Fall of a Hero(es)

So, I’ve been away for awhile (graduation, roadtrip, job-hunting etc.), but I thought it was about time I breathed life back into the blog.

A few days ago, NBC officially canceled the serial drama Heroes.  It had just finished its fourth season a few months back (to a semi-cliffhanger ending), but, with ever declining ratings, NBC decided to pull the plug on its “superhero” show.  For some time, the show’s fate seemed uncertain – DVD/Blu-ray sales of the show always performed well (regardless of the show’s ratings) and the drama performed very well overseas.  Nevertheless, it has officially come to an end (barring a possible TV-movie to wrap up the whole series).

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised or heartbroken when I heard the news.  I followed the show through its entire four-season run and I even own the first two seasons on DVD, but, for me, Heroes ended with more of a whimper than a bang.  Ever since season three, the show has struggled to find its footing after some very poor storytelling choices.  By the time the fourth season ended, I had lost almost all interest in the show and was merely watching it to see where it went and how it ended.  It’s a shame too, because the first season of Heroes has some of the best storytelling I’ve seen in a serial drama.  It was fresh, original, emotional, compelling — all of the positive adjectives you’d hear spouted in a one-line review from an official critic.  And I’m not the only one who thought so.  Critics all around raved about the show.  Many called it “the next LOST,” claiming that NBC had a real winner that would last them for seasons to come.  Promotional material flew off the shelves (they even made a Heroes comic book), and the ratings for its first season were impressive (almost 14 million viewers).  Yet, after all the hoopla of the first season, Heroes soon stumbled, fell, and when it finally ended after the fourth season, few even cared (the fourth season only averaged about 5 million viewers).

I think they're all looking at their careers, as they pass them by...

I think someone should do a case study about the rise and fall of Heroes.  It would be fascinating to see, in detail, how a show that contained such promise and originality quickly and suddenly fell from glory.  For my part, I think it all started with the first episode of season three.  Many would argue that all of the seasons after the first one were poor and that season two was terrible, but I would actually say this isn’t the case.  Sure, season two was slower-paced than its predecessor, but it still contained some great character development, a few surprises, and a well-developed villain.  Best of all, it all made sense – Nothing was done out of character and there weren’t ridiculous powers for the sake of having ridiculous powers.  Granted, not everything was a win – newcomer Maya was a (almost) superfluous inclusion – but it was still solid.  Episode one of Season Three, however, was where things digressed (and quickly).  In one moment, the writers negated the entire purpose of season one by failing to “save the cheerleader” from the villain of season one (You may remember the catchphrase, “Save the cheerleader. Save the world.”  Well, after that moment, the world was screwed).  From that point on, one of the major characters became completely unnecessary (despite her prominence in the remaining two seasons), the villain became completely unstoppable (leading to his constantly changing sides in order to keep from merely killing everyone), and the writers scrambled to make the show interesting.  In doing so, however, the writers began to rely on cheap gimmicks (including elements from the first season that should’ve remained in the first season), out-of-character actions and powers (in order to throw in new “twists”), and a convoluted stream of narratives that had no satisfying conclusions.  When I watch a show, I usually try to give the writers the benefit of the doubt and assume they know where they’re taking their narratives.  In the case of the third season of Heroes, however, it was painfully clear that the writers really had no idea where they were taking the story.  Season Four, fortunately, attempted to right many of these wrongs, and, for awhile, they did a decent job.  Characters began acting in character again (novelty!), powers didn’t start appearing for no reason, and the stories were far more focused.  Over time, however, Heroes stumbled again.  It didn’t make the mistakes of season three, but, instead, it just sort of fizzled out.  The characters began to grow stagnant and uninteresting, and the major mystery of the season turned out to be a disappointing and anticlimactic event.  In comparison to all the seasons before it, the season finale for the fourth season was definitely the quietest — even with its sudden “cliffhanger” at the very end.

Obviously, my theory for the fall of Heroes finds its base in its storytelling.  Originally, this was the show’s strength, but it quickly deteriorated, and with it (I suspect), so did the audience.  Now, Heroes has become just another TV show to quickly rise, only to fall and, ultimately, end on a sour note.

I guess I’ll have to look elsewhere for my replacement to LOST when it ends in a week.

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~ by digitallysmitten on May 18, 2010.

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