The answer is obvious, but complicated ...
Last night I watched the second hour of the "Heroes" premiere and, later, about half of tonight's "Knight Rider" premiere, which was all that I could stand. While there are people in this thing who can act (Bruce Davidson and Yancey Arias, for example), overall it is a trite, wooden, ridiculous enterprise with some of the worst dialogue to be found in prime time. That said, if I were 8 years old and had drawn pictures of racing cars in my math notebook, this might well be my favorite show. It moves briskly. The car is cool. Not as cool as the latest Batmobile, perhaps, but cool enough for an 8-year-old. There's enough innuendo that I might feel grown up -- especially when it gets clothes off the major female character in short order.
Even the dialogue has its moments (if, again, you're a kid); Val Kilmer's deadpan delivery as KITT can make conversations with Michael sound a little like Spock and Kirk.
A little, I said.
I suppose what I'm getting at is "Knight Rider" is unapologetically stupid. It knows that it is a big, dumb action show and that it might as well embrace all the conventions and cliches of the form -- and hope that, like with the original show, KITT will bring forgiveness for many sins.
And this is where things get complicated relative to "Heroes." That is not an unapologetically stupid show. It wants to be something grand. It throws around literary quotations and puts scenes in shadows and lets just about everyone in the cast brood. It offers homages to other parts of the horror/fantasy genre -- Suresh with super powers is very much Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly," William Katt is of course the Greatest American Hero -- and makes its core story about the fate of the world.
But has it made of all this? A mostly dazzling first season, a disappointing and abbreviated second, and now a mess of a third. Not so much of a mess that I won't give it one more hour. But after seeing the first hour from Monday, I hoped that the second hour would offer more coherence, only to find the mud get thicker. (You can find plenty of complaints about logic flaws elsewhere, so I won't go over them here.) I do like the speedy-thief, and still enjoy Hiro and Ando (Catwoman, indeed). But too often it felt as if it was playing tricks to avoid having to explain anything, because -- like, say, the first-season finale -- the payoff is much less than the trick.
And when Katt, who seemed to be paying tribute to Stephen Lang in "Manhunter," was abruptly dispatched, I kept looking at the ice fragments and puddle for some hint of regeneration. This can't be his entire role, can it?
So does this mean that "Heroes" is, in fact, more stupid than "Knight Rider"? No, but it is more embarrassing. Because if you went to Tim Kring and made the stupid argument, he would probably quote Yeats and then yell, "Look! Behind you!" before ducking behind a curtain and hoping you didn't give chase.