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Why Heroes should not set an end date

I came across last night an article over at THR Feed about reasons why Heroes should set an end date.

NBC has been playing with the idea for some time now it seems and James Hibberd has listed on his blog a few reasons why Heroes should indeed set an end date.

I don’t think so at all.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t “love” (nor “hate”) Heroes or whatever. I was a casual fan back in Season One but this quickly faded away when Season Two arrived.
I’m not against ending the show ASAP, but the idea of an end date actually helping Heroes achieve awesomeness is ludicrous.
It is clearly not the right solution at all.
And like Blogette did a few weeks back regarding io9’s 63 Reasons To Give Heroes One More Chance, I am here today to disprove the various reasons given why Heroes should set an end date.

Let’s get it on, shall we?

I first wanted to point out a funny little thing at the beginning of said article:

But overall “Heroes” has fallen short of the standard set by genre competitors like “24” and its own first season.

I love how 24 is described as a genre show, let alone compared to Heroes‘. And that means Science Fiction/Fantasy.
What I found even more funny (or sad) is that I (kinda) agree with that statement. I didn’t find shocking at all describing 24 as a Sci Fi show. I might have had problems with that a few years back, but once you have a world-wide known African dictator taking hostage the President by passing through a hole leading directly to the White House that is filled with lasers instead of concrete, well…
You get the picture.
I disagree though on the fact that 24 is currently a “genre standard”. I honestly cannot name one good Sci Fi show on TV right now except maybe Lost (and even there, the current season has its ups and downs).

But I digress.
Back to the end date stuff.

James Hibberd argues that setting an end date will mainly do three things:
– Increase creativity
– Increase demand/ratings
– “Dignify” the death of a doomed show

Let’s see them one at a time.

The first statement is my biggest problem, and what I’m about to argue is probably my biggest concern regarding how “mythological” shows are currently viewed.

Hibberd is basically saying that an end date will boost creativity, like it did with Lost, The Shield, and Battlestar Galactica.

Once the end was in sight for “Lost,” “Battlestar” and “Shield,” writers confidently drove the story and even reached a pivotal event earlier than fans expected — getting off the island, the fleet finding Earth, Vic Mackey losing his job — then surprised audiences by moving toward a different conclusion than what long had been expected.

To begin with, let’s see what we are really talking about here.

As I’ve often stated, Battlestar Galactica is the epitome of retcon.
I’ve been arguing with my friends since Season 3 (basically ever since it was blatantly obvious – at least for me -) how BS the mythos in BSG really is, and that continuing to think that there is a grand plan is foolish.
You can basically see two different trends in the show, each encompassing two seasons.
At one point there seemed to be a coherent mythology with the 12 Cylons et al. (remember “They Have a Plan”?), and then Season 3 happened and all hell broke loose.
The revelation of the Final Four showed to the world the crippled backbone of the show and how weak (if not non-existant) the mythology actually was.
RDM admitted himself that they didn’t have the Final Four idea until Season 3 and Elen wasn’t really confirmed for them as the Fifth Cylon until a few episodes before the revelation itself.
Long story short, the whole thing negated two years of great television and mythology, as the answers were incoherent with the info given previously. From there on out, things went from bad to worse.

On the other hand we have Lost.
Like I also have stated, I don’t think we’ll be able to judge how thought out the mythology actually was until we get the actual answers (regarding for instance the Statue, Adam & Eve, and of course the Monster). Season 5 showed us they had no real intention of telling Rousseau’s backstory and the Bentham episode was downright disappointing. Nonetheless, I still strongly believe some of the mythology was there from day one, if not from at least Season Two (the Island’s properties, the Monster again, etc.).

But to be honest, none of this matters at all. Because it is not and was not the end date that pushed their creativity. BSG for a couple of seasons now doesn’t have the high standards it had during its first seasons. One could argue the same about the current season of Lost.
Even though I agree that the end date pushed them to answer stuff and move the story at a much quicker pace, the journey is what is important not the end.

Now how does all that relate to Heroes?
Well it doesn’t.
At least not directly.

