Mar 312015

It’s that time again: the two-ish weeks in which most current anime series hit their season or series finales. Apart from the shows I’m paid to review on a weekly basis, though, I haven’t watched the end of anything. From Death Parade to Your Lie in April, everything I watch for fun sits unfinished in my streaming queue. Hell, I haven’t even started the second half of Shirobako. So why, apart from not having enough spare time, have I been procrastinating so thoroughly? I can identify two reasons, and I thought I’d talk a little about both this week.

Dropping a show mid-season because it’s not very good is easy enough to understand. What I’m focusing on here is the feeling you get when you enjoy a series and plan to watch all of it, but find yourself putting off the last few episodes. The most obvious reason for doing this is a simple matter of not wanting a good show to be over.

“If I watch the last episode, then there won’t be any more episodes to watch,” we tell ourselves. Somehow convinced that none of the next season’s titles will be any good, we cling to the fantasy of something we like going on forever. As much as we want to know how the story ends, we dread the void that the finished series will leave behind. We end up letting the thing sit frozen in time, perpetually two or three episodes away from the finale.

Luckily, this tends to be an easy hurdle to clear. The need to know what happens next takes over sooner or later, pushing us along through the final episodes. It’s helped by past experience: just as this show moved last season’s hit out of the spotlight, the next season will always bring a new title to obsess over. You just have to sit back and let the production cycle do its thing.

The second reason for procrastination is a bit more complicated. Sometimes, a series spends the whole season walking the line between good and bad, taunting us with a mix of promise and disappointment. The good points make us stick around, but the failures make us dread the ending. “What if the finale sucks?” we worry. Once again, the show ends up going unwatched as we fret over the possibility of leaving with a terrible last impression.

Even if you’ve heard ominous things from your friends or the Internet, the only thing to do is shout, “Leeroy Jenkins!” and charge in. If the ending sucks, then so be it. At least you’ll be done with the show and able to move on to something else. Sometimes finishing an uneven series is like jumping into a pool that’s too cold to swim in: the longer you wait and think about it, the worse it’s going to be. As for me, I suppose I should take my own advice and power through my backlog. See you next week.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter.

Mar 252015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! I’m sure everyone has heard the news by now and it’s a bit old at this point, but sadly comedian and political activist Jon Stewart will be leaving his post as host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show later this year.

I guess it’s not really a surprise: we all knew this day would eventually come, and Stewart isn’t getting any younger. Like most people, he has other things he wants to pursue in his life, like possibly directing more films and whatnot. Personally, I’ll be sorry to see Stewart go, but not angry or upset. I think he’s done his bit for the country and shared a lot of very valid points and–dare I say it–wisdom over the course of his long tenure on The Daily Show.

The thing I’m much more concerned about is the bigger question, and the elephant in the room: who will step up to replace Stewart once he leaves the show? The answer is actually quite a bit more complicated than you think, and more than comfortably in flux as of now.


Once upon a time, The Daily Show’s ranks were filled with correspondents and personalities too numerous to even name. One of the show’s recurring themes is guest reporters–well, fake reporters–who usually put a bizarre spin on a given story and play humorously off of Stewart’s straight-man persona. But in recent years, the number of the more promising stars among them has been dwindling as correspondents quit the show to pursue other careers in comedy. It’s understandable of course, and actually shocking to think how many people that we take for granted now got their start on The Daily Show: Steve Carell, Ed Helms, Stephen Colbert, Rob Riggle…the list goes on.

So where are these people now? Out doing great things with their careers, of course. And good for them. But that makes it much less likely that any of them would return to try and fill Stewart’s admittedly sizable shoes.

So what veterans are left at The Daily Show who could take over for Stewart? For me, the first person that came to mind was now-senior correspondent Jason Jones. Jones and Stewart have similar New Jersey backgrounds and a kindred sense of humor and comedic timing; that and his senior status make Jones the natural choice for the hot seat. This position could even include his wife, fellow Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee. While I’m not as big a fan of Bee as I am of Jones, I could definitely see a redesigned Daily Show with a dual husband-wife hosting dynamic as potentially a hit in the making. But bad news, everyone: turns out that Jones and Bee are following in the footsteps of their forebears and moving on to greener pastures soon. They announced not long ago that they’d be leaving The Daily Show to pursue their own sitcom together, and while I’m sure that will be a funny show if it happens, it definitely takes them out of the running for the hosting job.

