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Pedestrian ‘Heroes’

Gotta hand it to TV: The ideas, if not always the execution, are getting more and more elaborate. Especially NBC, which has seemingly accepted the fact that Friends just cannot be cloned. As another show in the network’s mostly sitcom-free lineup, Heroes is a decent watch but not “must-see.”

Heroes’ heroes span the globe, but like most stories, heroic or otherwise, New York City is the hub. The show opens with Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) jumping off the roof of a building, only to wake up before any conclusion is reached. It’s a dream he’s had quite a bit of late, but he thinks there’s more to it; in fact, he has premonitions that he can actually fly, much to the embarrassment of his older brother (Adrian Pasdar), who sees his claims as a potential thorn in his side while he runs for Congress. Those two leave us hangin’ at the end of the series premiere (9 p.m. ET, Mon., NBC). Meanwhile, one hemisphere over in India and Japan, a late professor/taxi driver’s son (Sendhil Ramamurthy) is suspicious of his father’s murder and a Japanese man (Masi Oka) thinks he’s “broken the space/time continuum.” Both of them take their pursuits to the City That Never Sleeps.

Back stateside again–oh, we’re nowhere near done yet!–a few more heroes emerge from the throes of anonymity. A single mom (Ali Larter) in Las Vegas does whatever she must to care for her young son (Noah Gray-Cabey), even if it means filming Internet porn, running from bookies and eluding her own reflection in the mirror. And in little Odessa, Texas, a teenage girl’s (Hayden Panettiere) heroic qualities manifest themselves when she does Jackass-style stunts and winds up unharmed. Finally, back in NYC, a tortured, drug-addicted artist (Santiago Cabrera) claims to have predicted it all with his paintings, works which he calls “evil.” Sure enough, each artwork foretold a future teeming with X-Men/Women.

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Like most TV shows, the cast is overflowing with talented up-and-comers who could shoot up to the B-list if the show sticks or just as easily go back to the bullpen if it doesn’t. Larter (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), whose name is probably the most recognizable, looks amazing, as per her trademark, but also shows an emotional side previously unseen for the most part. If her name isn’t the most recognizable to you, it’s probably because you’re a die-hard fan of Gilmore Girls, in which Ventimiglia starred for a few years. He’s got the most breakout potential of anyone here but definitely isn’t the most exciting to watch. No–that distinction belongs to Oka (Scrubs), who can be hilarious at times, thanks in no small part to his character’s story involving Eastern idioms and Western pop-culture references.

Heroes has a lot of characters to keep track of in the first episode, but speculating on future episodes–which, the trailer promises, will include many more heroes–can be downright exasperating. It’s the now-old adage when it comes TV shows and movies that throw at us the intertwining story arcs: more isn’t necessarily better. It’s worked for ABC’s Lost and on a few other occasions, but for the most part the gimmick is now trite. That said, it’s true that there’s nothing technically “wrong” with the story from creator Tim Kring (Crossing Jordan), and in fact some of the show is enjoyable and genuinely funny. But Heroes is ultimately just a decent show to keep on in the background even though its very involved premise should command your full attention–like Lost, for a totally random example!

Bottom Line: Heroes has the ambition of a massive movie production and the limits of network TV. The TV limits aren’t as confining as might be expected–aside from budgetary constraints–but the show can’t quite power its way through the chains.

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