September 22, 2015

Screen Time #3: "Heroes" (2006)


Welcome to Screen Time, my own feature where I ramble about spotlight some iconic and/or favourite TV series from the '80s, '90s and 2000s!
I'm a child of the '60s *big shock*. This accounts for me fondly remembering some oldies I grew up with, or having some of them in my all-time favourite list. But don't worry, I'm not stuck in the '80s ;). There are plenty of series I've liked and followed in the most recent years...and some current favourites too. So tune in with me, and don't forget your popcorn...

Logo property of NBC - no copyright infringement intended

Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama
Genesis: From an original idea by by Tim Kring
Time span: 2006 to 2010
Seasons: 4 (80 episodes)
Main characters & cast: Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) - Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka) - Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) - Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar) - Niki Sanders/Tracy Strauss (Ali Larter) - Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) - Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder Suresh) - Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) - Ando Masahashi (James Kyson Lee) - Sylar (Zachary Quinto)
Story setting: Mainly New York and Odessa (Texas), but other places around the world feature as well. Most of it is make-believe though, because the series was primarily filmed in Los Angeles.
Theme song: Original theme (and score) by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (known in the '80s as the pop duo Wendy & Lisa)
Spin-offs and remakes (to date): The sequel/reboot Heroes Reborn is starting on Sep. 24th in the US
In three words...: Exciting, surprising, adrenalinic

Facty facts & captions: Heroes premiered on NBC on September 2006. The basic concept was to explore the lives of a number of ordinary characters all over the world (but mainly in the States, of course...) who, after an eclipse, develop extraordinary powers (though they'll soon find out that some of their kind have been around for years). To further complicate the matter, a shady organization is after them, and a peculiar gifted one chases his own peers in order to claim their powers. Oh, and of course, in the very first season, our friends have to save the world - well, New York, that is. But more trials and enemies are waiting for them in the seasons to come, when morality and trust shift and alliances are struck and broken, the future and the past are remodeled, and these people have to learn to live with their powers and find their place in the world - all while doing their best in order to stay alive and free. Which makes for a wild ride full of action, surprises and poignant moments...but the best thing is, even if you rewatch the show after a short while (which I did), on the whole it doesn't feel less enthralling just because you already know what happens next...

Heroes original cast

Heroes was supposed to represent the TV version of classic American comic books, and it was originally meant to have an ever-shifting cast, until Tim Kring realised how popular the first season characters had become. So, he decided to keep most of them around, although, through the three seasons to come. only five of the original heroes (plus a handful of guest stars later promoted to cast regulars) remained steadily in place. Here are the original characters who got to stay...
  • Claire Bennet (former soap-opera kid star Hayden Panettiere), an average schoolgirl and cheerleader who struggles to come to terms with her power of cellular regeneration;
  • Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka, first seen in Scrubs, later to star in Hawaii Five-O), a bored Japanese office worker who is thrilled to find out he can bend space and time;
  • Matt Parkman (former Felicity and Alias regular Greg Grunberg), a down-on-his-luck police officer who sees a new opening in his newfound ability to hear other people's thoughts;
  • Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar, first seen in Top Gun, best known for the TV series Profit and Judging Amy), an ambiguous politician who is (unwillingly) able to fly, and is later revealed to be Claire's biologic father;
  • Peter Petrelli (ex Gilmore Girls co-star Milo Ventimiglia), Nathan's younger brother, a dedicated nurse who can "borrow" other heroes' powers and is bent on using them for a good cause.
Hayden Panettiere as Claire, Masi Oka as Hiro, Greg Grunberg as Matt and Milo Ventimiglia as Peter

Adrian Pasdar as Nathan...geared toward his goal

And here are the ones originally credited as guest stars who took a much bigger piece of the action later and were promoted to cast members...
  • Noah Bennet (former Dynasty star Jack Coleman), Claire's adoptive father, an alleged businessman who is secretly involved with a shady company that tracks down gifted individuals;
  • Ando Masahashi (James Kyson Lee, here in his first important role), Hiro's sidekick, who later acquires the power to enhance other people's abilities;
  • Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose, seen in the short-lived series Ferris Bueller), Nathan and Peter's mum, with more than a few secrets of her own and the power of dreaming the future;
  • and last but definitely not least, Gabriel Gray/Sylar (Zachary Quinto, former 24 regular in S.3 and future Spock in the Star Trek franchise), a complex serial killer who feeds on other people's powers.
    Jack Coleman as Noah, James Kyson Lee as Ando, Cristine Rose as Angela, Zachary Quinto as Sylar

