Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Heroes in Hiding

I recently noticed that The House Next Door was pushing an article from the Guardian from a former TV hater who had seen the light: TV shows were better than movies was the basic claim. The writer conveniently passed on reality television, game shows or the like. I don't know how one can make grand pronouncements about the quality of an artform if you're ignoring huge swaths of it. That's like claiming that movies are generally filled with nuance are slow moving and deeply political whilst on your way back from a film festival (Try the multiplex and then get back to us). Anyway... though I've been guilty of it before I think it's silly to compare TV and Film. They are different mediums with separate weaknesses, strengths and goals.

So... I thought I'd stick a pinky toe into the TV water (more on pinky toes later) here and there. Not too much --this is still a film site. So, let's start with Heroes. I watched it on and off last season and found it plagued by the curse of Buffy Season 7. In the final season of Buffy the characters were always engaged in Dramatic Acts of Worrying™ and the dialogue often featured ominous chestnuts like 'something's coming' or 'things are bad... really really bad' as if the concerned faces and inchoate fear would convince us that something was indeed worrisome. and happening (!!!) If something was it was definitely happening offscreen. Like many a bad movie, some TV series forget the #1 rule of visual medium: show don't tell.

It's too early to state with certainty that Heroes second season is treading water until they think of some story to tell but it sorta feels that way. Still, the show works on the pop level. It continues to be a kick that they've embraced comic book aesthetics for so many of their visual choices be it the fonts used for credits or the camera angles chosen. And we should also thank the Heroes team for getting their men wet with some regularity. I'm for that.

Elsewhere things were less scrumptious. Hiro (the Japanese time stopper) is still in the past ---zzzzzzz time travel stories are a pet peeve of mine but this one is particularly tedious. Claire (the indestructable cheerleader) and family are still arguing about hiding their true selves. That exciting discussion was also featured in the last episode and i'm guessing we'll hear it a few more times, too. Wheee.

Northstar and Aurora. er... the Wonder Twins um, the Latino twin characters are still accidentally killing people with their black oozing eyeballs (sometimes when I watch this show I retroactively wish that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had been blessed with a budget this big). Their involuntary manslaughter bodycount was also featured in the last episode and i'm guessing we'll see that at least once more --maybe they'll get to their destination in episode 4 or 5.

Just as I was getting really annoyed with the placeholding narrative, the show finally got to the good stuff: an appearance by the show's best character: MR. MUGGLES (pictured, left)! I'm not the only viewer that thinks Heroes is overcrowded. The problem with huge ensembles like this is that you get so little time with the characters you love the most. And since Heroes is allergic to death (even the murdered people come back) there's no way to prune the cast. It's only going to get more crowded as new heroes emerge. Poor Mr. Muggles. This little guy is cuter than cheerleaders and politician's brothers put together. He also has the show's best comic timing. He's so underused. His superpower is that he makes me want a dog and I am a devout cat person.

Oh and yes. Just after Mr. Muggles made my night, this episode topped itself with its extro. Earlier in the episode Claire got curious about the regenerative abilities of lizards and whether they're a match with hers. She gets another one of her brilliant ideas...


Claire wants to test her limits and the healing process. I get that. But did it have to be with scissors? Ewwww. But then, the prettiest girl is always paired with the grossest images on Heroes --that incongruous marriage is still the show's best running gag.

17 comments:

Kamikaze Camel said...

Season two hasn't started here yet so I am feverishly ignoring each and everthing to do with Heroes. I can't wait!

Arkaan said...

Heroes sucks. I loathe the show on pretty much every level. I love Buffy season seven though, but Joss Whedon is so much better than Tim Kiring that the comparison wounds me. It wounds me, Nathaniel.

That said, I will say that I enjoy television more than I enjoy movies now. Are they better? Well, that depends on what you're looking for. The best tv shows are fantastic in terms of long term storytelling, character arcs/evolution and do a great job at paying attention to visual details. The funniest things I've seen recently have all been on TV. And nothing movies have done compare to the HBO tandem of The Sopranos and The Wire. Except maybe Lord of the Rings.

That said, they're two different media. Pretending one is better than the other when they have broadly different aims is kinda silly.

