I'm combining my thoughts on "Heroes" and "24" because both shows did something that's increasingly driving me nuts of late. I'll deal with that up top, then deal with specific spoilers for "Heroes" and then "24" after.
The newspaper business is in a constant state of hand-wringing over how to survive in the age of instant news on the Internet. If a big story happens at 10 a.m. on Monday, for instance, why would anyone wait to read a standard account of it until Tuesday morning? So the focus in a lot of places is shifting more towards analysis and looking forward.
I mention this because the TV business still needs to learn some lessons from the Information Age. We live in a time when every major casting announcement is hyped weeks or months in advance, especially for geek obsessive shows like "Heroes." Is there a fanboy worth his salt who didn't know Mr. Sulu was going to pop up as Hiro's dad? Especially since the NBC PR team arranged for a new series of stories and other promotion about it to run yesterday to make it clear that this would be George Takei's first episode? So why wait nearly the length of the episode to introduce the guy? Why waste one of his episodes on a single, brief scene when we've all been waiting a while to see Takei and Masi Oka work together? And why try to string out the suspense of who the kidnappers' boss was when it absolutely had to be Papa Nakamura?
The "24" audience isn't as inherently nerdy (a good chunk of the fanbase is made up of middle-aged white guys who used to go to Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson movies), but every single promo for this episode featured James Cromwell as Jack's dad, and yet again we had to wait nearly the entire hour for him to show up. His arrival wasn't treated as quite the surprise as Takei's was supposed to be -- after all, Jack had spent the length of two episodes looking for his old man -- and he got more to do than Takei, but given all the hype, it still felt like bad pacing.
Shows like "Heroes" and "24" that live and die on shocking the audience with what happens next need to keep in mind what that audience already knows, and devote the last act or two to the real surprises.
Moving on to specifics...
On "Heroes," I will never complain about getting a chance to watch Christopher Eccleston work, but I shouldn't be rooting for him to throw the show's main character off a roof, should I? It does occur to me that the last time I enjoyed Peter's presence was when they paired him off with someone (in that case, Mohinder) who spent all his time making fun of Peter's pushy whininess, so this could work.
I remain baffled that anyone on that writing staff could possibly think that anyone gives a damn about the Parkman marriage. I remember the first season of "Law & Order: SVU," which began with a mission statement as the "L&O" show where you actually learned about the character's home lives, only the veteran "L&O" writers didn't know how to do that, so you got these pointless scenes of Chris Meloni fixing the kitchen sink. This was worse, because at least Stabler was interesting when he was at work, where Parkman has become this show's biggest drag. (At least Simone has the decency to disappear for a few episodes at a time, though the previews make it look like we'll be forced to endure a lot of her next week.)
The comic book geek in me finds it interesting that the children of people with abilities have completely different powers. Micah's machine-talking has nothing in common with intangibility or super-strength, and Claire's mom is a firestarter. (And, based on the previews, I'm guessing her dad is Nathan.) Beyond that, though, not my favorite episode of the series. Even Sylar's escape and confrontation with HRG felt more inevitable than stunning.
"24," meanwhile, suffered from keeping Jack off-camera for the episode's middle chunk. I understand that the producers have to pay lip service to the real time conceit by having Jack take at least 15 minutes to drive anywhere (though how LA isn't one big parking lot as people panic and try to escape the nuke's fallout is beyond me), and I also understand that they have to give the rest of the cast enough to do that Kiefer doesn't collapse from exhaustion, but this is the least inspiring collection of supporting characters and subplots that they've had in a while. Outside of watching Peter MacNichol casually give Karen Hayes a career beat-down, I didn't care about anything that happened when Jack was off-screen.
And getting back to the promo issue again, this was the first episode all season I watched live on Fox. (The first four were DVD review screeners, and I downloaded last week's on iTunes.) Have the promos this season consistently given away this much of the plot? I know Jack's going to find a way to escape his brother's goons, but they showed exactly how, and then they showed what's going to happen next with this wacky sibling rivalry. Felt as bad as a Robert Zemeckis movie trailer.
What did everybody else think?