    Other main characters in S.1 include:
    • Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy, here in his first important role, later to appear in the TV series Beauty and the Beast), the son of an Indian geneticist who tries to uncover the truth behind his father's death while continuing his research about the enhanced humans (he will star in S.2 and 3 too, but will only make a couple of appearances in S.4);
    • Niki Sanders (former model and Final Destination star Ali Larter), a mother and stripper suffering from DID with a dangerous alter ego (Niki was written out of the show in S.2, but Ali later resurfaced as one of her triplets, Tracy Strauss, who can freeze objects and turn her own body into water);
    • Isaac Mendez (Santiago Cabrera, here in his first important role, later to star in the TV series The Musketeers), a heroin addict who can depict images of the future (both in paintings and in a series of comic books that will still be around after his death, and that mainly feature Hiro and Ando's future adventures).
      Sendhil Ramamurthy as Mohinder, Ali Larter as Niki and Tracy, Santiago Cabrera as Isaac

      In the seasons to come, many new heroes and villains are introduced - sometimes significantly  blurring the line between the two roles. Here are some of them:
      • Maya Herrera (former The Sopranos regular and future Devious Maids star Dania Ramirez), who's able to virtually poison people to death when under a huge stress, or - later - at her own will;
      • Takezo Kensei/Adam Monroe (former Alias regular and future Vampire Diaries and Once Upon a Time guest star David Anders), a man with a very long history (thanks to his power of regeneration...which is the only clue we get about these superpowers having being around for a long time...um) and a personal vendetta or two;
      • Ellie Bishop (Kristen Bell, who had gained huge popularity with her TV role as Veronica Mars), a girl with a sadistic streak who can create and manipulate electricity;
      • Monica Dawson (Dana Davis, future 10 Things I Hate About You and Franklin & Bash regular, here in her first important role), who is able to instantly replicate every movement and physical ability she witnesses without any training;
      • Daphne Millbrook (Brea Grant, later to be seen on Dexter, here in her first important TV role), a thief who can travel at incredible speed;
      • Samuel Sullivan (Robert Knepper, previously seen in Prison Break, later to guest-star in Criminal Minds and to star in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt.1 and 2), a carnival leader who can literally shake the earth's foundations, and who will play a most ambiguous and substantial role in S.4.

      Dania Ramirez as Maya, David Anders as Takezo/Adam, Kristen Bell as Ellie

        Dana Davis as Monica, Brea Grant as Daphne, Robert Knepper as Samuel

        Did you know...: 

        ...The original pilot was 72 minutes long and incorporated parts that were later used in subsequent episodes, and parts that were totally changed or eliminated. For example, Matt's story has been changed, and footage from the unaired pilot has been reworked for episode 2; as a matter of fact, Matt is the only original hero who doesn't appear in episode 1 at all. For the details, see this link.

        ...The Petrelli brothers should have been twins originally (the reason why the authors changed their minds is stated in this interview with casting director Jason La Padura).
          ...Greg Grunberg auditioned for one of the brothers, but the casting team moved him to Matt Parkman's role, slightly changing the original conception of Matt's character as well (see same interview).

          ...Mohinder Suresh was supposed to be around 50 or more, till the casting people was impressed by Sendhil Ramamurthy's TV-star appearance, and the plot was changed consequently (again, see the interview linked above).

          ...Isaac's paintings and comics - along with all the other precognitive paintings occasionaly created by other characters - in reality have been provided by artist Tim Sale.

          ...Legendary comic author Stan Lee appears in a cameo as a bus driver in the S.1 episode Unexpected.

          ...Hiro was supposed to say "Banzai!" instead of "Yatta!" - Masi Oka was the one who suggested the change because the latter expression sounded more modern...but the funny thing is, Tim Kring had actually used the word "bonsai" in the pilot, so Masi explained to him that he probably meant "banzai", since "bonsai" translates as "little tree"...

          ...A number of famous faces (or faces who were going to become famous) guest-starred in the show. Here are some of the most well-known...
          • Malcolm McDowell (as Daniel Linderman) from the iconic movie A Clockwork Orange;
          • Stana Katic (as Hana Gitelman), future Castle star;
          • Christopher Eccleston (as Claude Rains), known as the ninth incarnation of Doctor Who;
          • David Berman (as Brian Davis), assistant medical examiner in C.S.I.;
          • Missy Peregrim (as Candice Wilmer), later on Rookie Blue;
          • John Glover (as Samson Grey), known as Lionel Luther in Smallville;
          • Ravi Kapoor (as young Chandra Suresh), former Crossing Jordan regular
          • Elisabeth Rohm (as Lauren Gilmore), former Angel guest star and Law & Order regular.
            DVDs: 

            All the seasons have been released on DVD and Blu-Ray, with an awful lot of additional material (including the unaired pilot). For more details see here.