NATHANIEL R said...

well arkaan, i just finished rewatching season 7 of Buffy and it does have a TON of great stuff in it (critics be damned) but the problem with it is just what i'm stating here. The water treading. the intense worrying about dramas you never see. it's so much sloppier than other seasons (despite being underrated)

yes, Heroes doesn't hold a candle to buffy but in this one regard it's a fair comparison

Manuel B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manuel B said...

What always saved Buffy Season 7 in comparison with Heroes is great writing: yes, you had worrying faces, but then you were giving something like 'Conversations with Dead People' - something we're never likely to see on Heroes.
Heroes is, like you said plagued by its own 'comic-book lite' aesthetic and narrative which, in trying also to be 'hip' and 'cool' fails to be enjoyable for a watcher that wants character depth and not gratuitous plot twists.
And TV vs Movies? Sally Field mentions this often saying that her stint on B&S is a reaction to the lack of good roles in Hollywood, but a grand sweeping gesture like that is always going to be problematic. One thing we can say for sure is that TV shows are currently being more daring than their Hollywood counterparts: as a mass serving media it is interesting to see things smart and quirky things like Pushing Daisies on a network like ABC (which, also sadly gives us The Bachelor and Cavemen...) But you get my point.

Ásta said...

What's always baffled me about Claire is that while she can obviously regenerate nowhere has it been stated that she doesn't feel pain. Poor girl should be in torture on a regular basis - instead she snapping off her toes!

Also - a bad Buffy episode was still always in a class of its own when compared to the rest of TV.

Anonymous said...

Buffy rules-I didn't really watch seasons 6 & 7.

Darren said...

What gets to me about the characters is how so many 'normal' unpleasant things happen to them. Take Claire for example - the girl is accident prone! It's a good thing she is indestructible, otherwise she'd run the risk of dying in an everyday accident every week. In 30 years, I've only been to an ER once, and that didn't even require stitches.

But then, that's TV for you. I watched 2 seasons of Grey's Anatomy back to back (don't ask) a few months ago, and started writing down the amount of times a cast member or a close family member ended up in a hospital bed. I stopped when I reach 40. 40!!!

TV madness.

Darren said...

Oh, lest I forget. Season 6 of Buffy - the most under-rated season of them all.

Catherine said...

Over here in Ireland we're still in the throes of Season One, so I'm hiding at the very mention of any Season Two spoilers. I can acutely pinpoint the bad things about the series, but I'm hooked.

crazycris said...

As a major Buffy fan... what do you think of Season 8 Nat? I just got the first couple of issues as a birthday present this summer... it almost fills that empty spot...

Anonymous said...

I agree with you when you say tv and cinema are two different mediums, even if for me it's even more irritating when someone compares a book to a film, claiming that the book is always better...

Anyway I loved Buffy so much...I miss it...

Heroes is cool too...

Mirko S.

Girodet said...

Your analysis of Buffy and Heroes is great. The worrying thing really wore me out in Buffy. I like Heroes because it is fast paced and totally sci-fi. However, I agree with the too many characters, which I think can be solved by making this a 2-hour show. Wouldn’t that be novel? Heroes is a delight after I tortured myself with two episodes of Chuck. Now that is an action/sci-fi show that is torturous. Reaper has grown on me, which I think is proportional to how far from the show Kevin Smith gets. Personally, I think Supernatural is the best-written and acted TV series as of late, sci-fi or not. A very worthy successor of Buffy. (It must be noted again Milo wet and bare chested, yum!)

Neel Mehta said...

I echo your sentiment on Mr. Muggles, narrowly beating Jack Coleman as the best actor on the show.

And it seems as though the show runners are learning a lesson from last season and not trying to include almost everyone in each episode, especially the momentum-killing Niki/Jessica crap.

Middento said...

I've been wondering if you're watching "Reaper," by the way, particularly since EW called it "Buddy the Demon Slayer" or something to that end. (That, of course, made me want to watch it and indeed I'm enjoying it immensely.

(Oh yeah, and I already comment here a lot, but I'm delurking everywhere as part of The Great Mofo Delurk. You have one of the most fab sites around, Nathaniel, and I read it almost daily, even if I don't comment. *grin*)

lawyer tony fernando said...

thank you nathaniel to mention Mr. Muggles, oh I just love him. And of course Mama Petrelli, don´t you just love her?

Arkaan said...

While I agree season seven is flawed, I will say that I prefer it to season three, aka - the Faith season. I'm just wierd that way