The Heroes Effect

Nobody would blame you for not remembering Heroes. The show’s stint at the top was so short and its tailspin into oblivion was so swift and violent that it’s once glorious reputation and critical acclaim has almost been obscured entirely.

“Eclipsed”, if you will…

For those of you unfamiliar, let me offer a quick recap.

Heroes followed a number of seemingly unrelated people who, in the days following a solar eclipse, find that they’ve developed superpowers. As they struggle to cope with their new abilities, their storylines begin to entwine as the looming threat of destruction, along with a mysterious and sinister figure, approaches.

The show’s total simplicity made it both accessible to a wide audience (especially one that wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves comic book/superhero fans) and further made the show easy to follow, even with its large cast of characters. That large cast in turn meant that most everyone would have someone they’d be able to relate to, and kept the episodes moving along at a decent pace with no real room for boredom. And all of that went out the window.

Somewhere near the end of the second season and the beginning of the third ratings began to plummet, with NBC cancelling the show in 2010 after it had lost more than 50% of its initial audience. Exactly how that happened is the subject of today’s post, along with some half-hopeful advice on how they can avoid it this next go around.

Oh, did I not mention it? Heroes is coming back in 2015.

So let’s get to it.

I. Limit The Cast

Now I’ve already stated that part of the initial charm of Heroes was the large cast. Out of everyone getting a storyline, chances are you’ll find at least one of them compelling and sympathetic. That said, there is such a thing as taking it too far- and we saw this happen in Heroes as the show became bogged down with more and more characters.

These and like 46 others…

The end effect was that it was impossible to keep track of all the new faces and the more central characters had less and less time devoted to them. Ultimately, it seemed to become more about showcasing various superpowers, speaking of which…

II. Stick With A Single Power

Again, it was the simplicity of the show which made it easy to follow. As large as the cast got, a huge element of their characters was their individual superpower and how they interacted with it. The idealistic one struggling to use his unruly power for good, the well-nigh invincible one who just wanted to be normal- all these things gave their users depth. At the beginning of Heroes the powers served to convey character, by the end, characters were used to show off powers.

This is not a good basis for a television show.

Well that, and we had people constantly losing their powers, and then regaining them, and people who never had powers before suddenly had them, and people who had powers now had tons more- it all got very messy very fast, and robbed the show and any sense of verisimilitude. I’m more than happy to suspend by disbelief, but I’ve got limits.

III. Ax the Drama

While those last two faults didn’t help Heroes much, ultimately I don’t believe they’re what killed the show. That was due to the show’s inability to handle its own success- let me break it down for you [Spoiler Alert].

Season 1 wound up wrapping up very neatly, with the crisis averted, the antagonist destroyed, and everyone more or less having reached some kind of understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Once Season 2 rolled around the show didn’t really seem to know what to do with itself. The show didn’t seem to understand exactly what the new challenge the protagonists would be facing would be, but seemed determined that it would be bigger and more severe than the last (which, seeing as it was the end of all life, is hard to top) and that it’d just pick up right from where it had left off.

“This season we’re going to introduce something like this, but worse!”

Naturally that not only wears away at believability but kinda negates everything that was done prior to it. It’s jumping the shark and then some.

Soon the show found itself scrabbling to create tension anywhere it could. Good guys turned evil, evil guys turned good and then bad again. People who were dead came back and villains were introduced with absolutely no sense of dread being built up beforehand. Imagine watching only the last five minutes of a horror movie on loop for 30 minutes a week and you pretty much had Season 3, only with a plot that made more sense. We can blame part of this on the writers’ strike, but ultimately I think it’s an issue of not respecting the audience. That’s the reason it became just a parade of new people, new powers, and new betrayals and revelations that’d be more at home in a soap opera. Because the audience was treated as nothing more than kids just waiting for the next shiny new thing there was no assumption that they had any interest in the characters or their lives.

And I’d be dumping on the show more, but honestly, I’ve actually got some high hopes for this reboot. Pessimist that I am, Community has pulled itself up from the only TV wreckage as nasty as Heroes and even I think is nearing the level it was when it first started.

So what do ya say? Can’t hurt to give it a shot.

It is really shocking just how few gifs there are out there for this show…


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