            Books:

            There's a collection of graphic novels based on/inspired by the series, plus a novel and some magazines. You can read all about them here and here.

            Merchandise:

            A mobile phone game and a series of action figures have been released. I don't know if they're still available though.

            Links:

            There are a few fan sites about the show: Heroes Wiki - Heroes Wikia - Heroes on Wikipedia - HeroSite (the old one, related to the original series: the new one about Heroes Reborn can be accessed from here) - Heroes on IGN - and Greg Beeman's old blog (he was producer and director for the first three seasons of Heroes), with insight from the show and a few unofficial shots: start reading his posts from here. Also, of course, Tim Kring's 9th Wonders Tumbler site (now geared to Heroes Reborn), named after Isaac's comic books.

            Credits:  

            Most of the images I used in this article are NBC promo shots. Some come from the Heroes sites linked above. Please contact me (via the form on the sidebar) if you want them deleted. No copyright infringement meant.

            Fan stuff: OK, let me have a fangirling outburst to begin with...

            I. FRIGGIN'. LOVED. THIS. SHOW.

            Mind you, I've never been a superhero fanI saw the original Superman, but just because someone dragged me to the movie theater - and I barely remember sitting through it at all. I watched the odd Smallville episode and it didn't do anything for me. It's not that I don't like superheroes...but I'm not "into" them, and never have been. But then...this show happened.
            OK, the huge percentage of time travel/alternate realities might have something to do with my obsession with this series. But that alone can't explain my fascination with it. Maybe it's because these characters are heroes, but in a wider sense. And not superheroes. They're just a bunch of normal human beings who happen to change overnight and have to deal with their newfound reality, while trying to save their own lives and the world (or a portion of it). Also, some of their powers are useful or cool, while some are just a curse, not to mention, a complete source of embarassment...like being able to melt every single piece of metal you put your hands on. While some are definitely dangerous, or even potentially evil to begin with. On top of that, some of these characters love their new powers and want to use them for the greater good, while others are scared and/or pissed and would do anything in order to get rid of them. So, you know? it's their humanity that wins. It's because they're first and foremost human behind the shield of their powers that they appeal to us so much. Well, to me for sure...
            The funny thing is, I only caught a glimpse of the show here and there when it first aired. And it looked cool, but I didn't get the chance to actually follow it, and it's not like I particularly regretted not to anyway. Then the series ended, and I forgot about it. Until an Italian channel revived it a few months ago, and I started watching it for real, and like I said, I fell in love. Just in time for the sequel/reboot to be announced. Talk about coincidences.

