Sunday, September 24, 2006

TV: Heroic Would Be Pasdar in a Loin Cloth

Ever play like you had a super power when you were a kid? Maybe you could fly? Maybe you could talk to the dead? Maybe you had premonitions? Watching NBC's Heroes, it's obvious that Tim Kring wished he had a super power as a child and, apparently, it's the sort of power that pops up in letters to Penthouse Forum. How else do you explain the two female characters?

Take for instance teenage Claire Bennet (played by Hayden Panettiere). She's a cheerleader. Don't worry, you didn't have to pay attention to every line of dialogue to search out that clue. Someone decided to make it much easier and have her wear her cheerleader uniform throughout the first episode. Now, understand, she's not at cheerleading practice, nor is she shown at any games. She just likes to wear it day-to-day, or some creative 'genius' figures a skimpy skirt is what every woman doing stunts would wear. When she walked through fire in it, we were honestly surprised someone didn't have the 'bright' idea to 'strategically' burn it.

Then there is Niki Sanders (played by Ali Larter). She's a mom. She's a working mom. And like any working mom who wants her young son to have a good education, she borrows the money for private school from the mob. We do that too. But for milk money, we usually go to the Vatican. After you get over the stupidity of that plot twist, you're still left with what working mom does for a living. Which is?

Let's let you guess. She's a working mom, she's a single parent. Maybe you're remembering Linda Lavin's Alice and thinking "waitress." Or maybe you're remembering Bonnie Franklin's Ann Romano or Judith Light's Angela and thinking "advertising." You're wrong.

We'll help you out by telling you what she wears to work, okay? Bra and panties.

Bra and panties. That's it. Sometimes, if the patrons have enough money, a little less. That's because she's a computer worker. No, she doesn't repair them. No, she doesn't enter data or program them. What she does is internet porn. A worthwhile vocation, we're sure, and one that keeps the spine supple jugding by the number of times Larter, on all fours, stuck her ass in the air.

But Phyllis Schlafly can breathe easy, she works out of the home.

Now having seen a teenager run around in a cheerleading outfit the whole episode and gotten to see Niki work it in her bra and panties at the start (by choice, Madonna, by choice) as well as be forced to 'perform' by the mob near the end, you might wonder how much male flesh was on display?

But if you wondered that, you're thinking of another NBC, a NBC that captured ratings, won time slots and offered up hours and hours of entertainment. Those days are long gone. Having lost out to CBS, NBC doesn't know what it is and it's perfectly comfortable displaying women like meat on the hoof if it means they might be able to come in second in the overnights.

Masi Oka's character's name is Hiro Nakamura which is strange because we didn't realize that was Japanese for "Tim Kring." Hiro's super power is the manipulation of time and space which allows him to pop up anywhere. (On American TV, that translates as NYC.) And like the creator of the show, he can think of nothing finer to do with his powers than pop into the ladies' room.

Getting the picture? Good.

If the show can get past the leering quality, this is one to watch. The two women added something more than the mere flesh that was scripted. Oka appears to be channeling Bobby Lee (good for a sitcom, bad for an action adventure) and hopefully he will tone it down as the women discover a world with real clothes.

Among the males (all fully clothed throughout and nary a swimmer's speedo or wrestler's singlet in sight), the stand outs were Peter Petrelli (played by Milo Ventimiglia) and brother Nathan Petrelli (played by Adrian Pasdar). That said, this was the set-up episode and the earnest conflict of a brother who does and one who waits will get stale real quick if too many more episodes return to that in scene after scene.

Pasdar is the actor most comfortable in his character currently. Not a surpise because Near Dark put him on some maps but should have made him a star. What that film failed to do, Heroes might. He's really that good.

Nathan's running for elected office. Pasdar's good enough that you don't hold that against the character. But, in spite of the BILL FRIST SAVES LIFE headlines, we're not really seeing a super powered politician. So, when Nathan needs a little cash, we'd suggest to Tim Kring that he now owes it to the audience to have Pasdar strip down to his briefs, hop on a bed and wiggle his butt at the camera. (And let's not kid that, in Profit, it was the fact that his character crawled into a cardboard box at the end of episodes that raised interest, it was the fact that he did so nude and sucking his thumb -- ought to be a market online for that.)

The show hits some strong notes in the first episode. Provided that Kring can stop seeing women as objects (and isn't it sad that the only working heroine does webporn -- get us out from under, Wonder Woman, indeed) or at least become an equal opportunity offender (Tailhook: The Musical), this is a show to watch. It will hook you in. There are continuing elements with all the lead characters so you need not fear that it takes place in 'real time' or that you'll be strung along, suffering cabin fever all year waiting for Prison Break: Road Trip!

The continuing elements mean that some characters get front burner status and some get back burner. On the back burner in the first episode was Sendhil Ramamurthy's Mohinder Suresh. If he can do as much with a real scene as he did with the nothings in the pilot, he could challenge Pasdar for the show's most involving character.

We went back and forth over to what to review this edition. Monday night, due to the fact that we'd be in DC this weekend and busy, we stayed up until three in the morning watching tapes and reading scripts. We're going to wait on a sitcom (which friends swear will get better) and on a drama (ditto). That left us with three shows. Except for the limited view of women, Heroes didn't just strike us as the best of what we were left with, but potentially the best hour long show you'll see this year (Mondays at nine p.m. EST on NBC). With Crossing Jordan, Kring proved that he could captivate an audience. Why, with this show, he felt the need for the non-stop T&A we have no idea. But the concept's strong and Kring's got a strong record of giving actors the needed room to bring characters to life. That said, if there's any more female near nudity, we demand Pasdar in thong immediately.
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