Who could possibly fill Jon Stewart’s shoes, I ask you? Well, perhaps someone who shares the same name. Since his introduction as a correspondent on the show, British comedian John Oliver has been a hit with audiences due to his different perspective and mastery of irony. Stewart even jokingly hinted at succession plans in a skit involving his stepping down due to scandal (this was a jab at then-Congressman Anthony Weiner’s resignation over a sexting incident). Unfortunately for us, Oliver’s skills didn’t go unnoticed by the rest of the world, and HBO snatched him up with the chance to do his own Daily Show-style program, Last Week Tonight. The show’s contract was just renewed as well; making it a safe bet that Oliver wouldn’t leave just to take back his old stomping grounds.

So whom does that leave us with? Stephen Colbert? Nope, he’s on to bigger and better things as the new host of The Late Show, until recently held by TV vet David Letterman. Well-known black correspondent Larry Wilmore? Not a chance–he’s currently hosting The Nightly Show, the replacement for The Colbert Report on Comedy Central’s weekly lineup. The remaining correspondents on The Daily Show right now are mostly new and much younger than Stewart, making a replacement from among their ranks pretty unlikely. Many people wondered if jokingly hip correspondent Jessica Williams would be interested in the job–until she said she wasn’t. I mean, I wouldn’t be against it, but I’m just not sold on her comedic ability just yet. Same goes for Jordan Klepper, who funny enough does remind me of a younger version of Jon Stewart. Maybe if he had a few more seasons under his belt, then I’d consider it.

Then we have the recurring characters, Aasif Mandvi and John Hodgman–both of who are funny, but neither of whom I could see abandoning their well-established character roles to adopt the needed semi-straight-man persona for the hosting position. However, Lewis Black–the star of the segment “Back in Black”–is a different story. I think he has the requisite experience, as well as the comedic chops, to replace Stewart in the lead chair. I’m not sure how likely this is to happen, though, and I could see how his old man ranting shtick could get tiresome after a while. But right now, I think Black would be the best choice from among the Daily Show staff to succeed Stewart. Perhaps not ideal, but the best they’ve got.


But maybe a change from within isn’t the only solution. In the wake of the apparent power vacuum soon to be left by Stewart, many in the public have suggested that a new star from outside the show’s ranks might be an even better move: perhaps a known factor and seasoned comedian like Amy Poehler or Tina Fey. Either one of these ladies, and I’m sure any number of other possible candidates out there, would probably make a great host for the show and breathe some fresh air into it while they’re at it. Just as Jon Stewart reinvented The Daily Show from what Craig Kilborn had made it in the 90s, perhaps a new face could help the show evolve even further into a potent force for political and social change–a role it already seems poised to fill.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Wednesday for new articles.

Mar 242015

This week’s topic is a pretty simple one: I found a cool thing on the Internet. No deep insights or industry analysis, just several minutes of Star Wars ships blasting one another to pieces in a lavishly detailed, old school anime style. Kind of a tenuous link to this column’s subject matter, but who cares? Things blow up real good. Here’s the video:

I remember playing X-Wing vs TIE Fighter on my dad’s PC as a kid, so this dredges up quite a lot of nostalgia for me. It also calls to mind the Star Wars Battlefront Xbox games, the X-Wing novels and comic books, and an armada of Action Fleet and Micro Machines toys, many of which still lay dormant in a box somewhere.

Reviewing anime professionally can sometimes put a little extra distance between me and the things I watch. Every once in a while, it’s nice to just sit down for a few minutes and marvel at something that a few people spent an absurd amount of time putting together.

That’s all I’ve got this week. I’ll be back to picking things apart at the molecular level next time. Until then, use the targeting computer, Luke. That’s what it’s there for.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter.

