September 25th, 2006



Heroes turned out to be pretty good. Which came as something of a surprise, because the first twenty minutes were as clichéd as they come.

As an example, I need only point to the scene where an Indian professor yells about how he's teaching the same weird stuff about human evolution that his father did and the university could go ahead and fire him the same a man who walked casually into the classroom and didn't even say anything.

Then we meet an assortment of annoying stock characters, including the brilliant artist addicted to smack, the underachieving brother of a politician, and a single mom who's doing live webcam shows to provide a good life for her genius little boy. I get that you don't want to make our future heroes already heroic, or even necessarily noble, but do they really all need to be annoying?

Then, twenty minutes in, we cut to Japan, and the show comes absolutely alive with energy and some much needed humor. There we meet an average salaryman who discovers he can break the time/space barrier ("Just like Spock!" he cries in the funniest non-sequitor of the year). He's already my favorite character of the new TV season.

We also meet a high school cheerleader who discovers she's indestructible. She's kind of annoying too, since she's a high school cheerleader, but her character actually reacts the way real people her age would when they realize they're noticeably different: She's worried people will think she's a freak and avoid her in school.

Taking a page out of the Lost playbook, Heroes sets it up so that all the characters are connected without knowing it. They meet each other without realizing it, they know people in common, etc. It takes a few wildly unrealistic liberties, such as two characters having the same cab driver (I live in New York and I've never had the same cab driver twice, but one character is actually able to get in just the right cab? Nuh-uh.) and you won't be surprised in the least at who the cheerleader's dad is, even though the show really, really wants to surprise you with this information.

There's a lame government conspiracy angle that I don't like. They haven't actually said it's the government, but come on. It's always the government in these shows. I also think it would be better if the superheroes' ultimate goal turned out to be something equally speculative in nature, rather than stopping the nuclear explosion that the clairvoyant character foresees.

But these are nitpicks. There's good stuff too. One character seems to be turning into a supervillain, not a hero, and that's unexpected. And the final scene with the two brothers surprised even this jaded viewer.

So, the TV Nerd has spoken: Heroes is worth a look if you're into this sort of thing. NBC is rerunning it tomorrow night if you missed it tonight.