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[06/13/06 - 12:00 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Heroes" (NBC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

With the official start of the 2006-07 season less than three months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month or so previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at one of the 39 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.

There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entry:

HEROES (NBC)
(Mondays at 9:00/8:00c this fall)

The network's description: "The epic drama "Heroes" chronicles the lives of ordinary people who discover they possess extraordinary abilities. As a total eclipse casts it shadow across the globe, viewers follow a genetics professor (Sendhil Ramamurthy, "Blind Guy Driving") in India whose father's disappearance leads him to uncover a secret theory -- there are people with super powers living among us. A young dreamer (Milo Ventimiglia, "The Bedford Diaries") tries to convince his politician brother (Adrian Pasdar, "Judging Amy") that he can fly. A high school cheerleader (Hayden Panettiere, "Ice Princess") learns that she is totally indestructible. A Las Vegas stripper (Ali Larter, "Final Destination"), struggling to make ends meet to support her young son (Noah Gray-Cabey, "My Wife & Kids"), uncovers that her mirror image has a secret. A prison inmate (Leonard Roberts, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") mysteriously finds himself waking up outside of his cell. A gifted artist (Santiago Cabrera, "Empire"), whose drug addiction is destroying his life and the relationship with his girlfriend (Tawny Cypress, "Third Watch"), can paint the future. A down-on-his-luck beat cop (Greg Grunberg, "Alias") can hear people's thoughts, including the secrets of a captured terrorist. In Japan, a young man (Masi Oka, "Scrubs") develops a way to stop time through sheer will power. Their ultimate destiny is nothing less than saving the world."

What did they leave out: Leonard Roberts and Greg Grunberg's characters (D.L. Hawkins and Matt Parkman respectively) actually don't appear in the first hour of the show's two-hour pilot. Unfortunately only the first half was available for screening.

The plot in a nutshell: Scrolling intro text tells us that "a seemingly random group of individuals has emerged with what can only be described as 'special abilities.'" And that "these individuals will not only save the world, but change it forever." From here we make the rounds on the show's rather large ensemble cast: there's Peter Petrelli (a surprisingly upbeat Milo Ventimiglia), a nurse who has dreams that he can fly; his skeptical brother Nathan (Adrian Pasdar), who's running for office; Niki Sanders (Ali Larter), a Vegas webcam stripper who catches her own reflection moving; her prodigy son Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey); Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere), a Texas cheerleader who finds she's literally unbreakable; Isaac Mendez (Santiago Cabrera), a junkie artist whose paintings reveal the future; and Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka), a corporate drone who thinks he can move space and time. Tying them all together is Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), a professor in India whose controversial theories about evolution have drawn the attention of a mysterious figure (known only as "Horn Rimmed Glasses" in the script). It seems said beliefs also led to his father's death and, fearing for his life, he flees to New York to seek out one of the evolutionary leaps he's been tracking. There, undercover as a cab driver, he stumbles upon Peter, who's now convinced himself he can fly and is willing to literally take the leap to prove it. We also begin to see the various connections between our "special" people, such as the daughter of one of Peter's patients (Tawny Cypress) is dating Isaac, one of Hiro's friends is a regular "viewer" of Niki and in the pilot's final big reveal - who "Horn Rimmed Glasses" actually is. Oh, and did I mention this all is happening during a solar eclipse?

What works: The show's large, multiethnic (and multinational) cast - not to mention its supernatural elements - will undoubtedly draw comparisons to "Lost" - and for once, that's not a bad thing. What "Heroes" gets that the various "clones" out there don't is that the characters come first and the overarching plot comes second. And even then it's only when we've warmed up to the characters that the show starts to reveal its potentially large, multi-year plot. In fact, my favorite part about the show is simply that (for the most part) the characters don't treat their abilities as a curse, but rather as their salvation - Peter, a dreamer by nature, finally has something real to stand up for; Niki, constantly under the thumb of the loan shark she used to pay for her son's tuition, finally has a way to fight back; and Hiro, desperate to stand out, finally gets to break free from being a cog in the machine. It's their "discovery" that powers the show and it's very intoxicating. Further livening things up is David Semel's feature-level direction - from big moments like Peter leaping off a building to small character bits like Hiro standing out from his ant-like co-workers during company mandated exercises. There's just plenty to love about this show. NBC really is swinging for the fences on the drama front this fall.

What doesn't: Those hoping for quick explanations about how these people got their powers, why "Horn Rimmed Glasses" is after them and so forth are going to be very disappointed. To its credit thought, the show doesn't let such questions hang over the proceedings (unlike say "Invasion," "Surface" or "Threshold") and wisely makes the action about the characters instead of some global quest for answers.

The challenges ahead: Simply put, are NBC viewers ready to embrace a sci-fi drama?





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· FUTON'S FIRST LOOKS, THE (TFC)
· HEROES (NBC)











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