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''Heroes'' Tonight

By RD Heldenfels Published: September 25, 2006

The following was written for today's paper, but didn't get in. So ...

Even if heroes are hard to find, a new television show has probably found too many.
Heroes, premiering at 9 tonight on NBC, not only has an array of characters but also begins with them spread around the world. Although it quickly becomes clear that their destinies are intertwined, serving them all can make for some disjointed storytelling.
The core of the show is that ordinary people are discovering that they have special powers.
A Texas cheerleader (Hayden Panettiere) recovers immediately from any harm, no matter how extreme (and she keeps trying new ways). A New York artist (Santiago Cabrera) has visions of the future. A Japanese office worker (Masi Oka) can stop time ` and maybe even move through space.
And that's just some of what you learn in the first hour. What may not be clear is the power held by a brooding young man (Milo Ventimiglia) and how that will affect his politician brother (Adrian Pasdar). The second episode introduces yet another character, a police officer (Greg Grunberg) who can read minds.
Nor is it certain that all the characters are using their powers for good. Still other characters are aware of this outbreak of new abilities, and do not all have benign intentions in dealing with the heroes.
As you can see, the show offers a great deal to talk about. In fact, the watching sometimes pales in comparison to talking about what you have watched, since the show is steeped in fantasy culture. Oka's character is a Star Trek fan. The comic-book style of the show becomes even more self-referential when a comic book becomes part of the story, too.
All of that will create endless online debate. Still, my enthusiasm for the show is limited.
  Oka's character is a real crowd-pleaser, and Panettiere's offers plenty of opportunities for amusement as well as carnage. (There's a scene with both at the end of the third episode.)
On the other hand, I'm not all that interested in Ventimiglia and some of the other characters. The something-for-everyone casting ` I haven't even mentioned the stripper ` also means you're going to have to wait through scenes of people you don't care about to see the ones you do.
And, frankly, the show's ambitions may be its biggest drawback. At its best, Heroes recalls the best of The Greatest American Hero, the TV series starring William Katt as a regular guy dealing with new powers. But the show wants the onset of powers to be part of a larger design and conspiracies, and it drags when addressing those issues.

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