This year, with new bad guys and old heroes going bad upping the ante, everything was supposed to be back on track. NBC's renewal for season 3 was enthusiastic; partial-season pickups are becoming common, but Heroes was renewed for a full season plus extra episodes.
Instead, ratings are down compared to the disappointing season 2. Heroes is regularly finishing third in its time-slot with around 9 million viewers, after Two and a Half Men (over 14 million a week on CBS) and Samantha Who? (over 11 million on ABC). The also-rans are on Fox (Prison Break, 6 million) and The CW (One Tree Hill, 3.5 million).
Bloggers around the net are reporting their dissatisfaction with Heroes in no uncertain terms. "I'm not sure I could be more bored with Heroes than I am right now," says MaryAnn Johanson on FlickFilosopher this week, speaking for many.
Heads Starting to Roll
NBC acted this week to turn around the stumbling show, firing two co-executive producers, Jeph Loeb and Jesse Alexander, who also served as senior writers and oversaw much of the script development. The impact, however, will not be immediate, since most of the season is already written.
Kring promised the network and Universal, the studio producing the series, that he would focus on simplifying the show, according to Variety. Kring said he would focus on getting away from the overly complex explorations, which are a fine idea but devolve into an unnavigable mire when you've got 12 regular characters. But unless he starts overhauling already written scripts, his promise to streamline things and get back to good-versus-evil won't take effect until halfway through the next volume of the series.
Some fans are egging Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller to join Heroes as a replacement writer/show runner, and Fuller seems open to the idea if the even-lower-rated Daisies is canceled. "I am exclusive to Daisies through the delivery of the 13th episode of our 13-episode order, which will be mid-January," Fuller told Entertainment Weekly. "If Daisies isn't picked up by then, I will definitely be going back to play with my friends at Heroes."
TV writers are wondering whether Heroes can be saved at all. Some are already foretelling its cancellation or doing post-mortems masquerading as free clinics: Entertainment Weekly's "Heroes: Five Ways to Fix It" is a snarky rundown of plot points the writers found "jump-the-shark preposterous," while TV Guide offered anguished fans a chance to dump on the show with "How Would You Fix It?", which came up with no less than 100 problems with the way things are going.
The real problem with Heroes is that the same idea has been recycled in each volume, but diluted each time.
Season 1 projected a future disaster (New York will be blown up) and a goal that must be achieved to prevent it (save the cheerleader). Meanwhile Hiro gets shunted into a barely relevant side adventure (in Las Vegas) while comical music plays and Ando complains.
Season 2 projected a future disaster (a genocidal virus will be released) and a goal that must be achieved to prevent it (stopping the virus being released). Meanwhile Hiro gets shunted into a barely relevant side adventure (in medieval Japan) while comical music plays and Ando complains.
Season 3 projects a future disaster (everyone will be able to buy superpowers) and a goal that must be achieved to prevent it (stopping the formula from being created). Meanwhile Hiro gets shunted into a barely relevant side adventure (chasing the Speedster, then dreaming in Africa) while comical music plays and Ando complains.
Season 3 compounds these problems with a couple new ones. First, the whole point of season 1, keeping Sylar from getting Claire's healing power, was undone in a heartbeat: Sylar waltzes into Claire's house and takes her power at the top of the season. (But it's okay, because we're supposed to like/understand Sylar now, I think. He's got a hunger, you see. Which also undermines season 1, though at least Zachary Quinto can pull off the struggle they're now retconning into Sylar's character. Oh, and he's Peter and Nathan's brother -- and a purer hero than Nathan, because Nathan's powers were artificially induced. Maybe that's why he only uses them once a year.)
Second, by shifting everyone's motivations around to make us guess who's a hero and who's a villain, we no longer know who to trust or care about. So we don't trust or care about anyone.
Third, Peter is clearly intended to be the focus of the show's viewer identification for boys, and Claire for girls; but they've both become more and more unpleasant: Peter is always glowering and shouting, and Claire's inability to feel pain is leaving us numb too.
New Volume: "Fugitives"
The good news is that the current volume, "Villains," is almost over: there are four more episodes, tying up with episode 13, "War," slated for Dec. 8.
Creator Kring is hinting that the new volume starting in January, "Fugitives," will represent an almost literal fresh start for the series. If that's true, says TV Guide's Mickey O'Connor, "I, for one, will welcome it with a freakin' Fifth Avenue parade."
In October it was reported that the story arc for "Fugitives" will revolve around a U.S. marshal type played by Zeljko Ivanek, who won an Emmy this year (beating Bill Shatner) as one of the stars of the FX Network's little-noticed legal drama Damages. (He was also on Lost last year as Burke.) Ivanek's character is called "The Hunter," and his job is to do exactly that: he gets busy tracking down all the ability-blessed, hero and villain alike.
This is the boogyman role performed by HRG/Noah and the Company in season 1, but now that the Company is all warm and fuzzy and Noah is supposed to be -- well, to be honest, I don't know what we're supposed to think of Noah at the moment -- we'll now get The Hunter, whose mission is to make the Company look like a tea party.