The Return of Heroes: Ordinary People with Extraordinary Abilities Doing Increasingly Ordinary Things

Standard

With the recent announcement that NBC will be reviving it’s once-great drama about ordinary people discovering that they have extraordinary abilities (Heroes) for a miniseries in 2015, I’ve taken a deep breath before weighing in on the judgmentally -challenged network’s decision.

For those unacquainted with the show, the first season of Heroes is without a doubt the greatest season-long story arc I’ve ever seen accomplished in a television series.  The second season was promising, but crippled by the Writer’s Guild strike, and thus half as good as the first.  But still I kept my hopes up for the Monday night event that I looked forward to all week.

“Heroes” was a story told in Volumes, with the first two seasons being Volumes 1 and 2.  The second half of season 2 was meant to be Volume 3, but it didn’t happen because of the WGA strike.  The third season consisted of Volume 3 and 4.  Volume 3 started out promising with an interesting new focus on some of the more vile people who had developed superhuman abilities, but the character arcs began to circle back on themselves and become repetitive.  This problem persisted through Volume 4, which had a far less promising premise.

By the time season 4 of Heroes infected a dwindling population of American television sets, true fans of the show were ready to take the series out back and shoot it.  It truly hurt to watch such a great show suffer so much.  The character arc problems continued and the pace at which they repeated themselves quickened.  The mythology unraveled.  It felt as if new writers were brought in and given only Spark Notes on the show.  There was no pay off, and the plot kept getting worse and worse.

In the words of Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory:  “Heroes gradually lowered the quality season by season until we were grateful it ended.”

All of this has been an elaborate set up for my own abusive relationship with the series.  I tried Heroes for the first time when my mom went to Alaska to visit my older brother and I was left home alone for several days.  I was just a high school kid, bored, looking for something to pass the time.  The pilot had me hooked.  I stayed up all night watching the first 8 episodes all in a row and arrived at my high school classes the next morning exhausted and hungover from my bender.

By the time I picked up on the series, Heroes was on that hiatus that most shows take around Christmas.  It wasn’t but a few more days before I was caught up with the first 12 episodes and faced with a long wait for the show’s return in January.  I used the gap to peer pressure my friends into joining my obsession, and soon we were gathered around, poorly supervised at someone’s grandparents’ house every Monday night, losing ourselves in Heroes.  This was my senior year of high school.

Before heading off to college, I purchased Season 1 on DVD.  After so many initial lonely nights alone in my room, I began my first failed attempts at branching out.  They all centered around people that I already knew and getting to know their roommates.  It was the lamest entry into the second degree of separation anyone has ever attempted.

One girl who had been in a few of my high school classes, Catherine, was living in an apartment off campus.  Catherine and I never really hung out, more of just – around each other.  We had some similar friends, one of my closest swimming friends in particular.  Those first months of college, we went on road trips to Gainesville to see our mutual friend, and actually kinda got to know each other a little better.

Soon I was showing up uninvited at her apartment, leaving perverted stick-figure comics on her roommates’ communal dry-erase board, and forcing my Heroes problem down their throat.  Catherine and one of her two normal random roommates, Kalina, both bit.  Their other normal roommate, Connie, was shy and had a separate group of friends but also joined us at first.  She soon fell off our break neck pace though, and then there were only three of us and frequent joiner, Luis from back home.

We tore through that first season, often watching four episodes in one sitting.  It wasn’t much in terms of a fascinating social life, but it got me out of my dorm and off campus even.  It helped me become friends with Kalina and got me talking to people that I didn’t previously know before.  It was a small, disfigured step in the right direction I guess.  More importantly, it was the Beta version of my LOST and beer pong nights, which formed the core of my socialization a few months later.

On a side note, Catherine and Kalina had another roommate, Jessie.  Jessie was a hot mess, emphasis on the “hot.”  She was very attractive physically, but had the worst personality in the world.  There wasn’t much going on upstairs for her (her brain I mean, not her boobs – those were fine), and her biggest concerns all revolved around vacuous social functions.  Jessie wore her virginity like a first place ribbon that she used to taunt guys with as she dressed scandalously and flirted relentlessly, sending the complete opposite message.  She bragged about not drinking too, but that soon ended.  Jessie and Catherine were in the same sorority, yet ran in separate circles.  Being the messy roommate, Jessie would soon find herself at odds with the other residents of that apartment.  Eventually she took a page out of my roommate’s playbook and just stopped living at the apartment.

