Heroes: Has It Jumped the Shark Already?
As a comic book geek who is devoted to all things superheroish (I even watched that lame-o Smallville episode featuring new-school versions of Green Arrow, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash), this is tough for me to admit.
But I've already seen tonight's new episode of Heroes, the surprise super hero hit that has all us fanboys atwitter. And it's so lackluster, I'm losing my love for this oddball hit. (WARNING: LOTS o' SPOILERS to Follow)
The episode picks up in the wake of our heroes' successful work in keeping cheerleader Claire Bennet alive. This, of course, ruins the catchy slogan NBC crafted to sell the cliffhanger "Save the cheerleader; save the world", so it has come up with a new one: "Are you on the list?"
Frankly, I'm hoping the creator of that lame-o tagline is on some sort of list that involves collecting unemployment. But it does reflect the tone of tonight's return, which feels much more like running in place than breaking new ground. (I REALLY MEAN IT: LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD).
Claire is back home, pretending not to remember the attack from superpowered serial killer Sylar that eliminated a former friend from school. Her father, the as-yet-unnamed H.R.G. (for the horn rimmed glasses he wears), thinks an employee of his erased her memory, but the employee did not. Seemingly aware of Claire's destiny, he declined to take her memory, and the two are now allies.
Throughout tonight's show, we're caught up on various characters: Hiro, the time-traveling teleporter, feels his powers weakening. Split-personality case Niki pays an awful price for the shooting spree that nearly killed her husband. Mind-reading police officer Matt finds himself outfoxed by H.R.G. And ailing superpower sponge Peter bumps into a new hero, played by British actor Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who).
But new questions emerge: Matt's partner doubts his mind-reading abilities, so why doesn't he just show her? If Niki's superstrong alter ego can break police nightsticks with her bare hands, why does she stay in their custody?
It's the typical fate of high-octane series, which start and finish strong but tend to lag in the middle. Unfortunately, with so many closely-watched series taking winter breaks - Prison Break returns tonight on Fox, and Lost comes back on ABC on Feb. 7 - these midseries returns are nearly as important.
I'm hoping these are just momentary lapses. Because if Heroes keeps slipping, I may have to turn my full attention to Fox's super hero Jack Bauer on 24. At least when his plotlines turn outlandish, they're doing it on purpose.
Speaking of Fox's espionage-adventure hit 24, I don't blame the Council for American Islamic Relations for being worried about the series' current storyline -- which involves teams of Islamic suicide bombers terrorizing the U.S (MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann called it Bush administration-style "fear fallout" ). But I also remember this issue arising in 2002, when producers opened the shows' second season with a plotline that made it seem as if an arab was marriyng into a prominent family to further a terrorist plot; turns out his Caucasian wife was the culprit.
Before too long, producers had turned the series' convoluted plot to another bad guy. i'm hoping 24's writers are still smart enough to take the show beyond empty stereotypes.
---Besides being overjoyed that the nicest guy in the NFL has finally made it to a Super Bowl, I'm also psyched that Tony Dungy and the Bears' Lovie smith will be the first black coaches to reach the big Game. This also means, of course, that one way or another, the Super Bowl will see its first black coach win the Big Game come Feb. 4. Normally, I would be a little bitter that it has taken this long for this particular color barrier to be broken. But the karmic appropriateness of Dungy getting a chance to score that honor -- while his jerky replacement here, Jon Gruden, watches the game from home -- almost makes it worth the wait.