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Heroes [tv]

Entry updated 1 August 2022. Tagged: TV.

US tv series (2006-2010). Tailwind Productions for NBC. Created by Tim Kring. Producers include Kring, Jesse Alexander, Jeph Loeb, Dennis Hammer, Adam Armus, James Chory, and Nora Kay Foster. Writers include Kring, Alexander, Loeb, Armus, Foster, Bryan Fuller, Aron Eli Coleite, and Joe Pokaski. Directors include Allan Arkush, Greg Beeman, Jeannot Szwarc, and Adam Kane. Cast includes Milo Ventimiglia as Peter Petrelli, Adrian Pasdar as Nathan Petrelli, Christine Rose as Angela Petrelli, Sendhil Ramamurthy as Mohinder Suresh, Haden Panettiere as Claire Bennet, Jack Coleman as Noah Bennet, Masi Oka as Hiro Nakamura, James Kyson-Lee as Ando Masahashi, Ali Larter as Nikki Sanders, Greg Grunberg as Matt Parkman, and Zachary Quinto as Sylar. 79 one-hour episodes.

Premiering in the fall of 2006, just as Lost (2004-2010) – at that point the most dominant and important genre series on television – was hitting its creative nadir, spinning its plotlines into oblivion and defaulting on its promises to resolve its many outstanding mysteries, Heroes seemed to offer an antidote to the once-great series's implosion. Like Lost, it fielded a large cast of disparate characters tied together by a unique event – in this case, the sudden emergence of Superpowers, upon which they find themselves being hunted by a shady organization bent on capturing or killing them. Heroes's topic and visual sensibility were greatly influenced by Comics – episode titles were superimposed on surfaces as they would be in a comic book, and the character who could predict the future did so by drawing comics panels – and in its first season it seemed to take its storytelling cues from the medium as well, raising questions in one episode that would be answered in the next, keeping viewers on their toes with shocking revelations and twists, and crafting the season into a single, continuous story. The breakneck speed at which the show's plot progressed – especially when compared to Lost, then stuck in neutral – and the growing cohesion of its cast, as unexpected connections were drawn between far-flung characters, distracted from Heroes's at-best pedestrian acting, dialogue, and plots: so long as the show moved, none of these mattered. Heroes quickly leapt to the centre of public discourse, making instant stars of its cast (particularly Panettiere, Oka, Coleman, and Quinto), and inviting as guest performers such science-fiction royalty as Star Trek's George Takei and Nichelle Nichols.

In its second season, however, Heroes stopped moving. The writers had originally envisioned moving away from their established characters and beginning again with a new cast, but were overruled by the network, and instead chose to return many of the characters to their starting positions. The cast was once again flung apart, and character and plot arcs that seemed to have been resolved – super-strong Nikki's ambivalence towards her power, conflicted bad guy Noah's entanglement with the company hunting the supers, most of all, serial killer Sylar's continued survival – were restarted, but made listless and directionless. Characters' motivations and personalities changed from week to week, entire past plotlines were ignored and replaced by new and ever more ludicrous ones whose purpose was to keep the characters apart and in their status quo. The implosion was quick and decisive (and occurred at the same time that Lost's writers regained a grip on their story and their audience), but so stratospheric had the show's success been in its first season that the ratings took time to catch up, and the network took even longer. The show was given one opportunity after another to regain its footing – including taking advantage of the 2008 writers' strike to make an extra-long break between the second and third seasons instead of returning to the screen after the strike's end as many other shows did – but squandered each of them in turn; fans finally realized that the show would never return to its original form. Heroes lingered on for four seasons, eventually all but reviled by its former fans, and the news of its cancellation was met with little fanfare and even sighs of relief. [AN]


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