Tuesday 23 September 2008

The shows return, one by one

Yesterday night's third season premiere of "Heroes" started the new TV season for me. In the course of the next month, all my favourite TV shows are going to start into new seasons. Amazingly enough, none of them got cancelled, none of them died a premature death leaving everything in limbo, as has happened so many times before. Even better: after desperately feeding from "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog", finally, the next year will bring an all-new shiny Joss Whedon TV show. Some have argued that, since its on FOX once again (the bastards killed "Firefly"), "Dollhouse" is doomed, but I am just going to think positive. Joss relies on people he has already worked with, like Eliza Dushku and Amy Acker, but also with newcomers to the Joss-verse like Battlestar Galactica's Tahmoh Penikett.
But back to "Heroes". I've had issues with this show from the beginning. The first season was OK, I watched it with friends, it had an aim, probably even attempted to create a mythology which is, and I am always going to say that, absolutely necessary for a show to keep me interested. The lack of mythology bound to a story arc is why I will never enjoy any other Star Trek show apart from Deep Space Nine. The failure of the grand mythology is why The X-Files are a show I mostly watched for the dynamics between the main characters, not for the story.
The second season of "Heroes", as was critisized by nearly everybody who watched it, lost its trail miserably. Part of that might be blamed on the writer's strike, sure, but so many other shows did just well despite the strike. In addition to that, there is a huge cast, but I only like one or two characters. This was the feeling I had at the end of the second season when it was clear that some people were going to end up dead: as long as Hiro would survive, and I knew that they wouldn't kill him, I really did not care.
Now I've come to ask myself why that is. I usually find likeable character even in shows I really dislike ("Grey's Anatomy" is a good example: I like about half the characters but I literally hate the stories they get thrown into). Now, why does "Heroes" fail so miserably at making its characters likeable? I have a theory based on an interview with creator Tim Kring I once read (and, since I have no idea where I found it, you are just going to have to believe me now): He basically said that he never really liked Sci-Fi, that he didn't really like comic. In short, he said that he had never been a geek. The show he created before "Heroes" was "Crossing Jordan", which had quirky characters, like "Ally McBeal" where all the lawyers were pathologists instead. In the interview he said that he had other people to take care of, well, the geeky stuff.
And I wondered how that was supposed to work. In Sci Fi television, we have grown accustomed to these great creator figures. We rely that they have everything mapped in their minds years before the scripts are even written. We imagine that the shows are small insights into a universe that is existing in their minds, of which we only get a fraction. If we couldn't rely on that, why should we follow the plot of "BSG" or "Lost"? Without the firm belief that there will be some sort of solution in the end, where we finally exhale and think, "oh, that's why that and that and that had to happen", it would be pointless. It also takes a strong creator to imagine good characters - who, in the case of "Buffy", basically had their very own language. Of course it takes great actors to bring them to live, and sometimes it takes time until the characters "have grown into themselves", but still. If I couldn't have relied on Tara's death in "Buffy" being absolutely necessary to get Willow to the point she needed to be in to conclude that haunting season six, I wouldn't have forgiven Joss Whedon for killing off my favourite character.
I think that the new television world fo the future that has to deal with so many changes will need creators with a strong imagination and the willingness to take every step necessary to realize their ideas. Shows which were just created to fill gaps, these soulless zombies of too many TV stations airing 24/7, were easily replaced by soulless but cheaper reality show zombies.
That isn't to say that "Heroes" falls into that category, I am willing to give it a second chance and all that.


Thursday, September 25th: The Office (Season Five)
Sunday, September 28th: Dexter (Season Three)
Sunday, January 4th: The L-Word (Season Six, Final Season)
Somewhere in early 2009: Battlestar Galactica (second half of Season Four, Final Season)
Early January or February 2009: Lost (Season Five)

I also started watching Lost-creator J.J. Abrams' new show "Fringe", starring Anna Torv and Joshua Jackson. It's kind of like The X-Files, and it has an evil corporation pulling the strings.


flame gun for the cute ones said...

I haven't read any Terry Pratchett apart from "Good Omens" (although I saw parts of "The Hogfather", it was eerily disturbing in a good way), but I really love Neil Gaiman's novels. After reading "Neverwhere", the subway is never going to be "just" a subway again.
I generally like good tv shows but they are, for me, something completely different from movies. You follow characters over a longer period of time, so they require an amount of consistency and development no two-hour-movie can ever offer.
Movies...well, there are really too many. I couldn't say what my favourite movie is. My favourite directors are Christian Petzold, Richard Linklater, Claire Denis, David Lynch, Barbara Albert (and probably a lot of others I've forgotten). I enjoy everything from realism to surrealism. What about you? Can you pick just one favourite movie?
Greetings and thanks for your comments and interest!

? said...

I agree it is sometimes difficult to have a favourite movie although I enjoy both paradigms (realism and surrealism) and even other important isms as long as it focuses beliefs, energies and visions which are recurrent across history and cultures.