Thursday, 26 July 2007

I Need A Hero...

I had other ideas today for a blog post, but having read noisms earlier post about the series Heroes (which debuted on British TV last night with an impressive 4.3m viewers) I felt like I had to respond.

I have to say, that based on the hype and things I had read about Heroes I had a feeling that I would like it, and I think that noisms could like it too if he had given it more than five minutes - in that time I think only a fraction of the characters had been introduced, how can you get a feel for an ensemble show in five minutes? Granted, the opening of Lost hooked you with the aftermath of the plane crash on the beach, but from the outset we're shown hints that Heroes has a much greater ambition, a cast split all across the world. To say "I don't like this" based on the first character one meets is a little extreme (perhaps noisms just really wanted to watch How To Look Good Naked, and this gives him a reason if pressed for one later).

Despite the first person we meet going on about the magnificence of cockroaches (noisms can pick it apart like a pedant if he wants, but I think the sense was supposed to be "cockroaches are hard bastards"), I'd heard about some other things in the show that kept me watching. Anyway, maybe a university professor of genetics wouldn't say this, but if we're watching this show are we expecting a documentary? Are we expecting to watch a sci-fi/fantasy show and see total realism? Forget that, do we expect to watch any television fiction and expect everything to be in accord with our conception of reality?

I'm watching Heroes because I've been told that there is a good story developing over the series, and I thought that the characters introduced last night were really varied; they were all at different stages in their lives with different dreams and reactions to their manifesting powers - the geek who can't get enough, the cheerleader who doesn't want anyone to know, the desperate mother who doesn't understand what is happening to her - this is not just teenagers coping at some fictional high school with the fact that they are mutants.

I put it to you, noisms, that you didn't give Heroes a real chance, and I put it to you ladies and gentlemen of the jury that while his writing about slugs and evolution has merit, his introduction to the topic was based on a prejudice against genre television in general.

Saying that, if Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit.


noisms said...

So hang on. You're defending Heroes because you've been told it has good character development and you've read good things about it? Now who's prejudiced?

It wasn't just the fact that a professor of genetics was speaking ignorantly about biology. It was the daft script and fact that the whole thing sounded exactly like something from the X-Men.

Besides, you're absolutely wrong in implying that we should accept unrealistic things like genetics professors who know nothing about evolution just because it's sci-fi and not supposed to be realistic. There's a difference between suspension of disbelief based on things that we know don't exist but which possibly could in the future (like intergalactic spaceships) and things that are patently ridiculous - like professors who don't know about what they're teaching.

There's using one's imagination and there's bad, implausible writing. They aren't the same thing.

mattiecore said...

Personally, I love Heroes. I watched the entire first season religiously; and I'm extremely excited for the second season.

To noisms:

It's a tv show...I don't know what you were expecting, but at the end of the day, it's a tv show. I'm not saying you should necessarily like it or that you should accept it uncritically, but what fun is it to just sit around and pick things apart like that? You can do similar analyses for every tv show, every movie, be it sci-fi or otherwise, and find problems like this. So at what point is it ok to suspend belief? I mean, you're dismissing an entire series (23 episodes, mind you) based on five minutes of the very first episode which included some innocuous little speech about cockroaches.

Also, how can you judge the writing across 23 episodes based on 5 minutes of one episode? Is that really a feasible way to accurately judge something? I say no.

From what you've said, it almost sounds like you expected bad things from the show before you saw it, and thus jumped on the first few things that stood out as problematic and used that as basis for abandoning the show in its entirety.

And I'm not saying that you need to watch the whole series, or even a whole episode, to gauge whether or not it's for you, but I feel that you were a hasty judge. Like I said before, you could pick apart every show or movie, so why does this one bother you show much?

noisms said...

Well, like I said, it wasn't just the cockroaches. I thought the script was very poor (a problem almost all sci-fi scripts have: people just don't talk like they do in TV s/f), and the whole idea very corny (the human genome has altered and now there are people with 'heroic powers'? Please. That's been done before, and it didn't make sense then either.)

It's not that I'm prejudiced against the idea of tv shows or films about superheroes. Unbreakable showed how you could take the concept and make it work - and that it isn't necessary to shroud the whole thing in pseudoscience to do so.

I don't think it's the case that my judement was hasty. It's more the case that I've read and seen a great deal of sf/fantasy and I can tell within five minutes (or five pages) whether a given sf/fantasy genre product will be worth reading/watching or not.

mattiecore said...

I don't know...I just view it very differently, obviously; I find all sci-fi to be corny, and don't mind believing in psuedoscience for a few hours every week. I'm level-headed enough to know that it is what it is and I leave it at that and just enjoy myself.

I still feel that five minutes or five pages is not substantial enough to really gauge something like that, and I'll bet I've read/seen about the same amount of sci-fi as you, but I certainly can't change your mind.

noisms said...

But sf/fantasy really doesn't have to be corny. Look at William Gibson, or George R. R. Martin, or Gene Wolfe, or M. John Harrison. That's sf/fantasy that aspires to be something great - not just schlock.

I think the first five minutes is a great place to judge, because every writer, producer and director knows that the first five minutes or five pages is the most important part of the story and consequently that's where they concentrate most on hooking in the audience. If they can't get that right, then it doesn't bode well for the rest of the series.

Anyway, it just really isn't my bag.

zero_zero_one said...

To noisms:
I agree with you that sf/fantasy doesn't have to be corny, and I applaud your taste in writers - but I quibble over the fact that you have jumped from talking about TV/film sci-fi and fantasy to namedropping authors.

And I think that, again, had you watched the first couple of episodes of Heroes you would have thought it less corny than you did the opening five minutes. I'm not defending the opening five minutes or the show based on the fact that I read some good things about it: reading good things about it lead me to watching it - actually watching it lead me to liking it.

noisms said...

I wasn't just namedropping authors for the sake of it; I was illustrating a point. Namely, that sf/fantasy doesn't, by necessity, have to be silly, implausible, and poorly written.

zero_zero_one said...

Ah, OK, I missed that you were responding directly to Matt finding all sci-fi corny, sorry.

What is the definition of corny anyway? And having named a lot of good non-corny authors, are there any non-corny shows?