I’m not sure at what point I started to care about NBC’s “Heroes. ” It certainly wasn’t the originality of the plot that got me. In the first 15 minutes of the series premiere we were introduced to the idea that people among us might be developing “extraordinary” abilities through a completely natural genetic mutation. Wolverine couldn’t make the shoot. As the show unfolds, these abilities manifest in many people at the same time, seemingly independent of age, location, origin or outside catalyst. The main draw is the narrator’s insistence that these powers will aid people in the ultimate fight for humanity…an idea that echoes the premise of USA’s “The 4400.” After being an avid fan of that show for three seasons now, I can tell you that the cinematography, the dialogue and the plot are superior to “Heroes” in every way. Still, for some reason, I keep watching…

In the first 5 minutes of every episode, the narrator brings us up to speed. Of course, using the word “speed” here is misleading, because this segment of the show is painfully tedious. The producers (Dennis Hammer and Allan Arkush) seem to think every viewer of the show is watching for the first time – every week. We are re-introduced to each character, their developing abilities, and their past story lines. This, of course, is all shrouded in melodramatic metaphor. Segments of the show even overlap sometimes, where one week’s episode with the last 3 minutes of the previous week’s. While this ensures that at no point the audience will be lost, it also makes me bored. I didn’t get a DVR so I could have bathroom breaks built into the television shows themselves. Still, I keep watching…

I certainly am not drawn in by the heroes themselves. To be honest, I find a majority of them to be quite annoying. So far we have a female Jekyll and Hyde whose alter ego framed her ex-husband who can walk through walls (Kitty Pride?), a senatorial candidate who can fly but doesn’t want anyone to know about it and his younger brother who can mimic the powers of those heroes around him. There is a painter who can draw the future when he’s high on heroin, a Japanese nerd who can bend time and a beat cop with the ability to hear thoughts. The most recent addition is a woman who can memorize everything she reads. Finally, we have the indestructible cheerleader, Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) – the adopted daughter of the man who’s true alignment in the end-battle has yet to be revealed. Several week’s ago, Masi Oka‘s character Hiro (get it?), a Japanese man who can bend space and time, came back from the future to deliver a message: “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” Surprisingly, he didn’t add, “you should have no trouble finding her, because she’s always in her uniform – always…”

So if you’re keeping track, that’s flying, mimicking, mind-reading, though-wall-walking, regenerating, split personalities, remembering, time-stopping and future-drawing. The show also seems to be adding characters with abilities on an episodal basis so that the cop (Greg Grunberg) and his doubtful yet wanting-to- believe FBI partner can chase them down and learn more about their abilities. See “The 4400” for more details on how this will pan out.

Oh, and did I mention the “professor?” There has got to be some sort of copyright issue here. Genetics professor Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), son of the man who literally wrote the book on gene-mutation-super-power-ology, traveled to New York to uncover the truth behind his father’s death. Of course, once he got there, he immediately took an interest in his father’s work, and came to believe that the “heroes” are among us. At least…he believed it in theory. Every time Suresh has a chance to talk he falls back into the same techno-babble speech about the evolution of mankind, yadda yadda yadda. But when Peter Patrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) comes by to disclose his super abilities, Suresh doesn’t believe him. Not even a little. For some reason we are to believe that this guy puts his life on the line, every day, trying to find these superheroes, but when Peter’s talking about his abilities and the impending destruction of the world as we know it…well, that’s just a little to far-fetched. Long story short, he went back to India to find his path and it looks like he’ll be coming back. His temporary absence from the main plot didn’t prevent him from serving a second narrator, chiming in after the first guy, telling us about destiny and whatnot, so I could take him or leave him. And I keep watching…

But why? What keeps me coming back? I don’t know. I do know that when Hiro traveled back in time to warn the younger Patrelli of the future catastrophe, I found myself interested. When Patrelli re-delivered the exact same message back to the current time Hiro, I was hooked. For some reason I found myself invested in this very unoriginal, very condescending series that I can’t even stand watching. Maybe it’s because I’m an X-Men fan at heart, and the idea of time-travel amuses me. Maybe I’m just itching for a modern day version of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Maybe it’s because when Hiro traveled back in time, he was dressed like a Ninja. I don’t know…

At this point, I can only credit my attraction to the fact that the producers are pulling every trick in the book – super powers, cliff hangers, hot girls, charismatic guys, sex, lies and paradoxes. I’m not the only one they’ve got, either – the ratings on Heroes are roughly twice that of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which airs immediately afterwards, and I think that show’s incredible. Regardless of the reason, I’ll tune in again next week – tonight they finally saved that damn cheerleader, so who knows what’s going to happen next? At least I don’t have to listen to that damn whispering commercial anymore…

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