Mar 182015

Welcome to another edition of Channel Chaser! We’re back to reviews for this week, and honestly I can’t believe that I haven’t talked about today’s topic before now. Sure, I’ve mentioned it in passing a few times, but as one of my top ten favorite TV shows ever, you’d think I would have made it more of a priority. Oh well: it’s not the end of the world. But actually, for the fictional residents of the town of Jericho in the show of the same name, it sort of is.


Jericho first aired on CBS in 2006, when Homeland Security fears and tensions from the 9/11 attacks only five years previously were still running high. During these years, the nightmare scenario for many people was the idea of a homegrown terrorist attack of a massive scale right here on American soil; and in case you hadn’t already guessed, this is exactly what happens in the show. In one single moment, nuclear bombs take out 23 major U.S. cities from Philadelphia to San Francisco and Denver. The latter of these three is the most relevant to the plot, as the residents of the tiny town of Jericho, situated on the border between Colorado and Kansas, can see the blast from their homes…and predictably, all hell breaks loose.

Jake Green, the estranged son of the long-time local mayor, rolls back into town just as the catastrophe is unfolding and carries some dark secrets with him about his time away. He eventually crosses paths with Robert Hawkins, another new addition to Jericho with a shady past of his own: he worked for the government and as an inside man in the terrorist cells. Together, and with the help of their friends, Jake and Hawkins must unite Jericho’s people against the unimaginable threats they now face: everything from Mad Max-style road gangs to radioactive fallout, and even the assault of a militarized neighboring town that seeks to annex Jericho’s land for itself.

I’ll be honest: the fact that Jericho is supposed to be a metaphor for the spirit of the United States as a whole is pretty obvious, and it’s something that gets beaten into your head quite frequently over the course of the series. But just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean that it’s cheesy or bad: far from it. I really have nothing but praise for Jericho’s plot overall, from its incredibly realistic depictions of life after nuclear devastation and how quickly society can fall apart if someone doesn’t hold it together…as well as just how much small-town drama can influence the course of that society on a massive scale. Commodities that are usually taken for granted, such as salt, become incredibly valuable as they are crucial to human survival–something that Jericho, as a major salt-mining town, uses to its advantage during negotiations with outsiders. It also pulls no punches in showing just how dependent people are on electricity and their gadgets, with many falling to pieces after their cell phones and other devices are rendered useless by an electromagnetic pulse.

The juxtaposition between Jericho and New Bern–the aforementioned invading town in the latter half of the first season–is especially potent. Jericho and New Bern are really very similar, with both confronting the same problem of roaming former-government mercenaries who kill anyone in their way in order to survive and get what they want. Jericho manages to bluff its way out of the confrontation, a move that is masterfully demonstrated to have consequences when it is revealed that the mercenaries then went to New Bern instead and demolished it. Adding to the realism of the entire scenario, instead of a benevolent and community-oriented leader like Mayor Johnston Green, New Bern got a dictatorial, military-style tyrant in the form of Phil Constantino, the sheriff who takes charge after the contractors hit his town. The point of this entire storyline, in my mind, is how different groups of people react to life-threatening situations and how the slightest difference in otherwise similar situations can butterfly-effect into massively different chains of events. Once again, it strongly parallels America’s own historic rise as a democracy among corrupt monarchies.

Unfortunately, Jericho didn’t do so well in the ratings despite its popularity, and it was cancelled after the first season’s massive cliffhanger ending of New Bern launching its siege of Jericho. But in an unprecedented show of support, fans successfully convinced CBS to air another season. While this itself was cancelled halfway through its run, it still did a great job in introducing an entirely new dimension to Jericho’s woes. The scrum between New Bern and Jericho is ended by government forces, who are reasserting control following the bombs–just not the government everyone remembers.


Heralded by their creepily redesigned flag, the “Allied States of America”, a coalition of surviving states west of the Mississippi and with a capital at Cheyenne, Wyoming of all places, jumps in with a suspicious corporate agenda and an oppressive rule like an iron fist. The small-town problems go to the wayside as Jake, Hawkins and friends are drawn into a giant conspiracy surrounding the terrorist attack and the true nature of the Allied States government. Spoiler alert: it ain’t good. Let the Second American Revolution begin!

