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Can “Heroes” lighten up?

Heroes_117Though I haven’t gotten much enjoyment from the show this season, I’m still surprised by how many mea culpasHeroes” showrunner Tim Kring offered in this interview with Entertainment Weekly. He falls on his 17th-century Japanese sword about the pace of the show, the way some new characters were introduced and choices of storyline, even suggesting that the show can’t really do romance. I think this is what they call “a funk.”

In one sense, I think Kring is over-apologizing. Not all the faults he mentions were such a big deal. In another, I think he’s under-apologizing, because he doesn’t mention what seems to be the longest-running problem with “Heroes”: How bland the characters (and in turn the acting) can be.

Even when exciting things happen, they happen to unexciting people. Brows furrow, threats get spat out in “this time we really mean it” fashion. But there’s very little emotional complexity and even less joy.

Saving the world has consumed the characters. On the surface, that makes sense — wouldn’t you drop everything if life itself were in jeopardy? Yet with few exceptions, this has robotized the characters (Is there a line one would say that another wouldn’t deliver the exact same way?) and leaves the show entirely dependent on the quality of the save-the-world stories, and as Kring admits, those have been hit-and-miss.

Heroes_2_117In contrast, even though “Lost” has its own set of major stakes, it has rarely failed to nurture the personal sides of its characters.  Even when it’s life-or-death out there, life goes on.

Compounding the problem is that the primary “Heroes” characters who do get a semblance of a personal life, such as Hiro and Claire, haven’t had very interesting ones. Even Peter and Caitlin have shown little connection in their budding romance outside of their shared life-or-death stakes. As for Noah, Matt, Nathan, Niki, Mohinder: Can’t these kids have any fun at all?

In its efforts to ramp up the show’s pace (putting the WGA strike aside for a moment), I would hate to see “Heroes” get even more intense. What’s the point of saving the world if you can’t smell its roses?

— Jon Weisman

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