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Heroes the Best Serial on TV? Get Lost.

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It’s hard to stop a runaway meme, and the one that’s taken off in TV this year is that Heroes in the new Lost. Or, rather, the new, improved Lost.

The argument goes like this: Lost used to be a great, entertaining show, but it got so up its own, um, hatch with plot convolutions that it became impossible and frustrating to follow. Enter Heroes, another great-looking serial which improved on the formula by streamlining its mystery, disciplining its story, and providing closure, closure, closure. It tells you “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World,” and, by God, somebody will save the cheerleader by mid-season!

I like Heroes a lot. I’ll be watching tonight. (First Nathan gets with Niki, and now he’s Claire’s father? Dude’s presidential material!) But to me this argument takes a pretty dim view of not just Lost but of what TV can be as an entertainment form. If all you care about is suspense, easy-to-follow stories and plot gratification, Heroes is your show.

But as a piece of writing, a work of–is it embarrassing to say this?–art? It’s not even close. Heroes is not written nearly at the level Lost is, either in its dialogue–how often does a character on Heroes deliver a line you couldn’t have pretty much predicted a beat in advance?–or its characters. Lost has an entire roster of multifaceted, engaging characters, alive and dead: Locke, Eko, Sawyer, Ben and the list goes on. Heroes has maybe two characters that aren’t flat stock types: Hiro (who’s funny and endearing, but pales before Hurley) and maybe Horn-Rimmed Glasses (who is interestingly ambiguous, but also a bit of an X-Files retread).

Obviously not every show on TV needs to be, or can be, as creative as Lost, and there’s room for more than one good serial on network TV. But it’s time to stop the madness. If anybody wants to take up the samurai sword for Heroes, however, I bare my neck for you here.

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