While the town of Jericho may be way out in the boonies, its residents are anything but. In fact, the actors involved go out of their way to show that, despite their admittedly strong small-town values, they are anything but the stereotypical “hicks”. A special shout-out to Shoshannah Stern as Bonnie Richmond, one of the few extremely positive representations of a disabled person (she’s deaf in the show) I’ve ever seen in media. Additionally, the Stanley and Mimi love story is very well-played, as it could easily have been cheesy and overblown. My one issue is that I couldn’t get behind the Jake/Emily relationship…or any of Jake’s relationships, for that matter. While he’s great being an awesome action hero, Skeet Ulrich just doesn’t seem to have any chemistry with the ladies in Jericho. Sorry, but it’s true.


My Rating: 4/5

Its ideology and historic imagery may be a bit old hat, but for the most part Jericho is pure, solid post-apocalyptic gold. A strong and suspenseful central plotline delivers all the cerebral thrills and blockbuster action that any fan could want, and it’s on par with The Walking Dead in my opinion as about as authentic a representation as we’ll ever get of the world falling apart…well, until it actually does. It’s really a crime that this show didn’t get a third season, or more for that matter, but there have been rumors flying around for years about it possibly getting picked up by Netflix or a feature film. Here’s hoping that dream doesn’t go up in smoke.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Wednesday for new articles.

Mar 112015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser. You may have noted the lack of my customary, cheerful exclamation point after that first sentence and figured already that I’m bearing some bad news. Well, you’d be right. The truth is that I don’t feel all that happy this week, and there’s a reason why that is: the unfortunate and untimely death of one of my favorite actors in Hollywood.

As you’ve probably already guessed, I’m talking about Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy was a well-known star, beloved by many, and known of a variety of roles he played on television and in film across the decades, from the Machiavellian scientist William Bell on Fox’s X-Files-inspired mystery show Fringe to the voice of the traitorous Autobot leader Sentinel Prime in the third Transformers film. But many people probably know him best by another name, and one that’s not even from this world: Spock.


Usually when an actor from a show I’ve seen or liked passes away, I feel a bit sad, but it doesn’t affect me too much because I, of course, never knew them personally or outside their work. But this one was different. Not that I was good buddies with Leonard Nimoy or anything: I can only wish this were the case. But he’s been one of my very favorite celebrities for so long and I’ve followed his career and public life so intensely that I just feel a bit closer to this than most. The fact that his most iconic role was also a huge influence in my life just adds more weight.

When I was young and growing up, just learning that television was about the greatest thing ever created by man, one of the first shows my parents introduced me to was Star Trek. Of course, being born in the 90s at that point, most of the stuff on TV was the highly-regarded franchise spin-off Star Trek: The Next Generation. The more dated and relatively campy first outing was confined specifically to the Sci-Fi Channel (yes, back when it was still a decent home for science fiction programming). But the very first thing that pops into my mind when I think of my introduction to The Original Series was my parents telling me to watch for “that guy with the pointy ears.” This was how I met Spock.

One of the reasons I have grown to love and appreciate the original 60’s Star Trek series more than any of the other entries in the franchise is because I loved the basic idea that it sprang from: not only a desire to make sci-fi television on the map as a mainstream item (which, in retrospect, was an unqualified success), but that Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry used the setting of a spaceship crew exploring the galaxy and a United Federation of Planets as a metaphor to try and get the rest of us real-life Earthlings to wise up about our own problems.

While the later Star Trek shows mostly get tied up in techno-babble and plotlines designed to show off futuristic toys, the original series was less about flash and more about substance, using the perspectives and background of each character to deliver a gut-punching moral lesson to the audience. It covered everything: race, religion, war and peace, historical revisionism, and countless other controversial subjects and pointed out how well things could work out if people just accepted each other’s differences and decided to be nice to each other for a change. The bridge of the starship Enterprise was meant to be a sort of United Nations in itself: Africans, Russians, Asians, Americans, Europeans, doctors, soldiers, scientists…all working in perfect harmony despite their contemporary cultural differences.

