Like a Bangles reference ever hurt anyone!
Well, thanks to Doselle, I am full of rant today. Before I get to that, all you Gentle Readers have posted some great insights into music on TeeVee, and in life. I definitely want to comment on that. But since "Heroes" premieres tonight, let's go there first. I think I mentioned this before but if not, here it is again. In the interest of full disclosure (not that you could find it unless I mentioned it!), my writing partner and I sold a pilot to UPN about four years ago. It was called Heroes, and it was about a group of former friends who come together and discover that they have super powers. I don't think for a minute that Tim Kring stole our pilot. That's idiotic. But I do have some knowledge of the development process for this type of show. Both the network and the studio were supportive of this type of show. They never asked that we pull back on the genre elements. But we all knew that once the rules were established, the characters were the key to the show. There are two main differences between our pilot and the NBC show -- one, our heroes actually FOUGHT A VILLAIN IN THE PILOT. And two, our show wasn't somber. A few of our characters struggled with this new ability but by the end, all the characters realized that there was a reason they were the way they were. Also, we actually SET UP A SERIES with our pilot. The NBC show... not so much.
Before I even saw the review of the pilot, I ran across this:
'Heroes: According to Kring, there has been a lot of discussion in the writers' room about the hero's journey, as outlined by mythology scholar Joseph Campbell. In particular, the show will explore the themes of temptation and the duality between good and evil. "It's one of the things that we're really fascinated with, ... this idea that all of these people have free will," Kring said. "They are just like any of us. If you find yourself in a time in your life when you are desperate or destitute, and you suddenly discover that you can walk through walls. Well, then you may walk through the wall of a bank and rob it and steal money. If you are inclined to do good, and you have the ability to hear people's thoughts, then you will do good with that. And it really becomes about free will, which is also a part of the hero's journey. What do they do when they are suddenly tempted by darker forces?"'
Oh no he DI'INT!!!!!!!
Yes, the circle of pretension is complete. The Hero's Journey has been referenced. I have to hand it to Kring. It appears that he is going to singlehandedly save the superhero genre by including Joseph Campbell, temptation, and (gasp!) the duality of good and evil (the duality BETWEEN good and evil? Huh. Not so much). Because as we all know. nobody's EVER done that before (paging George Lucas -- check it out! You can be pissed at someone!). Seriously, just talking about TeeVee, if I were Joss Whedon, I'd be asking for a piece of this guy. Buffy was all ABOUT duality!!! Hell, I worked on a show where we did duality on a weekly basis, and that was YEARS before Tim Kring decided to puff up his chest and valiantly save the genre. In a more modern (read, 2006) context, WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK RON MOORE'S BEEN DOING ON BATTLESTAR GALACTICA?? Every character on the show struggles with the line between good and evil, with the nature of duality, and with the choice between dueling belief systems! There isn't a more sophisticated, timely show on TeeVee than Galactica, and the idea of Tim Kring saving genre television is insulting to the work Moore and his writers have been doing for two seasons.
Beyond TeeVee, if I were ANYONE ON THE FREAKIN' PLANET who had ever written a word about heroes, I'd punch Kring in the heart. "Oh, COMIC BOOKS. You know... for kids!"
This is idiotic, and it's precisely what I feared after watching the pilot. Like most people who don't like or understand niche genres, Tim Kring thinks it's gutter drama. He's arrived from Crossing Jordan to SAVE the genre, to make it palatable to people other than geeks and nerds who don't have high standards and will watch anything genre. This is a typical mindset of someone like Kring. You can tell who loves the genre and who thinks they're slumming. Kring definitely thinks he's slumming.
I have a lot of issues with Heroes but at its most basic level, it's just not any fun. Genre TeeVee is about metaphor and wish fulfillment. It's about being able to explore real-world issues in a fantastic way. When this is done correctly, the drama resonates. When it's done with an agenda, it sucks. This is the problem with Heroes. Here's the basic problem in a nutshell:
"Hey, I can fly."
"I'm so sad..."
Buffy wasn't always thrilled about being the Slayer, but even though she struggled you could see what it meant to her and those key moments became highlights of the series. Who wants to watch a TeeVee show where the main characters don't want to be on the show??? Kring creates a motley crew of standard-issue shoegazers -- mopey Jess from Gilmore Girls, who natters on and on about his flying dreams; his politician brother, boring even though Adrian Pasdar is playing him; the Asian nerd, who pretty much shrieks his way through the pilot and, frankly, if I were Asian I'd be offended by him; the single mom, who raises her son by stripping on the internet; a hot Indian guy who comes to America and becomes a can driver; a cop who apparently hears voices, although this character doesn't even appear in the pilot; a teenage girl who can't be physically hurt.
Geez. I feel asleep just writing that paragraph.
Naturally, I have an issue with Ali Larter's character, the Las Vegas stripper with a heart of gold. I mean, seriously. Do I have to say anything else? It's ironic that Tim Kring, with his "message television," creates THAT character. Hey, how would it be if he could create a character FIRST and a woman second?
Tim Kring is, he thinks, singlehandedly trying to save TeeVee. But that's not what TeeVee's for. If it needed saving, I can guarantee you that Tim Kring wouldn't be its first choice. There's a lot of crap on TeeVee, but there's good TeeVee, too. Battlestar Galactica, Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, MI-5. These shows don't aspire to save TeeVee. They just do their goddam job of putting out well made, thoughtful product. The point is, make something entertaining. Make something true to itself. The agenda for good television should be, Make it engaging. Make it fun. Make the characters rich, the drama surprising. If you start from a loftier perch, you will fall.
What's most aggravating about Heroes is how people buy into it. The TeeVee reviewers (don't kid yourself -- they're not critics) will be the most annoying. This Hollywood Reporter review is from someone who clearly drank the Koolaid. He read the press material and bought into this thing. These reviewers always act like the nerds who never get into the cool clubs. Now that these showrunners DEIGN to talk to them, they can do no wrong. The other problem with TeeVee reviewers is that they have a very short memory. They only remember the recent hit. So of course they're gonna compare Heroes to Lost, because nothing was on before Lost, right? And they won't mention Galactica, because that's a SCI-FI SHOW, and besides, it's on CABLE. And not good cable, either, like FX or HBO. This reviewer thinks the show is uniqque -- that's pretty much all you need to know. As derivative as genre fiction is -- and it is, by definition, somewhat derivative -- calling Heroes "unique" just points out how ill-informed the reviewer is. Y'know, film reviewers seem to have seen movies from, oh, even DECADES ago. WTF is up with TeeVee reviewers that they have no breadth of experience??
No show has been better promoted than Heroes. I expect that it will be a hit in spite of itself because, like TeeVee reviewers, the general public will buy into the lies. I've talked to people who loved the show and they aren't genre fans. I watched the pilot with five other people and we all hated it. These are people who are well versed in genre but who also watch and read other genres. I think genre fans will see through this thing. At least, I hope they do.
I'd love to know what y'all think of the pilot. I promise I won't bite.
np - The Bluetones, "The Bluetones." Yes, it's a new Bluetones record! Hurray!