Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Some Heroes are better than others

Subject: TV
I didn't realize that NBC's "Heroes" had started up again this week until I noticed it on my DVR. The season premiere managed to shake up a couple of expectations from the ending of the first season, and in some ways give a nice little twist, and in others, well, it twisted a bit more predictably. Or, I should say, a bit less interestingly.

Still, it's the same show that is somewhat addictive, mostly cheeseball, and otherwise entertaining. The new arcs for this season are mostly set up, most of our favorite characters are re-established (and our not-so-favorite characters show up in the preview), and we get a few new characters to round things out. I'm probably not as likely to be treating this as "appointment TV" this season, wherein I tune in when it's airing (after a 25 min interval so I can FF through the commercials on my DVR), but I'll keep with it. Fun.

Of course, the reason I missed it is that I'm watching the latest Ken Burns epic on PBS: "The War". "The" war is obviously World War II, which I've mentioned (probably a bit drunkenly) a couple of times after watching WWII-based Hollywood films like Clint Eastwood's. And at the time, I'm sure I've mentioned just how staggeringly vast and incomprehensible that even was to me, and how hard it is to project any tiny bit of the contemporary "real" world on to it, despite the violence and awfulness going on. World War II was different, the era was different, yet it's still such an ingrained part of us. And it still has a lot of fundamentals of human existence sewed up into it.

The style of this particular documentary (which is running 2+ hours a night for the whole week) is very, very Ken-Burnsesque. Folksy music, letters from various everymen being read by celebrities, slow pans on photos, and up-close interviews with eyewitnesses. It flits from strong-ish story to strong-ish story, sometimes repeating footage, sometimes repeating smaller facts, but ultimately trying to draw you into a personal eyewitness-level portrait of the humanity in the event, which tends to be missing in the endless cable-tv "Hitler-this" and "war-machine-that" kind of programming thrown together from public-domain footage and filling hours upon hours of repetitive airtime.

There's some serious shit that happens to a person in a war, sometimes heroic, sometimes brutal, sometimes incompreshensible... sometimes all at the same time. No new breakthrough there, and I'm not going to attempt to rationalize it myself, having no experience in the matter. The interviews with the various veterans who were there obviously show that what they did took it's toll, and even 60 years later they still break up over it. Many interviewees were never aired because they just couldn't make it through the interview, despite how hard they tried. 60 years later. It's unimaginable, even with the graphic footage and narrative.

The whole thing, though, does fall just a teeny bit flat and cliched. It's like there's not really much "new" information that hasn't already been covered by those endless technocratic hours of footage before it. It's just capturing as many individual stories as it can as it's primary goal, and trying to set them against the atmosphere of "life back home". There's a lot of exposure to the vast injustices of ours back then (Japanese internment camps, racial segregation, etc), and that's compelling, but again, nothing really new there.

Still, I'm watching the show nightly, enough that I've missed the comparatively shallow and escapist "Heroes", who's heroism obviously pales against those of the time. I'll get over it.

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