But out of all this, I was especially drawn to Spock. Why? Because among this diverse group of people, he was still the ultimate outsider: a main character who was not even a human being. Sure, he looked relatively human outside of those bushy eyebrows and pointed ears, but unlike his emotional human comrades, logic was his guiding force. He always approached a problem from the most academic and calculating point of view–a fact that more than once aroused the anger and misunderstanding of his good friends Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy. His judgments, while always sound, sometimes seemed heartless or even cruel. How could an audience empathize with a character who, essentially, had no empathy?


Part of this was handled by good writing. Episodes like when Spock is infected by an alien spore and falls in love with a human woman showed that it’s not that Vulcans like Spock don’t have emotions, it’s that they just train from birth not express them or to let their feelings cloud their judgment. And more than once, Spock’s logical and rational solutions were found to be far better than those voiced by his overwrought and narrow-minded human friends.

But most of why Spock became such a memorable and beloved figure, not just for me but for the entire world at large, was due to the creative genius and talent of Nimoy himself. First of all, Spock was half human, and this showed as once in a blue moon, Spock would explode with unexpected emotion far deeper than runs in most humans. In time, he even grew to take on more human traits, such as a touch of humor and a knack for going under the radar without ever actually lying about anything (he preferred the words “implication” or “exaggeration”). Spock may have been logical, but he was far from cold: his methods may have been different, but it was always clear that he wanted to help and do right just as much as anyone. And if there was any positive to his lack of emotion, it was his boundless capacity for forgiveness and understanding, which endeared him to his human shipmates and made him forever a fixture of Star Trek history and a beacon of hope for what interstellar cooperation could look like.

Even more than that, I loved Spock because he showed me a better way to live: patience in the face of intolerance, bravery in the face of danger, and calm in the face of chaos. This alien from Vulcan was, in reality, a compilation of all the best parts of humanity. That’s not to say he didn’t have room to grow: Spock certainly did add many more empathatic traits to his persona in later years that made him a bit less standoffish and aloof. But it was the idea that you didn’t have to let your emotions rule you, and that you should measure your decisions by what does the most good for everyone involved, that I took away and that I have tried to cultivate all of my life.

Sure, there were other aliens on the bridge of the Enterprise in the years to come: more Vulcans, Klingons, and even robots. But by then, even they were mainstream. Spock was the one that started it all: the most alienated (no pun intended) figure who became the symbol of a franchise and one of the most popular cultural icons of all time. Leonard Nimoy taught us all to live long and prosper, and if I can live by that mantra half as well as he did, maybe life won’t turn out so bad after all. Farewell, Mr. Spock. You will be sorely missed.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Wednesday for new articles.

Mar 112015

I’ve been writing about anime on this site since October of 2013, and made stupid YouTube videos about it before that. Toss in my professional review work for Anime News Network (started in August 2014) and I’ve done enough of this for long enough that it’s started to affect how I react to what I watch. I may write further on that shift at some point, but let’s keep it amusing and list-y for now. So, here’s a list of the things you start to notice after watching far too much anime in far too little time.


The two kinds of awful

This is a pretty broad generalization, but I’ve noticed that there are two major kinds of lousy shows out there. First, you have the stuff that’s born to be average: one season, usually based on some vaguely popular light novel series, clearly ripping off one or more hit franchises. Sometimes it’s obvious that everyone involved in a project is simply phoning it in, from the script to the animation. These shows are rarely trainwrecks, but also tend to have no distinguishing features on which to recommend them.

On the other hand, you have the times when ambition goes wrong. It’s obvious that someone had what might have been a good idea and tried really hard to make something out of it. These shows often start out promising, offering just enough appeal to piece together an audience. Along the way, however, something goes horribly, inexplicably wrong. Maybe the story goes off the rails, or maybe the animation budget just sort of runs out. Whatever happens, that early potential is smashed to pieces on the unforgiving cliffs of reality.