Heroes has never had, and most likely never will have, a true “bible”, a real mythological backbone over-arching the entire show.
Unlike with BSG, Heroes‘ creator Tim Kring was honest about that fact from day one.
As Kring put it himself:

As soon as you lock yourself into an idea that can’t be changed, you start writing towards that. Twenty-two hours of television a year is a very, very large monster that needs to be fed and you can eat your way through story very quickly if you know exactly where things are going. But no, the mythology of the show, we are hoping, does not take over.

Since then, Kring has tried to write a pseudo-series bible after Season Two (better late than never right?), even though it doesn’t seem to show at all on screen.
Ironically, Heroes has been recycling the same storyline for 4 Volumes now.
There is no “conclusion” in sight as Hibberd posts since in Heroes the storyline drag on forever.
I have faith in Bryan Fuller to rock the boat straight, but even then, it is highly unlikely that there will ever be a central question or mystery for the show to wrap its arms around.

On to the second statement, regarding increase in ratings and demand.

Fewer episodes would theoretically up the ratings and boost Heroes back to life.

Heavily serialized dramas tend to peak early, then lose viewers each year. We can’t know for sure that setting an end date helps because nobody knows what “Lost” and the other shows would have rated had they not decided to plan a series finale in advance.

That is quite wrong actually.
We kind of know the ratings of Lost without a series finale date. Just take a look at the ratings for the first half of Season 3 (right before the end-date deal was made). Stranger in a Strange Land, admittedly the weakest episode of the entire show, and the prime example of what the show would have b
een like without an end in sight (ipse dixit Lindelof), had about 13 million viewers, with a season average of about 13.7 million.

Over at Heroes, that average was not for the third season (currently at about 8 million), but for the first season itself!
The ratings have sharply decreased for Heroes since, stabling at around 8 million. Lost obviously doesn’t have its Season One ratings, but nonetheless holds strong at around 11 million; not bad at all considering all the time travel and sci-fi on the show.

So, no, an end date doesn’t at all increase demand nor ratings. At best it only stabilizes them, but only if you have something worth the wait.

Lost has a payoff in sight, Heroes doesn’t, because it doesn’t have anything to pay off. There isn’t anything to resolve.
An end date is not going to change that, it could make matters worse actually as people might stop watching altogether, waiting for the end if and only if they hear the show finally makes sense again.
Unlikely, don’t you think?

At any rate, if a rating increase is expected, the show should either better its writing, or at least have a better lead-in (Day One or Chuck?).

And last but not least, we have the third main argument: death with dignity.

Killing of the writers’ own free will the show would surely help them refocus the story and end with a bang, right?

What does ending “Heroes” mean? You can pick a dozen plot questions and character threads raised during the past few years. But at least having an end date would force writers to choose one, or even decide a whole new one, figure out what the show is about and give “Heroes” a shot to finish on a strong note.

I doubt that actually.
The stories have been so stretched out and re-used, I don’t see how anything can link back to a single major plot point, let alone character threads.

The only semi-coherent character thread on the show would be Sylar searching his dad for ages. And by ages, I mean like 3 Volumes, not decades (even though it feels like it). This story has been killed, brought back to life, and then again strangled to death only to be resurrected another time. He found his dad the other night, now what? Back to mommy?

The other characters as well do not really seem to make sense, never learning the lessons of their actions. The strong archetypes from Season One are long gone.
Only maybe Noah Bennet is savable, but his latest centric episode was a letdown (his first “real” episode since the great Company Man).

Bryan Fuller joining the show is of course a good thing though, and I’m optimistic that he will help the show, making the story whole again.
This week’s episode was a (small) improvement to the previous ones, and I will definitely stick around at least until the season finale.

But an infected leg is too late to save, and has to be cut out.
Can the same be said about Heroes?
An ultimatum to get the ball rolling is not going to change that.

Setting an end date for a non-mythological show with poor ratings is just a plain bad idea.

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  1. bobthecob

    Can’t agree more. Sylar is probably the only reason I am still watching the show and so far the only charachter I give two shits about. And now that he has thrown his “bunny” in the game I am excited for the first time in a while for an episode of Heroes.

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