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TV Series Review

"Every hero must learn his purpose. Then he'll be tested and called to greatness." So claims a bespectacled Japanese office drone/sci-fi fan able to manipulate time and space. He's just one of many common folk awaking to unique abilities on NBC's drama Heroes .

Judging from our advance look at the series premiere, it combines elements of The 4400, X-Men, Lost and Stephen King's The Stand as a troubled ensemble comes to grips with life-changing metamorphoses and tries to make sense of a bigger, possibly apocalyptic mystery. Cool concept, huh? Not so fast.

Heroes wastes no time establishing itself as a show eager to shock and titillate. Ali Larter plays a single mom (her mirror image has a will of its own) who performs lusty stripteases for online voyeurs. Meanwhile, a guy who thinks he can fly swan dives off a roof; and an unstable, precognitive painter with a drug habit severs his own hand with a saw. And when an angst-ridden teenager (Disney darling Hayden Panettiere) learns she's indestructible, she mangles and bloodies herself to watch the grotesque wounds heal before her eyes.

The offbeat pilot also blends sex and violence when mob thugs force the stripper to give them a private show. She uses colorful language to decline, so they slap her around. When she regains consciousness, her assailants' dead bodies have been vividly lacerated and impaled with broken glass.

"I will commit to this," said beleaguered NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly. "We will not be mired in fourth [place] week after week. We're going to be a challenger in many time periods."

So, the Peacock Network wants to get off the mat and begin vying for Nielsen households. Great. But is this the best way to go about it? Sure, Heroes' premise, social constructs and moral dilemmas have merit. Questions include, Will people serve their fellow man or parlay their gifts for selfish gain? Are these mutations a product of human evolution (as suggested) or some experiment the government wants covered up? Why is it important—in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 12—that citizens fulfill their "calling" and respect one another's gifts? The writing is decent, the characters intriguing and the potential story threads endless. But why limit the series' reach with bawdy language, gore and sensuality?

It's not too late for creator Tim Kring to make Heroes a more accessible program. That's one of the beauties of television: Just as shows can go downhill, they can also improve. Until that happens, however, wise families won't be watching the attention-starved Peacock strut its stuff.

Episodes Reviewed: Sept. 25, 2006

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Bob Smithouser

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