Having reviewed both of these kinds of shows, I’ve noticed that I react differently to each kind of awfulness. It’s usually obvious right away when a series is going to be half-assed from beginning to end. Mediocre anime doesn’t annoy me the way that it once did, perhaps because I’ve grown accustomed to every season having a few steaming piles of blah. It’s hard to really get angry at shows like this, so I don’t.

On the other hand, ambition gone wrong lights a much bigger fire under me than it used to. When a series has proven that it can be good when it tries, something about that first trainwreck moment transforms me into a boiling bucket of anger. I hate seeing good potential go to waste, and usually have to wait a while before writing a review to save the Internet from having to host another weapons-grade tant.


My eyes, they burn

Speaking of things that are lousy, working as a reviewer really ruins your tolerance for crappy animation. Good writing is always more important than good visuals, but consistent production quality still plays a huge part in making a series enjoyable. I don’t mind when a show lacks the budget for lavish backgrounds and elaborate choreography, but outright mistakes distract me like never before. When a character goes off model or the level of detail suddenly drops, some annoying voice in the back of my head starts pointing and screaming. “Look,” it shouts, “look at the mistake I found!” It’s nice to be able to fully appreciate good animation, but part of me wishes I could turn off my ability to notice the bad stuff.


Marathon man

Having the opening and ending credits attached to every episode in a box set is nice when you watch anime like a normal human being. A good OP or ED will help set the mood for a series. No matter how good a theme song may be, however, powering through a season for a review will make you hate the first few measures with a burning passion. Opening? Skip button. Closing? Skip button. English credit roll after the Japanese credits because people get mad if you swap out the text overlays? MOTHERF***ING SKIP BUTTON. I used to be baffled as to why reviewers so enjoy the “marathon mode” that some collections offer. Now I know, and now I agree that it should be a standard feature for anything with more than three episodes.


Back to basics

In some ways, this is a side effect of the first point on the list. After seeing too many shows squander clever ideas with stupid, avoidable mistakes, I’ve started to really appreciate anything that can get the basics right on a consistent basis. If you can get me some likable characters, a conflict that I care about, and a plot that makes sense, that’s at least half the battle. Doing all that usually requires someone to care about the quality of a series, and that willingness to get things right usually snowballs into something worth watching. Long live anything that can deliver “B” quality entertainment on a consistent basis.


Watch ALL the things

Writing reviews may awaken some dormant pet peeves, but it also has a habit of broadening your horizons. Sometimes you’ll end up watching something that you would have instinctively passed on otherwise, and once in a while that series ends up being something good. The more articulate your views become, the more enjoyable it is to have something defy your expectations in a positive way. I’ve warmed up to at least three genres since I started writing about anime, and that’s led me to watch some really good shows that I would’ve skipped a few years ago. If that means I occasionally have to watch something terrible, it’s a trade I’m happy to make.


This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter. Check back every Monday for new articles.

Mar 042015

Welcome back to Channel Chaser! It’s once again time for a review, and this week I’m turning back the clock by just a few years to take a look at a show that’s polarized viewers and critics alike: NBC’s short-lived superhero drama Heroes.


Heroes, created in 2006 by TV visionary Tim Kring, was imagined and presented as a sort of post-modern take on superhero literature. Instead of having a bunch of caped crusaders who zoomed around fighting crime and taking on bad guys, the show starred a group of normal and in most cases flawed individuals who all wake up one day with the ability to do extraordinary things. Brought together by a complicated set of circumstances that some would call coincidence and others destiny, these special individuals are forced to do their part to save the world from deadly disasters and dangerous secrets, all while trying to discover their own purpose in life.

As with many shows of this type, Heroes was envisioned as a serial epic much like Lost or Battlestar Galactica with a large ensemble cast, many of whom stuck out more than others. As such, let it never be said that this show didn’t produce a fair crop of new stars. The most obvious of these would be Zachary Quinto, now famous on TV and film, who plays the super-powered serial killer and the ostensible “supervillain” of the show, Sylar. To a slightly lesser degree, the series also served as a stepping-stone to bring Hayden Panettiere, cast as the regenerating cheerleader Claire Bennet, to the small screen. She’s currently holding down a long-running starring role on the musical drama Nashville.

