinema is fast promoting itself. Ever since the invention of the television way back when, cinema has been under threat. Oh it will always be the best place to really experience a film, but as the quality of the TV program gets ever better I wonder what the future would bring? Perhaps a recurrence of the Saturday morning serial? For some of the most recent TV shows certainly stand up to that task. Some shows are so well produced that they rival their cinema counterparts at every turn. Effects, acting and above all story combine to give depth and thrust to a show, this, together with the time available during a series' episodic run time, intricacies can be examined in far more detail than a cinema presentation could ever conceive. Shows that, for me, sum up just how amazing the medium of TV can be, stretch from Quatermass and the Pit (1967) to Boys from the Black Stuff (1981) from Edge of Darkness (1985) to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997), from Star Trek (1966) to Battlestar Galactica (2004), from The Sopranos (1999) to C.S.I. (2000), from Cracker (1993) to Without a Trace (2002). What do all these different genre shows have in common? Their reliance on strong character driven plots. Invest in the characters and they can take you anywhere. Of course this list is a mere drop in the ocean, but, for the moment at least, there is one show that is an iceberg floating above all else; tonight's feature: Heroes.
Heroes is the latest TV hit from NBC and writer/creator Tim Kring that has spread about the globe leaving nothing in its wake. The idea is relatively simple and borrows liberally from other sources, eight principle characters each discover they have individual super(hero) powers, and those powers will, at some stage, save the earth. Although technically spoilers, the characters and their powers are so well known now, and even though discovering their powers during the first few episodes is part of the charm, listing them here and now shouldn't ruin anything for anyone. Claire Bennett, a high school cheerleader, has the power of spontaneous regeneration; DL Hawkins, on the run, has the power to phase through matter, Isaac Mendez, an artist who can paint the future; Hiro Nakamura, an office worker in his fathers company, can bend and travel through space-time, Matt Parkman, an LAPD Officer, has the power of telepathy, Nathan Petrelli, an ambitious politician who can fly, while his brother Peter, an in-home nurse, has the ability to absorb others' powers when he is near them; and Niki Sanders, an internet stripper, has super strength. Even a cursory glace at these powers points to their origin being clearly inspired from the X-men. And in broad strokes the show could be likened to that very idea, even down to the genetic mutation and evolution, with a search to find the answers by Dr Mohinder Suresh. However, whereas the X-men are all about the powers with their fixed agenda, be that in the films or their comic book roots, Heroes spends it times on a vastly different aspect. The people. Each character is as flawed as their super ability sets them apart. Clair, for example, suffers from the usual high school pressures and frequently alienates her real friends, DL is a criminal and on the run (or is he?), Isaac can only use his ability when high on heroine and he has become an addict, Matt suffers from Dyslexia and has marital problems, Nathan cares more for his career than his family, particularly Peter, who suffers from depression, (super) Hiro is wonderfully geeky and initially uses his powers for personal gain and Niki owes money to the mob and it is her 'alter ego' that possess the super strength and she is brutally violent. Each of these characters has a story to tell and each of these stories is intertwined with the bigger picture of the series. And because of that there is near infinite potential for the show.
Capitalising on the asking more questions than it answers pioneered by Chris Carter in the X-Files and J.J. Abram's Alias or Lost, Kring throws many twists and turns throughout this first season, so just when you think you have a handle something new comes along. However, unlike those shows and bare in mind this is only the first season, I found each new layer plausible and exciting, opening up new dimensions. Each episode demands attention, the overlapping story building as the episode count rises. There are a lot of characters to keep a handle on and Kring has shrewdly filled the roles with recognisable actors rather than famous faces; taken from cult shows or cult films such as Near Dark (1984), Buffy (1997), Final Destination (2000) and Alias (2001) to name but a few. Each actor or actress bringing their character to life, so engaging are their respective story lines that any hint of a past acting choice are forgotten and one falls immediately for their current character. As the season progresses the character endear themselves, how they deal with their new abilities, embracing or hiding away, seeking out answers or trying to change future events. All are played with an underlying seriousness even if there is a light comedy theme running through (mainly supplied by the Hiro and his best friend Ando), with each 'hero' choosing to use his or her power for the better in some way, even if, at times, it's not quite a selfless act.
The fact that the series is covered by several different directors all trying to stamp their vision on the show means that some episodes look a little better then others, there are also two cinematographers, each one bring their own style; overall it works well, each 'hero' getting their own look by use of colour, exaggerated, tints or wash or darkness, though this can tend to leave a problem for the processing of the image with some fairing better then others. Though I must admit to being a fan of the overall circular epitaph of the show; taking the opening credits as a metaphor for the series whole: the world, the eclipse, the eye we can point to the changing nature of the heroes echoing the changing nature of the world all being connected. This is dealt with during the various montages throughout the episodes, reminding us that, like the cycle of life everything is connected and hammered home by the cross cutting strings of Mohinder's map.
I don't want to go into episode specifics, nor go into story arcs or developments any more than I have because this series is something quite special and discovering it through out the episode run is a joyful experience; even if it is maddeningly frustrating having to wait at the end of each cliff hanger for the next episode, and for me it was only a few seconds, I don't think I would have lasted a week.
I'd have called it Awesome
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