            Season 2 cast

            I don't want to give you the impression that Heroes was a perfect show. But I fell in love anyway. It happens with people, uh? So, it's no surprise if it happens with a TV series. My major source of annoyance was the amount of loose ends. Some characters - say, Monica Dawson or the beloved and useful Molly Walker - didn't even get real closure...they just about disappeared and were never heard of again. (Though Molly's story did get an epilogue in the graphic novels, and as for Monica, scenes with her were supposed to be shown in S.3 but for some reason they never made the cut. Oh, and BTW, Molly will be in Heroes Reborn, all grown up...and with a different face. Sigh). And what about Caitlin, Peter's girlfriend who apparently got stuck in a dark dystopian future and was never rescued, nor even mentioned again? Or Claire's brother Lyle, who apparently only served the purpose of discovering his sister's powers and freaking out for a couple of minutes - since it looked like the writers didn't know what to do with him anymore after S.3, so he was sometimes mentioned but never seen again? Or Nathan's sons, who might indeed have been useful in S.1 only, but should have at least been mentioned in passing after that, while we only get to see them in a single S.2 episode and then nothing? And so on...
            Also, a few smaller points more I'm not too keen of...
            1. Mohinder's sudden greed for powers is totally out of character, and the result of his bad choices are hideous-bordering-on-tacky (as in, turning into a crazy human bug...ICK!). Thank goodness he will ultimately find a way back...I was especially sick to watch his skin peel away, not to mention, to see him wrap people into cocoons O_O.
            2. Claire and Bennet's I-love-you-dad/I-hate-you-dad relationship is like an endless loop that gets old after the third repeat or so...(...a bit like the let's-split/let's-be-brothers-again cycle in Supernatural - but I digress).
            3. Poor Hiro is sometimes excessively ridiculed - I get it, his character must have comedic respites, but to me the authors went to unnecessary great lengths in order to secure that.
            4. The changes some characters undergo in the alternate futures are a bit drastic to say the least. And Nathan and Peter go all Cain and Abel and then back again a number of times...not to mention, even Peter (future Peter) gets to play Cain twice. But I have to say, hard to buy as they are, these changes make for some exciting scenes.
            5. Niki's story is...well, controversial. First off, she's one in a set of three completely identical sisters (though I very much suspect the authors came out with this "spectacular" idea only when they began to feel like her character was getting old), but of course the triplet we meet afterwards is nothing like her when it comes to personality. She doesn't have a real power - only a severe dissociative disorder which ultimately results in her alter ego (her dead sister) being able to take over and display superhuman strenght. Only in the end will Niki be able to claim that power for herself. Now, it would make sense if her alter ego was one of her siblings, but no...it was a sister by adoption. Like I said, a second real sister (Tracy) will show up later in the series, but we never get to see the other triplet Barbara, nor are we told anything about her. Who knows, had Heroes be renewed after S.4, we might have seen her, but...
            6. Sylar absorbs a vast range of powers during his killings, but we never get to see him use some (like superhearing, to name one) once he acquires them, and we have to assume he's learnt to block those he doesn't particularly need (or, the storyline needs...) when it's convenient...um.
            "We're still family after all"

            Those are the main things that made a small dent in the show for me. But at the end of the day...Heroes had heart and soul and guts - both virtual and real ones ;). One never knew what to expect, and try as one might, it would have been impossible to predict what lied around the corner. Also, all the characters were strong, and the casting was perfect. Need I say Zachary Quinto was terrific? But then again, while his was the most complex role, every single Heroes actor got to play a few different versions of her/his character, what with all the alternate futures or (in Ali Larter's case) selves/twin sisters...Hayden Panettiere was the perfect cheerleader, but was also credible when she portrayed the determined young woman who was stronger inside than she even was outside. Adrian Pasdar, as a would-be congressman and President, with that all-American-(grown-up)-boy semblance, looked the part so much that I was completely baffled to learn he's American by birth but not by genes - his father is Iranian and his mother is from old Prussia...OK, "Pasdar" is not very American-sounding, and Adrian's ears, now that I think of it, remind me of Freddie Mercury's - but that strong chin and a sapient use of his dazzling smile got me fooled LOL. Milo Ventimiglia did look like the nice, compassionate, idealistic guy he was supposed to impersonate, but still got to grow during the series. Masi Oka was...well, suffice to say, we get to see two different versions of him, and both were flawlessly excuted and pure joy to watch. And so on...Oh, and did I mention that Zachary Quinto was terrific? I think I did...

            Before Sylar, there was the watch repairman, Gabriel Gray...

            Another thing I have to underline is, powers are not randomly assigned by the authors, but have their roots in the characters themselves. Every one of them clearly develop a kind of power based on their personality. A few examples: Claire is strong-willed and stubborn, so it makes sense that she becomes virtually invincible (note/spoiler: she's dead in Heroes Reborn nevertheless. I wonder how it could happen...). Hiro has been dreaming of becoming a hero and changing his life for years, so he gets the power to really change things by time and space manipulation. Matt is frustrated because he can't advance in his job (he's also dyslexic) and his colleagues look down on him, till his telepathy grants him an advantage in both fields (albeit brief), and finally gives him the chance to actually manipulate people instead of being their puppet. Nathan is ambitious and wants to be high up in the political gerarchy, so high up he gets...physically. Peter is sensitive and compassionate, so it comes as no surprise that he gets emphatic mimicry (the ability to absorbe the powers of others). Ando is Hiro's faithful sidekick, so it makes perfect sense that he becomes a power amplifier. Mohinder is consumed by the desire of understanding how the powers work, so it's appropriate that his power should consume him. Daphne lost the use of her legs, so her power compensates for it not only making her able to walk again, but also to run at supernatural speed. Niki's son Micah loves to dismantle electronic devices to see how they work, so it's a nice touch that he can ultimately communicate with them. And so on...
            I could rave about this show for days, but I suppose I gave you a flavour of it if you haven't seen it. Now, with Heroes Reborn just around the corner, it would be a good move to watch at least a few episodes of the original series, though it's not required in order to understand what happens in the new one (or so they say). I guarantee it's a great visual experience, on top of everything else (well, maybe except Nathan taking flight, which has always struck me as funny...because it looks like he's farting in midair LOL). The Heroes team did wonders with a somehow limited budget - as you'll learn if you read Greg Beeman's blog I linked to above. So yes, please, watch Heroes. Watch Heroes Reborn too, because I have faith in it. You'll feel...um...empowered?... ;). Well, maybe not...but you'll definitely have fun and feels and I-didn't-see-it-coming moments...so yeah...

