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There's no way to talk about this television show without spoilers; it's that kind of show. If you have any interest in watching from the beginning, you'd be better off skipping this.


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Heroes is NBC's Lost. That's all you need to know, really.

Tim Kring, a man whose geek cred includes work on such blockbuster sci-fi series as Crossing Jordan and Chicago Hope, has created a world in Heroes that's absolutely unique assuming you've never read a comic book or watched TV before in your life.

It works like this: a seemingly random group of people all over the world have started discovering that they have super powers. One can fly, one can manipulate time, one enters into fugue states and paints pictures of the future. Their paths keep crossing, usually involving everybody's favorite little Japanese superhero, the conveniently (and not at all originally) -named Hiro Nakamura. Also like the X-Men, most of the heroes live in less than ideal circumstances, dealing with being misunderstood adolescents, or having abusive husbands or dying parents, and most of the Heroes' abilities emerge during periods of stress.

How familiar does all of this sound to you? If you look closely, there're three distinct ripoffs alluded to in the previous paragraph. It's not that Kring steals, every writer steals, it's how brazenly he does it, and to be fair I probably wouldn't care if he weren't ripping off my goddamned subculture. What we've got here is the bastard lovechild of the Marvel Comics universe, NBC's other (and better) superhero property, The 4400, and bits and pieces of Neal Stephenson. Oh, and GATTACA because, unlike the Marvel world where mutants were just different, the heroes in Heroes were, apparently, made. Kring also claims to have had a five season arc plotted out in his head before he wrote a word, which is nice in theory but sounds eerily close the story of how J. Michael Straczynski plotted out the five season arc of Babylon 5 - it came to him one day in the shower.

The show is reductive and typical and just a little bit quirky, and the really vexing thing is, like most things that are reductive and typical and just a little bit quirky on network television, it's doing astonishingly well - premiering in NBC's fall 2006 lineup, Heroes quickly became the network's hit drama, out-performing such well-intentioned and well-written programs as Friday Night Lights by millions of viewers.

Heroes is written and shot like an honest-to-god drama, a drama where, every once in awhile, somebody learns how to fly. Imagine you're watching a rerun of, say, Law & Order - a homeless man, trying to off himself, jumps off the roof of a building but instead of splatting against the sidewalk, goes bouncing down the alley like a rubber ball. If it wasn't done in the established and familiar feel of the Law & Order franchise it might be interesting, but the confluence feels wrong, somehow.

The thing about science fiction is, the more stylized it looks, the more immersive it is and the more realistic it feels. If Heroes were shot the way that, say, Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica is shot, I'd have an easier time making it through an episode without laughing my ass off.

The real reason I think the show is so hard to watch is that, and I'm not positive of this but, it feels like Kring takes himself so damn seriously. He shouldn't.