BBC2, Wed 25 Jul, 9pm
‘Hokum’ doesn’t even begin to describe Heroes. Essentially a long-winded version of X-Men, the opening volume follows a group of strangers from around the globe who come to realise that they have been endowed with incredible powers.
The characterisations here are pure pasteboard, from the vaguely ‘mystical’ Indian taxi driver and the smart-mouthed cheerleader to the wide-eyed Japanese computer programmer and the troubled artist who ‘paints’ the future. As these furrowed-browed, plump-lipped outsiders drift together to prevent some vague foretold disaster (a plot to destroy New York, natch) we are exposed to some of the most horribly stilted dialogue to spew forth from an American network (‘A global eclipse; it makes one realise how small we all are’).
The intended message here is that ‘ordinary’ people can be heroic, which is a squalid little premise for an escapist, comic book-style fantasy in itself. But the series is inevitably founded on that time-honoured lie that beautiful stereotypes with smooth skin can transcend their mortality and defeat indefinable evil so long as they choose the right team. The biggest problem, however, is that, despite endless dreary dwellings on what a frightening responsibility it is to be endowed with supernatural powers, there is in fact nothing truly mysterious or even vaguely threatening about the perils these characters face. The most fantastical thing about Heroes is that it has inexplicably become the highest rated drama in recent US television history.