Think about it, won’t you. For every television show that’s a hit success there’s dozens that never see the light of day. Of those, most don’t last a few episodes (and some with some major star power attached) and even further, most of those that do succeed are average at best. So what an accomplishment it is for a show like “Heroes” to become a runaway hit success. I was at first dubious about the show, to me it looked like a takeoff on the “X-Men” movies (of which I’m a big fan). But I’m a sucker for banner ads and advertising, so I made it a point to watch the first episode last fall. Imagine my surprise when I really liked what I saw! Naturally I wasn’t the only one, but most of my television watching is relegated to reality TV (not a bad thing) and I was so pleasantly surprised to watch a show that seemed like watching a movie every week. If you’ve never seen “Heroes”, you’ve undoubtedly heard the catchphrase (and oddly enough, it’s a pretty accurate description of the show itself) “Save the cheerleader, save the world.”
The plot of the show is pretty easy to follow, but for the uninitiated, here we go. A select group of adults and children are discovering that they have supernatural powers. A cheerleader in Texas (Hayden Panettiere) discovers she’s invulnerable to physical damage. A policeman in Los Angeles (Greg Grunberg) finds out that the voices he hears are actually other people’s thoughts. A drug-addicted painter in New York can literally paint the future that depicts a post-apocalyptic city. There are others, of course, but the series follows the lives of these folks and their eventual path that leads them to the season finale (and there’s no way I’ll give anything away there). Along the way, we meet others who will join the quest to help save the world. There’s Hiro (Masi Aka), the Japanese man who can literally stop time with a thought. Niki (Ali Larter), the Vegas single mother who literally has an evil twin and Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy), who is continuing his father’s work to try and locate all of the “special” people on the planet.
Naturally with a title like “Heroes” you have to haveâ€¦villains! I’m happy to say that the show has a few of the vilest villains that I’ve seen on television. Though a bit dubious, we’re lead to believe that Mr. Bennett (Jack Coleman) isn’t all he seems. There’s the notorious Mr. Linderman, seemingly the man behind every move during the season. And then there’s the worst of them all, Sylar (Zachary Quinto) the humble clock-maker who learns of his powers and decides to use them for his own personal gain. To say that “Heroes” is addictive is an understatement. Its right up there with “Lost” and “Nip/Tuck” in terms of regular television shows that I watch on a weekly basis. I’ll say that the show isn’t for everyone. People who don’t like superhero movies might be a bit turned off by the show. And, it’s not perfect â€“ like any show the characters need to be developed a bit more. However the show’s high production value and excellent ensemble cast (and exciting premise) make for a very entertaining time. If you haven’t already, give “Heroes” a try. You just might like it.
Video: How does it look?
I’m fortunate enough to have watched every single episode of “Heroes” as it was broadcast in HD. Universal has pulled out all of the stops and given us the entire series in HD DVD (the first television series for Universal on the new format). The episodes are shown in a 1.78:1 VC-1 HD transfer that look outstanding on the new format. The color scheme varies from very dark, to a very colorful palette depending on which character they’re focusing on. I noticed no signs of edge enhancement, no artifacting and was impressed by the amount of detail that the episodes contained. There were a few times during the season that I noticed a few blips here and there, but those have been rectified for this HD DVD release. Suffice it to say that if you have the capability (pardon the pun), this HD DVD version is the only way to watch the show.
Audio: How does it sound?
Not to be outdone, “Heroes” has been given a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack that sounds far better than I had expected. Television shows, by and large, don’t have soundtracks that are really that memorable but there were several spots during the season in which I was genuinely impressed. Surrounds are used often, but not so much that it feels like a matrixed soundtrack. Dialogue, most of the show’s focus, sounds very clean and clear and the rest of the action is located in the front stage â€“ just where it should be. As far as television shows go “Heroes” has got to have one of the better soundtracks I’ve ever heard, and that’s saying something.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Ok (cracks knuckles), after suffering through some rather iffy catalog titles by Universal all year, it’s quite a treat to get their first television series on HD DVD. Now a few words about how important this release actually is. As of this writing, Universal (and now, Paramount) are the only studios that back HD DVD without also supporting Blu-ray. That’s right, if you want “Heroes” in HD â€“ you’ll have to get the HD DVD because this won’t be in Blu-ray. This is Unviersal’s chance to really show what the format can do and I’m pleased to say they did a pretty darn good job. The seven disc set starts off with a bang in that we get the original unaired pilot episode with some pretty interesting extra footage added back into it. I won’t give away details, but let’s just say that we meet a few characters that never made it into the show and a few things happen to some recurring characters that surprised me (a die-hard fan). The episode is also available with commentary from creator Tim Kring who gives us the low down on the show, the shoot and trying to make a successful television show. Each disc has its share of features ranging from deleted scenes (over 50 of them, by the way) to the obligatory “Making ofâ€¦” featurettes. I found some of the supplements to be a bit dull and redundant, but when I saw some of the more technical featurettes like “The Stunts” and “The Special Effects” my interest was piqued. More importantly, they feature the artist who did all of the paintings for the show, Tim Sale, who is actually color blind. His paintings were all scanned into a computer and then colorized for the show. Who knew?
Now here’s where we get to the good stuff and if you’ve purchased the HD DVD set then you’ll get these features in addition to those already listed (the standard DVD set only has those listed above). Universal has their “U-Control” feature on several of their theatrical titles and they’ve used it very religiously with “Heroes”. Unlike Blu-ray, you can connect to the internet for some truly interactive features (download exclusive content and you can take a genetic abilities test to see what power you have). You can watch the episodes with the artwork details or try and find the ever-elusive Helix symbol hidden throughout each and every episode. You can see how the heroes are related to each other and how their paths have (or will) cross throughout the season. Lastly, you can watch each episode as the cast and crew do a video commentary in the lower corner of the screen. Suffice it to say that Universal has pulled out all of the stops with this release and it might prove to be a deal-breaker for the HD DVD/Blu-ray war. Top notch audio and video along with a great television show and tons of supplements make this one a must buy.