When I was a junior in high school, I got a bad grade in something (for which read: everything), and my mom punished me where it counted. Television’s renaissance had just barely begun, it was September 2006, and the only TV show I watched regularly was Lost. The show may be remembered as hokey today, but there’s no denying its importance in changing how television was made, and more importantly how television was watched. It was the first successful show to require your full attention, from which point casual viewer became a pejorative.
By the second season, when I’d gotten into it, Lost already had its fist imitator in Invasion, a heavily stylized reimagining of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers that failed to catch on. Lost was doing well enough without me, but I yearned to see it. Instead, I had to listen to recaps on the Kevin and Bean show on KROQ before school, and they kept talking about how much it was going downhill. It got better, of course, but at the time I start to forget about Lost. Eventually, my grades got better or my mom caved, probably both, and I was flipping the channels when I came across Heroes. I’d recognized the name and characters’ faces from some silly-looking ads, but this episode, “Hiros,” particularly intrigued me with the idea of a man who paints the future. At the time, it was running against– and beating– 24.
So what happened? Tim Kring was credited as the creator of the show, but most of its initial genius came from the prolific Bryan Fuller. Fuller was a co-executive producer in the first season and wrote “Company Man,” considered not only to be the best episode of the series, but one of the best episodoes of any TV show, ever. But Fuller left to create Pushing Daisies, leaving behind plans for an ambitious second season that was cut short by the 2007-08 Writer’s Strike. Tim Kring and NBC cut their losses and went full-retard for Season 3.
So it’s hard now to remember that Heroes was once both popular and good. When the show was so, so awful, it was easy to write off one’s original excitement as the result of youth and low expectations in a pre-Mad Men world. When I first suggested revisiting the first season on The Ed Hocken Show, both Hocken and Randall were horrified. So I was left to do it on my own, and I finally have.
A word to the wise, these reviews will be spoiler-free, though I will offer opinions about what’s to come.
Aired 25 September 2006
14.1 million US viewiers
The pilot episode is a little clunky in terms of dialogue and character development, but there’s a lot of stuff going on, so it’s harder to notice. We start with Mohinder Suresh, a professor in Chennai explaining the premise of the show before discovering that his father was killed. Mohinder thinks it was murder as a result of his father’s research, so he gets information from his apartment, only to find an unidentified man is already there, and knows seemingly much more, as the same man runs into him whilst driving a taxi in Manhattan.
Where this show really falters is anytime Nikki Sanders shows up. She’s a mom-web-stripper-whatever with an adorable genius son, Micah, but all of her drama serves no purpose in terms of the show’s arc. Micah will, but he could just as easily have been another character’s kid. Nikki’s in trouble with some loan shark, and when they finally catch her, she discovers another personality with super-strength.
Some people are reacting to their newfound powers like normal people. Claire, a lonely cheerleader in Odessa, TX is just plain freaked out that she can’t die, but puts her power to use by rescuing someone from a fiery train wreck. We follow her home only to discover her father is the very man who was after Mohinder.
Hiro, an office drone in Tokyo who’s thrilled to be able to stop time. Hiro was a late addition to the script, but it’s impossible to imagine the show without him; he’s the heart of the show and gives each episode a break from the melancholy tone of the rest of the show. Hiro’s power accidentally takes him to New York City…and that’s the last we see of him.
If there’s one thing this show got right, it’s that being a Republican politician in 2006 really sucked. Nathan Petrelli is an running for congress in New York. He’s behind in the polls, but his problems are compounded by the fact that his dreamy-but-awkward brother Peter (designated protagonist) thinks he can fly because of some dreams he had. Both of them are harried by their cold mother.
Peter’s love interest is the daughter of his patient, but she already has a boyfriend: Isaac Mendes, who can paint the future– but only on heroin. He believes his addiction to cause these “evil” premonitions and decides to go cold turkey, but the girl, Simone, thinks that’s crazy and enlists Peter’s help in bringing him down, only to discover him overdosed with a new painting: New York being destroyed by an atomic bomb. And not only that, but a painting of Peter flying!
Peter’s emboldened to test out his skills, inviting Nathan to watch him jump off a building. But Peter can’t fly– Nathan can. But apparently Nathan isn’t strong enough to hold onto his brother and drops him. To Be Continued…