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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Attention NBC: How you can save Heroes (before it’s too late)

Published: November 21, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

There comes a point when talking about how to save a television show becomes pointless. This point is usually made when entertainment and popular culture scribes decide that giving their own suggestions would be a good way to kill a thousand words or so. However, the truth of the matter is when a program reaches this point there is ultimately no way of salvaging it, and the only hope is to slow down the bleeding. Presently, this is something that NBC network executives as well as loyal fans of the previously megahit show Heroes know all too well.

When Heroes, the television program that told the story of normal individuals receiving extraordinary powers, first premiered, it was what every show aspires to be. The hour-long drama was a critical darling from the outset and quickly became a ratings juggernaut, rapidly pulling in close to fifteen million viewers per episode.

The story was fresh, moved quickly, and was marketed as smartly as a television show featuring a cheerleader who routinely experiments with breaking every bone in her body in order to see if she can later force her joints and skeleton back into their appropriate places (don’t worry, all the cracking and creaking of the bones are highly audible).

Tim Kring’s brainchild was truly a pop culture phenomenon and there was no reason for anyone to think that it wouldn’t stay one heading into it’s much hyped second season. Alas, the good fortune that Heroes was met with in its first season was not to be duplicated.

After the first few episodes of the second season of Heroes, it was clear to the critics that the show had been hit with the dreaded sophomore slump. There were many causes for this drop in the quality of the show. Kring himself believed that most of the problems had to do with the Writer’s Strike that shortened many other television shows that same year.

However, that event was not the sole cause of the mess that Heroes seemed to have unexpectedly trip into. The writing became stale. Suddenly a show that prided itself on fast paced storylines and played with the adrenaline of the viewer was being bogged down with ridiculous love stories and convoluted plot twists that didn’t make sense in the overarching storyline (not exactly a show you would want to spend an hour with every Monday, right?). To Kring’s credit, he did acknowledge that he and his writing team had made these mistakes and would do everything to in their power to fix them.

Fast forward to season three (this year, for those who are not mathematically gifted). Unfortunately, it seems that Heroes has still not hit the creative stride it once had. The viewership is down again and the network recently dismissed two of the chief writers. Thus, without a doubt, the creative team of Heroes is probably wondering what can be done to save the fledgling show.

How can they restore what was once supposed to be the trademark show of NBC? In all honesty, lightning in a bottle rarely strikes twice, even less often when dealing with television. Viewers are fickle people, and once they leave they seldom return (I know this because I once spent two days watching every Heroes episode I could find then promptly dropped the show after it’s season two finale). There is no easy answer to the problem Heroes has stumbled upon. Instead, the hour-long drama’s writers have two options.

Option 1: Continually try to patch up persisting story problems with the belief that a change here or there will save the show …

Option 2: Go big. Recognize the change that has to be made and make it. Characters can develop without losing sight of who they truly are. Action is good but meaningless action is lazy writing. These characters are supposed to be normal people doing extraordinary things (a fact that has been forgotten).

That is where the true story lies. Finally, realize that the show’s ratings won’t ever equal what they once were. But, creativity (as shown by Season 4 of Lost) can always be found again.

NBC may not have a show that saves the network anymore, but given the right plan (one that I do not propose to have) Heroes can still be a viable program and the critical darling it once was.