There’s a key anecdote that captures Jessie’s wild and often moronic spirit.  She didn’t like the taste of water.  I can’t explain that.  I can only state it as fact, the way that she always did.  Instead, she hydrated using Diet Pepsi.  How she still had teeth is a complete mystery to me.  Well as I said, after getting to college she traded bragging about not drinking for actually drinking.  Her “No H20” diet coupled with copious amounts of beer while tailgating before an early season football game in the ludicrous central Florida heat of August/September (they’re practically one 60-day long month down here) put her in the back of an ambulance.  This was before her falling out with her roommates, so she just vanished one weekend after failing to meet up with them at the game.

I know that it looks like I glorify binge-drinking with some of these stories, but you gotta stay hydrated kids!  Booze dries you out.  That’s why your head hurts the next morning.  Alcohol took the edge off of my social anxiety, and at the time I credited it more for my social accomplishments than I should have, but I’m not advocating that you go out and beer bong a six-pack right now.

Not until you drink plenty of water first.

Beer is important, but water is more important.

Advertisements

Television Addiction: A Great Way to Make Friends – TBT

Standard

Over the month-long semester break between Fall and Spring, I watched as my friends back home developed an all-consuming addiction that chewed up entire days and nights of their lives.

They discovered LOST, one of the greatest TV shows of all time ever.  At the time, ABC had every single episode on their website, where you could watch as many as you could stomach interrupted only momentarily by 15-30 second ads dispersed amongst each episode in about five places.

They lost themselves in it and they didn’t offer to take me along with them.  I would come over to a friend’s house, and there they were, huddled around a screen in a dark room, flailing violently in response to enigmatic plot twists as if they had completely lost control of their limbs.

The best plot twists have a devastating effect on the central nervous system.

Some nights I would pepper them with pesky questions about what was going on in the show.  “I thought their plane crashed on an island and they were castaways.  Why is there a cloud of smoke that is murdering people?”  “Why is he having sex with her?  I thought they were brother and sister.”  “You’ve already seen this.  What’s in the damn hatch?”

I tried so hard to stay away.  I told myself it would never be me, but then the teasers for Season 4 began airing.  The survivors were going to be rescued!

In January of 2008, I tried watching LOST for the first time.  I was immediately addicted.  Every spare minute of every day I spent in front of my computer.  I had to catch up before the next season began!

Homework fell by the wayside.  New Year’s Resolutions of getting out of my dorm room and making new friends were forgotten.  LOST had taken over my heart and soul.

Binge-watching will be the downfall of civilization.

I’m not proud to say that the addiction was cut off cold-turkey.  It wasn’t a decision of my own.  I just ran out of the stuff.  I had to wait until season 4 was aired, one episode per week.  Three seasons of 20+ episodes each and I had managed to chew through them in less than two weeks.

With my LOST addiction no longer occupying so much of my time, I actually did get around to that homework and friend-making.

LOST was moved to Thursday nights.  My Spring schedule gave me Fridays off from class.  I had a beer pong table, a fridge full of cheap beer, and an amazing TV show to celebrate my three-day weekends.  It was perfect.

It became a ritual for my new found friends, even ones who didn’t watch the show (they were put in the corner and shushed when they asked questions about what the hell was happening).  When those white letters popped onto the black background with a triumphant horn and percussion combination signaling the conclusion of that week’s episode, we would explode into speculation as we returned the couches to the common room and unfolded the ping pong table.

Arts and entertainment have tremendous power to bring people together.

Beyond just the incredible, intricate, philosophical journey that LOST took me on, it also served as an inauguration for weekends of binge drinking and getting out of my shell to make friends.  It wasn’t just a profound narrative experience, it was a big part of growing up for me.  For that reason, I will always hold the show dearly in my heart.

Do you have any TV shows or movies that you associate with important periods in your life?