Heroes Spinoff 'Origins' May Suck

by Paul William Tenny

Am I insane? A Heroes hater from the beginning? Hardly, I love the show as much as anyone though I was extremely cautious about the first half the season which had problems paying things off without pushing coherent arcs forward. They got their game together and it all turned out great, and I'm looking forward to the second season premier tonight just like you are.

Origins, the coming limited-edition spin-off sounded pretty cool at first, and when Kevin Smith signed on to write and direct an episode, I was thrilled.

We all were.

But things are getting just a little more crowded and it's causing a bit of concern and Media Pundit central. Here is a list of who we know is on-board and why I think this is going to be a problem.
  • Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Reaper)

    Though Smith likes to tell people that dialog is the only thing he's good at and knows really well, Dogma as a story moved along better than most and even a moderate amount of action can sate most people's desires. Silent Bob has been expanding his horizons lately writing and directing the pilot of The CW's Reaper and developing a new theatrical drama called Red State which is so profoundly different than anything he has done before that people who have read the script say you wouldn't peg it as a Kevin Smith script if you didn't know beforehand, and probably even after.

    Heroes isn't the kind of series that engenders lengthy speeches though, and if that truly is Smith's strong point, it's going to feel a bit awkward to have dialog-dense material in series that lives and breaths the building of physical mytho's through action. On the whole it may have the "cool", but it may not be the "best Heroes" style.

  • Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel)

    This could easily be the worst of the lot. I know that Roth has a cult following in the blogosphere, but that didn't translate into success for Hostel II which was very well liked by the pundit. Creatively speaking, I was actually pretty offended that Roth blamed the failure of that film on piracy instead of taking at least some responsibility and accepting that most people simply don't like and don't want to see that kind of product.

    I've not seen Cabin Fever or Hostel II, so based entirely on the first Hostel, I will say that the first third of the film was pretty entertaining, had a decent creep factor, but wasn't anything close to high art when it comes to pretty much anything. The movie was visually appealing (until it wasn't, if you know what I mean) and that perhaps is Roth's greatest strength, as a director, not as a writer.

    Roth will be taking on both writing and directing duties for his episode of Origins, and I'm pretty sure he'll stay comfortably within that box. Unfortunately, I think everyone will try to do that out of respect for the series, and in a way, that defeats the purpose of bringing in guests to do these things.

  • Michael Dougherty (X-Men 2, Superman Returns)

    Mike did a great job with the X-Men II, and was exceptionally average with Superman Returns. That film felt like everything we've already seen before, but with a new coat of paint to make it all shiny. Fine, but $300+ million for new paint? You'd think with all that cash, they could have found someone on the A-list to write that sucker - and that's not to crap on Dougherty, he did a fine job - just saying that while he did the job, it could have been done a lot better.

    Oddly, he might be the best choice of the bunch thus far, given how easily he's able to adapt his voice to existing material. Both these large franchise additions felt at home, which is no easy accomplishment, and that's a necessary talent for working in television. You need to be able to write with the show runners voice to remain consistent with his or her vision of the show, not your own. Even with a lack of television experience, Mike probably has best shot at writing a Heroes episode that actually feels like a Heroes episode.

    Dougherty won't be directing his installment.

  • John August (Go, Titan A.E., Charlie's Angels 1&2, The Nines, Shazam!)

    Here is one you probably haven't heard about, and I can't confirm this, but I am dead certain I heard Tim Kring say that John August was being lined up as another guest writer/director for Origins. (confirmed) I read John's blog all the time and happen to believe he is one of the greatest contributors to public knowledge about writing.

    As you see above, August is doing the Captain Marval flick and has a couple of big properties under his belt, but still we're only talking about feature writers and directors. I would be so much more impressed if Kring was seeking out A-list TV talent to chip in on this rather than just feature talent. Wouldn't it be sweet to see J.J. Abrams do an episode? Or perhaps Joss Whedon? Oh please God, LET THERE BE WHEDON FOR US MEAGER SLIME. *bow* *bow* *chant* *chant*

    John August is a great, professional choice that has big time cred as a flexible writer and should meld into the framework nicely.

  • You

    Wouldn't it be great if NBC-Universal held a writing contest where the winner would get to write an episode of Origins, or something similar? There is a vast sum of undiscovered talent out there (Ronald D. Moore started his career by submitting a spec script through Star Trek: TNG's open submission program. In effect, it was fan-fic that got him started in the business.)

    ...Just a thought.

So why the hell am I so concerned about this? Very simple: television is all about cohesive idea-melding that turns 10 totally different creative personalities into a single thought stream. Most episodes start as a dozen disparate ideas that get bounced around a room until the lame ones are chucked, and the sweet ones are strung together and molded like putty until you get a story out of it.

Feature writers, of which every single one of these guys are, don't work that way. They have an idea, and nurture it from cradle to the grave without any outside interference (on spec.) They are not used to being told what to do, having to work inside another persons playground, writing a story that will only run 54 pages instead of 90-100, and having the primary limit of being on a relatively tiny budget.

That doesn't mean they can't do it, only that this isn't their turf. This is Tim Kring's house and they have to play by his rules, which isn't how they got to where they are today. As such, no mater how hard they try, I find it likely that all of these writers will stumble along the way trying to fit their ideas into somebody else's toy box. What comes out in the end will be one of two things.

A.) Something that doesn't look anything like an episode of Heroes, but feels a lot like the person who wrote it.
B.) Something that looks a lot like a typical Heroes episode that any Joe Blow could have written, negating the "unique" contributions of the guest writers and directors.

Is it even worth the effort?


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