            WATCH. HEROES. NOW.
             
            (Or I'll unleash Matt Parkman on you.
            See, he even has a new power for the day...
            Either way, YOU WATCH)

            [...Also, for those of you who were fond of the original series, a handful of heroes and allies are returning in Heroes Reborn: Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman), who will feature in all the new 13 episodes; Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka), Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), The Haitian (Jimmy Jean-Louis), Micah Sanders (Noah Gray-Cabey), Angela Petrelli (Cristine Rose) and Molly Walker (previously portrayed by Adair Tishler, now by Francesca Eastwood), who will be in a few episodes each].

            10 comments:

            1. WOW This was a super helpful post on everything Heroes-related! Good job! This was a ton of info and Iiked the additional 'Did You Know?' tidbbits. *gasp* Mohinder goes crazy?! MATT + FIRE? THE WORLD HAS GONE CRAZY! *goes to catch up on Heroes!*

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              Replies
              1. LOL, no, I only joked about the new power thing. The Matt+fire image comes from the Comic Con 2015, where they introduced the new series - both the cast and the visitors were given the chance to pose for a pic (there were a ton of Twitter those days, I saw some gifs too) with the pyrokinesis simulation. There was one with The Haitian as well. I don't think they actually gave Matt a new (and physical) power. That guy is scary enough when he uses his mind alone!

                You haven't seen all the old series then...poor Mohinder was abused by the authors LOL. Thank goodness he was able to revert to a normal state...though he retained an unusual physical force.

                And now...go catch up! ;D

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            2. I'm not really into the BIG superhero movies. I liked Ant-Man so you can see where I stand with all that. I like the smaller, character driven stories vs big explosions.

              I did watch Heroes when it was on. I remember that I liked it at first and then kind of drifted away from it but I forget why. lol

              I used to watch almost every show on television but now I have even less patience with tv than books! Ha!

              My DVR automatically records all the network primetime shows so I'll give the new one a shot.

              Karen @For What It's Worth

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              Replies
              1. As much as I love a good dose of magic and sci-fi, I prefer even those kind of stories to be character-driven myself...

                As for Heroes, a lot of critics and watchers drifted away from it after season 1 (or shortly after), so you're not alone LOL.

                Maybe it's not always a patience thing...I honestly think most series should stop after the first 4 or 5 seasons, instead of being milked to the point of exaustion. I still watch Supernatural and it still has its good moments, but I miss the first 6 seasons a lot...

                I hope you like the new Heroes (which is only a miniseries of 13 episodes so far, so maybe you'll be able to endure that much LOL).

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            3. I'm actually really interested in watching Heroes: Reborn, despite the fact I never actually watched the original. To be honest, back in 2006, I was, what? 8 or 9 years old?

              ONE MORE DAY! (Until Heroes: Reborn premieres.)

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              1. There's always time to catch up! ;)
                I hope you like the new one. I'm feeling so envious right now. Who knows when it will air in Italy...

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            4. I love that you mention that you're not a superhero fan, because I think that's a really important aspect of Heroes that it appeals to a much wider audience. You don't have to be a superhero fan to enjoy the show. So much of it is about the characters struggling with life and their powers, which often just make things harder for them.

              You're right though, there were a lot of loose ends. I think the sheer volume of characters in part contributed to the show's downfall. There were just too many things to keep track of. (Also, I HATED the Mohinder bug plot. How dare they do that to him. xD)

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              1. Haha, poor Mohinder, indeed. He was awful to look at, and his going-crazy-and-back arc was WAY too sudden.

                You may have hit the nail on the head about the amount of characters being too much to handle. I enjoyed them all, some more, some less - but I suppose your average TV watcher needs to focus on less characters, so they can grow to love (or hate LOL) them, while they have a hard time when there are too many people to follow.

                Delete
            5. Generally I do not read article on blogs, however I would like to say that this
              write-up very compelled me to try and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me.
              Thank you, very nice article.

              ReplyDelete

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