Murphy’s Law – Hero worship

Joel Murphy

While my recent One Shot columns may have convinced some that I only enjoy watching TV shows so that I can mock them and tear them down, there are some shows that I watch simply because they make me happy. Chuck is a show that I genuinely look forward to watching every week, so is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I enjoy just about every minute of both of those shows.

Then there are other shows that are hit or miss for me. I love House, mainly for Hugh Laurie’s amazing portrayal of Dr. House. All of his scenes with Lisa Edelstein are spot on. However, too often the show goes over the top with a ridiculous plotline that makes me cringe. House going toe-to-toe with a pissed off cop played by David Morse is thoroughly enjoyable to watch. House pouting and hiring a private detective because Wilson left the hospital after his incredibly annoying girlfriend died – not so entertaining to watch.

The Office is another great example of a hit or miss show for me. I loved the hour-long season opener and thought it was a great starting point for this season, but last season the hour-long episodes tended to drag and become unfunny. But I think as long as Michael doesn’t kidnap another pizza delivery guy this season, we’ll be fine.

Fringe is another show that I can’t quite get a read on. The Walter Bishop character is so much fun to watch and John Noble does a great job bringing that character to life. Pacey from Dawson’s Creek plays a great foil to Walter as his exasperated son Peter. And, of course, Lance Reddick is awesome on the show, but this site’s fondness for Reddick is already well-documented. But so far the plots have been underwhelming. I simply can’t get into the whole Pattern conspiracy – and when you don’t buy into the overarching plotline that a show is built around, that’s not a good sign. Still, I’m holding out hope that the show continues to evolve and hopefully gels into a really great program.

But, of all the shows that are hit or miss, perhaps none is as frustrating to me as Heroes. The show is definitely in my wheelhouse. Tim Kring has done a great job creating a world full of superheroes, which appeals to a longtime Batman fan like myself. Season one of the show was done right – it had a great season-long story arc and interwoven storylines that kept you entertained.

In season two, the show lost its way. Even Tim Kring has admitted that the show got off track and he used the writers’ strike to retool Heroes and get back to what fans wanted to see. Right now, we are only three hours into the new season, but I definitely feel better about this season already. (I’m not going to lie – when the villains escaped from Level 5 and Elle tossed Bennet a gun, I got wood.) The show seems to be off to a solid start.

However, I can’t shake a few lingering concerns about the show – ones that need to be addressed before they ultimately ruin a very promising series.

First of all, Mohinder sucks. I hate absolutely everything about his character. I find him to be wishy-washy, self-righteous and annoying. The only time he was entertaining was when he was in a latently homosexual relationship with Parkman. But the writers have gone out of their way to prove he isn’t gay this season by having him bang Maya and then giving him super-butch powers that show just how tough he is. Next episode, he’ll probably spend the whole time chugging beers and talking about football.

Mohinder needs to go. Every second he is on the screen is a waste of time. Sure, he’s going to create a formula that will lead to the destruction of all mankind, but he’s going to do it in the most annoying and unfulfilling way possible.

Another problem with the show is Peter Petrelli. Now, I understand that young girls and gay guys get butterflies in their stomach whenever Peter takes his shirt off, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he is more powerful than God. As I’ve mentioned before, giving Peter the ability to retain everyone else’s powers makes him too strong, which makes him boring. Batman has always been more interesting than Superman because we can relate to a character who is vulnerable and always embrace the underdog.

Peter Petrelli is so powerful that the only person the writers could bring in to fight him this season was an evil future version of himself with a scar across his face (by the way, the whole evil doppelganger thing was something Superman also had to revert to in the movies to try to make him interesting as well). But all “evil Peter” does is give more screen time to a character who is still just as boring to me as ever. Hell, even when Peter is trapped inside someone else’s body, something that was kind of interesting to watch, the writers still give the villain he is stuck inside the power to clear the entire room with a sonic wave. So even when he is at a disadvantage, he is still the most powerful guy in the room.

The smart move by Kring and Co. would have been to stick to the original way Peter’s power was presented so that he could only mimic the other characters’ powers when those characters were near him. That would have made his character so much more compelling, since he would have had times where he essentially had no powers and would have to survive using intelligence and strategy.

While those two problems definitely hurt the show, there is a bigger problem that I really feel will end up being Heroes undoing. I mentioned in a previous column that the show doesn’t know when to kill off characters, but the issue is larger than that. Essentially, the writers have given the show so many deus ex machinas that the show no longer has any stakes. It feels like nothing matters anymore.

Between Hiro and Peter’s ability to travel through time, Claire and Adam’s regenerative blood and Linderman’s ability to bring back Nathan Petrelli from the dead, the writers have an endless supply of undo buttons at their disposal. So when Mama Petrelli has a vision of all of the main characters dying and Hiro travels to the future and sees Ando betraying him, you know that none of that will actually happen (and, in Hiro’s case, there is the added possibility that either future Hiro or future Ando is actually a shapeshifter, so what Hiro was seeing wasn’t what he thought it was). Even Ali Larter gets brought back as a new character after Niki Sanders is killed in an explosion. It kills the drama when you know that no main characters will ever die and any disastrous events will simply be undone.

It’s to the point where when super-speedy Daphne steals the formula from Hiro, I’m left wondering why he doesn’t just travel back in time to stop her at the moment she grabs the piece of paper out of his hand instead of chasing her around the globe as if she is a modern-day Carmen Sandiego.

I’m not really sure how to fix the last problem, but it is definitely one that needs to be addressed. And, I’m not the only one that feels jerked around. When I interviewed Enrico Colantoni, who played Kristen Bell’s father on Veronica Mars, he had this to say about the show:

As far as Heroes is concerned, I really liked that show in the beginning. I guess I’m just too old – I don’t want to be manipulated that much anymore. (Laughs.) That first couple episodes, I wanted the end of the world to happen, damn it. And when it didn’t, I go, “No way! I’m not going to go through that ride. You said on this date the end of the world happens, damn it. And I want it to end.”

So, Tim Kring, if you are reading this, please take my advice to heart. I would love to be able to put Heroes into that pure bliss category that Chuck and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia currently reside in. So do whatever it takes, even if that means having Hiro work as one of the Nerd Herd in a Buy More or Mohinder becoming a new superhero known as “Green Man” who wears a full-body green spandex suit and kicks other characters in the nuts.

Or just get rid of all of the other characters and turn the show into a buddy comedy with Sylar and Bennet. That would definitely keep me tuning in week after week.

Random Thought of the Week:
That Axe body spray commercial where the guy is made of chocolate and women are ripping him apart is terrifying. Why would the thought of women cannibalizing me make me want to buy their product?

Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at murphyslaw@hobotrashcan.com.


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Comments (1)
  1. Steve March 10, 2009

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