Wednesday, September 27, 2006

We Could Be Heroes, if We Weren't So Sloppy With Plot Development

Unlike Jeanette, I am free to trash NBC up and down Broadway (and other popular thoroughfares.) I can tell you that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is a self-important snore, a masturbatory tribute to TV-making, fraught with typical Aaron Sorkin non-humor. Example: the cutesy dialogue between Matthew "Oxycontin" Perry and Bradley "Wha...? Zzzz..." Whitford in the second episode, "The Cold Open." Brad asks Matt if he still loves some chick named Harriet, and Matt's like nah, I just appreciate her talent, and her convictions, and her legs. Brad's like, Oh man, you're in trouble, and Matt's like, yeah I know. HILARIOUS RIGHT?

So that blows. And NBC's most popular show still involves people yelling at girls with bad boob jobs to open suitcases. HOWEVER. I caught Heroes the other night, and like the suckiest of suckers, I was sold. The show may rip off X-Men shamelessly with a little bit of Lost thrown in, but it managed to hook me despite some cheese. Let's compare the good with the dairy-based:

* Several genuine moments of surprise. Par example: at the end of the pilot, we learn that a main heroine's father is also the creep pursuing a different protagonist for his possibly revolutionary scientific theories.
* Unpredictable reactions to discovery of superpowers. Por ejemplo: aforementioned cheerleader is appalled to discover she is indestructible. This makes her a socially-unacceptable freak, she reasons. Yeah, because broken bones are the new black.
* Diverse cast includes East Asian, South Asian, and drug addict characters. Oh wait, that's Lost. * OK, we'll let that go because the East Asian character is hilarious!
* And the South Asian is HOT! What's up with me and the subcontinent lately?
* It takes place in New York.
* Ensemble cast guarantees you'll like at least some of them.
* Special effects look quite promising so far. If the show can keep up a hefty budget, viewers have some neat sci-fi tricks to look out for.

* Thus far the show leans heavily on the ever-popular "serendipitous encounters" motif.
* Writers show a propensity for dialogue of the anvils raining from the heavens variety. People, how many workshops do you need before you grasp the "Show, Don't Tell" rule? There are ways to provide backstory that don't involve dialogue like, "Well, good thing I'm a politician and our mom is dead and you were always such a dreamer!"
* Why is everyone's power cool except for the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold character, who has a terrifying, evil doppelganger? OK, that's not cheesy, but it's a plot wrinkle.
* I mean, this is VERY X-Men. I hope the showrunners decide to wriggle out of the formula a bit. Lost did new and exciting things, like break TV's language barrier and use flashback in innovative ways. Heroes needs to find its own schtick if it plans to stick around.

Or Hugh Jackman could join the cast as Wolverine, in which case I would gladly watch each week. Jeanette says that Hugh Jackman is too fruity to crush on, but come on. Jeanette likes Ewan MacGregor, who starred in two of the queerest films ever made: Moulin Rouge and Velvet Goldmine. He should make a sequel, Velvet Rouge, which concludes with Ewan spontaneously combusting into a pile of glitter and old Liza Minelli CDs.


Aaron Riccio said...

I wish you didn't hate on Studio 60 so much. The fact that NBC is so desperate for ratings that it's willing to let Sorkin rub it in their face, in what is definitively HIS show... I'm amused. And, as has been pointed out, his writing is terrible when quoted: it's how the actors deliver the lines that gives it all the punch. I can relate. Sure, we have yet to hit anything serious (which is why The West Wing was a better fit for Sorkin), but in terms of all the other crap out there, this is pretty good. (By the way, anybody else notice that Kidnapped uses the exact same font for the credits? And has the same composer? Or is that just me...)

Haven't seen Heroes yet, one of the dangers of giving me a DVR is that I have *SO* many things recorded that I don't have enough time to go back and watch 'em all. Time will tell.

If you want a show as well-written as Sorkin's though, but without all the mindless plotzing, check out Mamet's The Unit which is still the best written action show out there. Which isn't saying much when you compare it to, say, Standoff or CSI: Earth.

SwampHag said...

I'm still giving Studio 60 a chance to convince me it's good. I like the banter between the two main characters but am very disappointed with how the women are written. Sorkin is usually better at women's dialogue and story lines. So we'll see.

I think Heroes has a lot of potential too and will definitely continue to watch. I liked the various reactions to discovering their powers and liked the darkness of the hooker's experience and confusion.

I'm with Jeanette re Hugh and Ewan. But then I'm still mad at the X-men movies for not including my favorite character (Gambit) - can you tell I have sons with whom I watched the animated series? - and favoring the oh-so-boring Wolverine instead. ;-)

Alanna said...

I've got nothing against Ewan; I just wish he'd kept some of his Trainspotting edge instead of getting into this showtunes stuff. I'm with ya on Gambit though, because two TV actors who I love - James Marsters and Josh Holloway - were both rumored to be wanted for that part. Would have made the third movie a lot more interesting.

SwampHag said...

I agree about missing the Trainspotting edge in Ewan.

I had no idea JM and JH were being considered for Gambit..... what a shame that never happened. Then again, I may have just been disappointed in the live action version. (Is it so wrong for a middle-aged woman to have a crush on a cartoon character? *LOL*)

is that so wrong? said...

Isn't kind of suspect how close "Heroes" is to the X-Men? So close, that say Marvel could begin civil action on the grounds of copyright infringement? A good TV show, though. I quite enjoy the chick with the evil doppelganger thing, that adds a nice layer of complexity for the character.... especially for an actress who is perhaps best known (?) for her role in Final Destination.

Alanna said...

SwampHag - Oh yeah, they actually asked JH to do Gambit but he was too busy with Lost... which I'm super excited to see again this week. The networks should start paying me for how casually I slip in plugs for their shows.

Is That So Wrong - There's no copywriting ideas, so I guess as long as they don't start calling anyone Storm or Dr. X they're all right. I'm definitely interested to see what's going to happen to doppelganger girl, in any case.

Viv said...

the East Asian is totally a Sambo character, rarrrggggh. Jess from Gilmore Girls is hottt, rarrgggh.

^-- contribution to this post.

Alanna said...