In Sylar They Trust: The Racialicious Roundtable vs. Heroes & the Fall TV Season

Hosted by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

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Heroes begins its’ fourth season Monday night in the throes of identity crises on- and off-screen: the show’s name doesn’t really fit anymore – almost none of the titular core cast wants to be “special” anymore, let alone superheroic – and its’ most important plotline centers around Sylar, a brain-scrambled villain.

elecsy1Previously, of course, the Big Bad was brainwashed into assuming the identity of Nathan, and subsequently assuming control of a federally-funded successor to Primatech, headed by Noah. In a rare bit of storytelling elegance, this set-up isn’t too far removed from the future Hiro encountered in Season One’s classic “Five Years Gone” episode. The upshot of this figures to be more time watching Adrian Pasdar and Zachary Quinto play opposite/with each other as SyNate.

Otherwise, there’s not much heroism going on: Matt Sr. is not just dealing with the psychic residue of Sylar, but guilt over his role in covering up Nathan’s death. Peter, Claire, Noah and Angela, we’ve been told throughout the summer, are “trying to get back to normal life” – but nobody’s asking for them to be those people again; only for them to have grown beyond that point, and aside from Noah and Angela, we haven’t gotten that consistent character development.

The poster child for the series’ stagnant development, Hiro, might fare better, albeit because his character will be forced to deal with his power threatening his health. Hiro, along with Ando, will reportedly be trying “to help people” back in Japan as the season opens. What, Noah and “Nate” couldn’t spring for Mohinder to run a few tests? (Also, anybody else concerned at the lack of Mo in the preview clips so far? That can’t be a good sign.)

The fly in everybody’s ointment this year figures to come from the Mysterious Carnival – we know they’re Mysterious because they dress in dark colors and their leader, Samuel (Robert Knepper) seems to speak like an old-time … well, carny. They also figure to be at the center of the season’s payoff, as a preview clip shown at San Diego Comic-Con showed them shooting and burying SyNate … and Sylar emerging from the ground.

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Whether Heroes itself can pull off that kind of resurrection is, honestly, doubtful. In fact, you could argue that the show’s original premise – regular people doing good for others – has been kept alive most faithfully not on tv, but in the Rebellion online comic, where Micah has expanded his REBEL identity into the Rebellion, a group out to protect metahumans. If the series’ current incarnation can’t pull out of its’ rating doldrums, the Rebellion might provide Tim Kring & NBC a ray of hope: move the whole franchise to SyFy, make the kids the focal point and start all over. Wouldn’t Heroes Reborn fit in nicely alongside Stargate Universe? Just sayin’ …
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As the rest of the Algonquin Snark Table prepares to dig into Heroes, here’s capsule looks at the other shows they’ll be keeping an eye on this season:

Diana
I love watching Sons of Anarchy on FX. It’s like The Sopranos, but instead of mobsters it features SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original), a motorcycle “club” which engages in all manner of nefarious activities to earn cash. It’s a guilty pleasure because the show is so un-PC. The club members use racial slurs and profanity as a matter of course, gang rivalries break down along racial lines (the Nords who are skinheads, the One-Niners who are black, and the Mayans who are Hispanic), police are corrupt, full-on debauchery is a routine past-time, and violence, including murder, is a given. Hard to believe the show is supposedly loosely based on Hamlet. Something’s definitely rotten in Charming, California where the show takes place. The offensiveness is just so over the top that it’s fun. The characters say really bad things like, “Bad things happen to greedy whores.” They do really bad things like when Katey Sagal, who plays Gemma, the matriarch of the clan, hits a young thing in the face with a skateboard for sleeping with Clay, her husband and SAMCRO president, played smoothly by Ron Perlman.

Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is Gemma’s son, Clay’s stepson, and the “Hamlet” of the story. Last season, as SAMCRO was heavily involved in running guns, Jax was seen reading the journals of his late father, who originally founded the club, and questioning the direction Clay was taking it. This season it appears that Jax is stepping up to challenge Clay more directly and asserting his own authority. Since the feds have essentially shut down their gun-running business, SAMCRO will be getting into the porn industry. They also have a new rival in a white separatist group lead by Ethan Zobelle (Adam Arkin) and his thug (Henry Rollins) who in no uncertain terms have told SAMCRO to stop dealing guns to “coloreds.”

There is so much fodder here for any “-ism” you may wish to discuss, season two is surely going to be a bumpy ride.

Andrea
Cho1I couldn’t believe how utterly normal Flash Forward is, racially speaking. I say that with this caveat: John Cho deserves top billing over Joseph Fiennes, if we’re going by sheer star power because the man did appear in two wildly popular films in the last year…wait, let me correct that: Mr. Cho appeared in two wildly popular film franchises in the last year or so, one of which he was the star. Whereas, his co-star who did get the top spot on this new primetime sci-fi show hasn’t had stateside hit since Shakespeare in Love in 1998. Plus, Cho just has more sexy-funny charisma that’s needed in these end-of-days shows. In that “situation normal—all fucked up” sense, Flash Forward is not only normal, but typical.

Simultaneously, the show is also normal in the way that doesn’t make a big racial-moment deal about Cho or Courtney B. Vance as the head of the FBI investigation unit to whom Cho and Fiennes report their surveillance activities before they, everyone else in multi-culti looking Los Angeles, and the rest of the world have a collective blackout. Everyone awakens to smoke pouring out of skyscrapers, massive car pile-ups, major and minor injuries, and, in the case of the (white) teenaged babysitter who was having sex in Fiennes’ home while his (white) daughter slept upstairs, a prophesy by the child about there being “no more good days.” I, however, think Flash Forward has a few good days ahead…if the lead actors were switched.

Mahsino
I would’ve written on Project Runway, but since moving to Lifetime the show has gotten so boring, it’s not worth it. It’s almost as if they need to sandwich it between commercials of Real Housewives and the Rachel Zoe Project in order for it to be more interesting than it is. And on a technical level, the final products all seem like a steady parade of mediocrity trotting down the runway. There are no “wow” worthy dresses, and a lot of them look like they could’ve been designed by almost anybody. Last week they finally got back to using unconventional materials, but I think it’s saying something about a show when 2 of the main judges have been MIA for the past 3 weeks.

So instead, here are some scattered thoughts on the awesomeness that is Glee:

Choreographed dance, singing, and a lovable gang of misfits is a recipe for pure gold in my book. Yes, I’m aware of how incredibly dorky I sound whenever I talk about any sort of musical, but I like shows where I don’t have to think too much and there’s a happy message at the end. It’s why I watch Ugly Betty, and honestly, this is about as cheesy as Ugly Betty with snazzier musical numbers. It’s like the people at Fox were like: okay Mahsino, we know we took King of the Hill away from you, here’s our peace offering, we’re cool now, right? And while me and FOX aren’t totally square, I’m willing to ignore Brothers.

I realize that in terms of racial portrayals, to say that the stereotypes are troublesome is putting it mildly, but considering my favorite musical of all time is West Side Story, it’s safe to say I’m willing to put up with some cringeworthy moments in the name of a jazzy dance number (also see: my addiction to America’s Best Dance Crew). This isn’t to say that I don’t have my limits (it’s not like I’m about to pop in Song of the South) or that the portrayals of Mercedes (sassy Black girl) and Tina (silent Asian girl) don’t make me hang my head in shame, but at least Glee is getting better, which is more than I can say by looking at the previews for Heroes. In last weeks episode Mercedes and Curt got some depth. Now, I would like to hear Tina get to have a complete sentence worth of lines, but if I can stick with Heroes for 4 seasons, I can stick with Glee for a little while longer.

And really, who doesn’t appreciate a cappella renditions of New Jack Swing?
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Erm, not touching that one. But hey, tell us – what are you watching this fall? And stay tuned, so to speak, for more Heroes dissaction in its’ (final?) season!