On a side note, if you choose to watch the first season, be on the lookout for a two-episode guest appearance by Christopher Eccleston of Doctor Who fame as a literally invisible man–I’ll be honest, it was probably the highlight of the show for me.

It’s kind of surprising to me that I haven’t really seen many of the show’s other cast members in other places…but then again, maybe not. Because if you hadn’t guessed from my tone thus far, I’ve got a fair amount of issues with Heroes. It’s not necessarily with the acting: that’s pretty spot-on throughout the entire show, for what it’s worth. My problem is more rooted in the basic construction and writing of the show, and that it takes what I see as a growing and not in any way bad trend in superhero fiction and blows it out to ridiculous proportions: the idea of moral greyness. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.


If you asked me for three words to describe Heroes, the words I would probably choose are “pretentious,” “heavy-handed,” and “frustrating.” The entire show seems to give off the aura of a particularly boastful party guest that you don’t really like: they go on and on about how great they are, and yet they don’t offer up a single shred of evidence to prove that their claim is correct. The grand and epic feeling Heroes is obviously trying to convey just screams desperation to me. It says, “Look at me. I’m amazing. Love me!” And I respond by wondering, “Why?” First of all, the show practically beats viewers over the head with its destiny dogma by beginning and ending every episode with some random nonsense about evolution, fate, or a combination of the two. It always feels like it’s on the cusp of some kind of awesome moment, but it’s so full of itself and its ability to tease the audience that it never actually delivers. We get it already: this show is about superheroes! Give it a rest, okay?

Speaking of never delivering, does it make anyone else mad that there are never actually any hero fight scenes in this show? I could run out of fingers counting the times when Heroes has the opportunity to do an action sequence, and the second you’re about to see it, either there’s a cutaway or a door shuts and obscures the action. Infinite budget savings, to the rescue!

Getting back to what I mentioned earlier, a big part of the show is deconstructing the tropes and cliches of superhero literature to show that if these kinds of things happened in real life, the real heroes would be far from perfect. Thus, pretty much every character in Heroes is designed to be completely in the middle of morality: the premiere grey scale where half the time they do the right thing, and the other half they’re making completely horrible decisions. Like I said before, I don’t have a problem with this in principle: actually, I love shows with morally grey characters because it makes things that much more real.

But the problem with Heroes is that it goes so overboard with making sure the characters are grey that it really misses out on any meaningful development for said characters. I mean, if Peter or Mohinder or Noah would just for once in their fictional lives make a real stand and decide what side they’re really on, I would be able to get behind them as people so much more, either for good or bad. As it is, the characterization is just a total mess that makes none of them in any way believable or even likeable: yes, even Hiro Nakamura, the walking cliche that the show just had to shove in there to pay fan service to all the geeks out there. He’s just too cheerful. It’s really annoying. As it is, the only character I really genuinely felt empathy or interest for was Sylar, and he’s the psycho bad guy! I think that about says it all.

Finally, the idea of time travel and changing the foretold future is thoroughly ingrained in the show’s mythology from the very start. Call me crazy, but for me, time travel is a right you have to earn as a TV show because it can make for some pretty nonsensical situations and plenty of deus-ex-machina curveballs that just destroy credibility. And in case you were wondering, Heroes doesn’t make the cut. If they had only introduced the time travel elements in season two or three, maybe…but as it is, it’s just a big old mess.


My Rating: 2/5

It sort of breaks my heart to say it, but the long and the short of it is that Heroes is a show so tied up with trying to justify its own existence and establish a legacy for itself that it never had time to slow down, make itself believably coherent and just live in the moment–a.k.a., have a few decent episodes. If you don’t watch it from the beginning, you’ll be hopelessly lost, and even if you do, you might not have the best luck understanding what’s going on. Combine that with the infuriating flip-flopping of most of the cast between the good/bad sides every other second, and all Heroes seems to bring out of its characters is the worst of humanity rather than the best. It’s not a complete loss, but it’s close enough. Such a shame for a show with so much potential.


Channel Chaser is written by Kyle Robertson. You can check out more of his work on his website. Check back every Wednesday for new articles.