[Not] For Your Consideration: Drama Series – “Heroes”

[As part of Cultural Learnings’ For Your Consideration Emmy Nominations Preview, the next two weeks will feature 7 Drama Series and 7 Comedy Series worthy of Emmy consideration. However, invariably, we don’t like all of them. Even some shows we watch, well, aren’t exactly Emmy worthy. So, [Not] For Your Consideration was born. For all of Cultural Learnings’ Emmy Coverage featuring Supporting and Lead Acting candidates, check out our For Your Consideration Index.]

Outstanding Drama Series

Heroes (NBC)

In preparing to write these pieces, I knew that I was going to have a problem with Heroes. I have a lot of opinions about this series, and admittedly not all of them are positive: despite enjoying the series immensely at certain points, at others I cringed and wondered just why I was watching it. So, knowing that I would likely end up writing an article about its season as a whole, I tried to distill my thoughts into something positive, but tentative. But then I realized that would not work, and that I needed to be honest. And so, here we are, with what is my first venture into this territory. Because, you see, even though it officially made the Drama Series Top 10…I don’t think that Heroes should be considered for an Emmy award for Outstanding Drama Series.

My reasoning is actually quite simple: as dramatic television, Heroes is a muddled mess that reflects creator Tim Kring‘s procedural past far too often. As science fiction or comic book fantasy, the series often reaches some very high highs; however, as a dramatic arc, the series never truly found its path. There were multiple reasons for this, but I think that I’ll start with the main one: uneven characters.

Any good drama is built on an ensemble; if a series is unable to rely on its supporting characters, it basically falls apart. This is a hallmark of any great drama, and depth of cast is always important. However, Heroes lacks anything even close to depth, instead watching as characters (Niki/Jessica, in particular) drag down the quality with storylines that are rarely, if ever, engaging.

The characters that it could rely on were unfortunately saddled with storylines that did nothing for them. Hiro, as an example, is an incredibly interesting character…and they had him in Las Vegas dealing with a conniving stripper for two entire episodes. Peter may have been a badass in the future, but he was whiny in the present and failed to provide a dramatic lead.

And there’s the problem: the show lost all sense of a lead narrative after its first few episodes and just kind of meandered about until arriving upon Linderman and the .07% solution. Mohinder was kind of the thing that tied it altogether, but he is perhaps the show’s worst character. And this is why I can’t exactly claim this as “Outstanding” drama: the show failed to develop a narrative or characters that actually provided that drama in a natural fashion.

Kring’s problem was that he was a writer on Crossing Jordan as opposed to The Sopranos: rather than understanding the depth of a show’s cast and its universe, he knows a small Medical Examiner’s office. I think it shows in Heroes; it is simply incapable of handling the scope and scale provided it.

The irony, of course, is that the single best single-hour episode of dramatic television was Company Man, a late season episode of Heroes. However, this brilliant work of Bryan Fuller was an anomaly, going against everything that the series usually represents. It focused in on Jack Coleman’s Mr. Bennet, his relationship with his daughter, and his past with Primatech in flashback form, while offering a tense standoff in the present. By eliminating all of the unnecessary plots and focuses, the talent behind this show proved itself capable of making great drama.

But where was the consistency? Some weeks the multiple storylines were balanced impeccably, but they would invariably come tumbling down. The show failed to find any momentum, resulting in a finale that was the opposite of impactful, failing to make even a dent into the pop culture consciousness compared to Lost or The Sopranos.

And while I’m all for smaller scale series getting their due where they perhaps didn’t before, that isn’t what Heroes is. It is a show that got into the Top 10 based on popularity and popularity alone, and one that doesn’t truly deserve to be there. Because, like it or not, this is the category for outstanding Drama series, and that isn’t what Heroes is.

It is a fun comic book fantasy with some great characters, some terrible ones, and some flashes of brilliance amongst moments of drudgery. I do not claim the show is bad, nor that I even dislike the show. I instead claim that, in the end, Heroes is not as worthy of Emmy contention as a whole host of other shows are.

Episode Submission: “Genesis” (Aired September 25th, 2006)

I say all of this, and will likely be preaching to the choir. With Company Man just sitting there waiting to be submitted and perhaps netting the series a nomination, Tim Kring and company decided to submit the show’s pilot, Genesis. This is perhaps the worst episode submission this year, only because it turned a likely nomination into an almost guaranteed failure.

What’s wrong with Genesis? On the surface, it does its job well: it handles a lot of exposition very gracefully, all things considered, and welcomes you into this unique world in a strong fashion. However, it has one distinct problem: it has no plot. Much like the series itself, the pilot is really just a string of random events that happens to intersect at times as opposed to a cohesive story. While a decent premiere, Genesis is actually a fairly weak hour of dramatic television.

When Emmy voters screened this episode, it is my belief that they would have been mildly entertained, but there is nothing to really latch onto. There is little attempt at emotional connection, and the comic book stuff is not overly fantastical. Claire jumping off of that tower is impressive imagery, don’t get me wrong, but is it really going to match up with the powerful emotions of a show like Lost where everything matters for a reason? And not just because of a magical eclipse?

While submitting the pilot is often quite common, I think that it’s a mistake for Heroes. This is a show that, although entertaining, suffered from a problem incredibly apparent in the pilot: its cast was spread out too thin and no true plot could develop. The episode features Niki at her least annoying, in perhaps its saving grace, but it cannot hold a candle to Company Man in terms of dramatic content.

And isn’t that what Drama should be all about? You be the judge: here’s clips from both Genesis and Company Man.


YouTube “Company Man”


Filed under Award Shows, Emmy Awards, Heroes, NBC, Television

5 responses to “[Not] For Your Consideration: Drama Series – “Heroes”

  1. Cindylover1969

    “I don’t think that Heroes should be considered for an Emmy award for Outstanding Drama Series.”

    If “Taken” (for heaven’s sake) can win an Emmy, then “Heroes” can damn well be nominated, at least. End of.

  2. I won’t even attempt to defend Taken, which rode Spielberg all the way to an Emmy even with its low quality.

    But it’s not that it is Sci-Fi that is the problem: is that, underneath that Sci-Fi, the dramatic underpinnings just don’t hold up.

  3. aunt jan

    I’ve just posted a note by my computer to not look up your blog in the future… Cultural Learning should just stick to the cultural or boring stations and let the rest of us enjoy the world of fiction. So long, farewell, or just plain “nuts “…. for both Heroes, Jericho, 24 and others that wont stand-up to your standards. Those cultural or boring stations are lumped into favorite tv packages to get them sold. (Yes, I do look at a few of these stations at times. I just don’t understand why it takes an hour to tell something that could be told in 15 minutes.) Why not check out all the QVC type stations and comment on the merchandise!

  4. Sorry you feel that way, Aunt Jan; there’s all sorts of television I enjoy greatly, this blog is in fact full of it. And I even enjoy Heroes. Just not to the point of being awarded with an Emmy.

    And I love me some fiction, to. I don’t know when society decided that people who are critical are incapable of enjoying things, but it’s a disturbing cultural trend.

  5. Michael

    Heroes never worked because it was stolen from the original people who wrote it.

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