Despite a murder melodrama and some obvious tweaks for accessibility, “Friday Night Lights” still has a gritty realism and superlative acting that make it one of network TV’s best shows. “Ugly Betty” still is bright, punchy and bursting with zippy jokes, even if a few plot wheels are spinning.
Despite a murder melodrama and some obvious tweaks for accessibility, “Friday Night Lights” still has a gritty realism and superlative acting that make it one of network TV’s best shows. “Ugly Betty” still is bright, punchy and bursting with zippy jokes, even if a few plot wheels are spinning. The sophomore slump hits most shows but rarely as hard as it has hit “Heroes.” One of 2006’s best shows has disappointingly, but perhaps not inexplicably, toppled from its great heights. As compelling in its first season as “Lost” was, “Heroes” — about the vast connections between people who’ve discovered they have superpowers and the mysterious Company tracking them — is now written with virtually no comedic flair, palpable suspense or consistency of character. Claire (“the cheerleader,” for those who’ve only seen “Heroes” ads) has gone from a strong-willed girl coming of age under harsh circumstances to a teenager gone stupid for plot purposes. A transplant to Ireland has done little for Peter Petrelli (last year’s “burning man”). And although sweet, time-traveling Hiro being stuck in feudal Japan has flickers of promise, the writers seem too busy introducing lame new characters and poorly using returning ones to really expand upon it. “Company Man,” a late-season episode from last year, was among the finest hours of TV shown on any channel in 2006. It pushed every button of heart, nervous humor and impressive action that “Heroes” has so far failed to find this year. Its writer? Bryan Fuller. So why can’t he work more magic on this season? Because Fuller left to create 2007’s big-buzz series, “Pushing Daisies.” Fuller was a co-executive producer on “Heroes” last year; its creator is “Crossing Jordan’s” Tim Kring. And he brought more to the scriptwriting table than his two credited episodes would suggest. In interviews, Fuller has said that despite his bottom-of-the-hierarchy title, his was a full week’s job. All that snappy banter, bleak-but-bright humor and affection for characters from “Heroes” can now be seen in “Daisies,” which has lived up to its intense hype as this year’s show to watch. I’m not yet suggesting a defection from “Heroes”; only a gun at my temple could make me recommend “Two and a Half Men,” and even then I’d have to think about it. But I’m afraid NBC — which already has a spin-off in the works — has put a branded cart before a quality horse. Already packed with product placement and incessant ad breaks, “Heroes” has shown so many Nissans this season, I’m waiting for one to sport the power of speech. Given how un-cool “Heroes” has been thus far, that development would be more “My Mother the Car” than “Knight Rider.” Nick Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, Unpainted Huffhines, at blogs.sj-r.com/unpaintedhuffhines.