While Heroes has suffered both creatively and ratings-wise during its latest season, another show about super-powered individuals has thrived. Even with new cast members and four new showrunners behind the scenes, Smallville is generating great ratings and tons of buzz. The show has pleased many fans by moving the action to Metropolis, which has allowed the writers to focus more on Clark’s evolution into Superman. The action-packed series has become a perfect example of how to bring complicated comic book storytelling to television.
With NBC recently firing two Heroes producers in a desperate attempt to get the show back on track, it’s obvious the series needs help. In an effort to help the network revitalize their struggling series, I’ve come up with a list of five things Smallville delivers that Heroes fails at.
1. It Actually Makes Sense
Smallville has had some preposterous plot lines over the years, but no matter how bizarre things get, everything always makes sense in the end. I’ve never felt completely lost or confused while watching the series, even on the rare occasion when I’ve missed an episode or two. Smallville also does a good job at answering questions and solving its ongoing mysteries in a timely manner. Most shows can’t pull off a Lost-like extended mystery format, but that hasn’t stopped Heroes from trying and failing to do just that.
The problem with season 3 of Heroes is that nothing makes any sense. Former villains are now good guys, former good guys are now villains, Sylar is randomly a Petrelli, people are time traveling all over the place, and dead characters are being resurrected left and right. The writers could learn a thing or two from the Smallville team, who seem to know exactly where their characters will end up.
2. It Delivers the Action
Anyone who watched the first season of Heroes remembers the crushing disappointment felt around the world after the finale aired. Viewers expected the season to end with the characters teaming up against Sylar in an action-packed extravaganza, but instead we got what amounted to a half-assed street fight. Heroes is on a major network and reportedly has a budget of about $4 million per episode, but the action on Smallville is far more satisfying. Instead of having Peter Petrelli lose his powers every few episodes, why not have him save some lives and throw a few punches?
3. It Offers Plenty of Romantic Drama
By combining action, mythology and complicated romantic relationships, Smallville is the rare show that appeals to both men and women. Some fans don’t care about whether Clark ends up with Lois or if Chloe eventually marries Jimmy, but others are addicted to the romantic drama. Aside from an oft-shirtless Milo Ventimiglia, Heroes doesn’t offer much in the way of sex appeal. It also fails miserably anytime it dares to include a romantic subplot, as evidenced by the relationships between Claire and West, Mohinder and Maya, and Hiro and that 17th century Japanese woman. Saving the world may be important, but fans need something more emotional to invest in. Heroes offers nothing of the sort.
4. It’s Not Overflowing with Characters
The producers of Smallville have the entire DC Universe to pluck characters from, yet the show only has seven regular cast members. Many of these actors don’t even appear in every episode, which allows the writers to tell smaller, more character-based stories amidst all the action and chaos. On the other hand, Heroes is overflowing with characters that have outlived their usefulness. The series also makes the mistake of trying to touch on every character in every episode, which leads to too many underdeveloped subplots. If the Heroes writers don’t want to look to Smallville for inspiration, they should look to Bryan Fuller, who wrote the season 1 episode “Company Man.” That installment, which focused solely on Noah Bennett’s back story, is the best hour the series has ever had. It’s also the only episode that took the time to explore the life of one main character.
5. It Evolves
Smallville started out as a monster-of-the-week high school show similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but has since evolved into a mythology-based drama that doesn’t even take place in the small town where it began. The show isn’t afraid to get rid of some characters, move others forward, and shake up the status quo when need be. The biggest problem with Heroes is that it’s been running around in circles since its first season. How many times can the gang travel to a horrifying alternate future? How many different people can Ali Larter possibly play? How many times can a character die and come back to life? Heroes needs to take a cue from Smallville and learn how to change and evolve, otherwise it doesn’t stand a chance of reaching its eighth season.
– Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of the CW)