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Heroes - The Complete First Season Print E-mail
Monday, 01 October 2007

Image“Save the Cheerleader, Save the World”. These words became a household phrase last fall for television fans everywhere as the phenomenon that is NBC's “Heroes”, captured audiences around the nation.

The series brings drama, action, visual effects, and intricate plot and character twists to the small screen. “Heroes”, a mixture of X-Men and Spider-Man, takes the idea of superheroes, transforms them into everyday people endowed with special abilities and places them around the world, unaware of their destiny. Some of them understand and accept their abilities, others are frightened of not being normal and still others have no idea how special they really are. No matter how they feel about their supernatural gifts, they all have something in common: all have become targets. They are targets for researchers, for politicians, for secret societies, and from persons within their evolved species.

The first season of “Heroes” comprises of 23 episodes. As this series is structured upon the format of comic books, the 23 episodes are known as chapters. The entire season is called, “Volume 1: Genesis”. Season one follows Hiro Nakamura (Oka), and his best friend, Ando (Kyson Lee) as they travel from Japan to the United States with the mission to “Save The World”. Peter Petrelli (Ventimiglia), unable to control or understand his powers, is a humble hospice nurse that has dreams that he is destined for something greater. Claire Bennet (Panettiere), also known as “The Cheerleader”, lives in Odessa, Texas with her adopted family. Wanting to be a normal teenager, she is confused and afraid when she discovers her powers. Seeking answers, she becomes determined to find her real parents.

As each chapter unfolds, more and more character relationships are revealed. As with any great storytelling, every character plays an extremely important role in the future of the world. Niki Sanders (Larter) struggles as a single mom, and her husband, DL Hawkins (Roberts) is an escaped fugitive with a rather unique gift reminiscent of Kitty from the X-Men. Their son, Micah (Gray-Cabey), tries to mediate the relationship between his parents, as they all discover their special abilities. Officer Matt Parkman (Grunberg) finds himself in the middle of an FBI investigation after his powers make him an unappreciated hero. Mr. Bennet (Coleman), Claire's father and normal human, appears to be a regional manager of a paper manufacturing company, but we soon learn how connected he is with the fate of the world. Isaac Mendez (Cabrera) is a painter from New York City. Unfortunately for him his powers only seem to appear when he injects heroin. Peter's brother, Nathan Petrelli (Pasdar) finds himself in a moral dilemma as he runs for Congress and discovers his part in the fate of the world at the same time. Mohinder Suresh (Ramamurthy), a geneticist from India, travels to New York to search from his father's murderer and to pick up where his father left off on his research: trying to track down persons with special abilities.

Each one of these characters, and many others find themselves ultimately connected to a man named Linderman (McDowell), and another man named Sylar (Quinto). Linderman leads the force behind the ultimate fate of the world, which a string of characters are trying so desperately to prevent. Sylar, a man with special abilities is out to steal the powers of others and use them for personal gain.

The show's creator, writer, and producer, Tim Kring, truly demonstrates an awesome ability of his own. He has the ability to envision intricate character interactions and complex storylines. There is much to keep track of in season one of this show, and Kring does an excellent job of giving the audience just enough information at just the right moment. For every question that is answered, at least three more new questions are created. And at the end of it all, trust me, you will be dying to see what comes next in season two. (NOTE: Since the time of this review season two has premiered with mixed reviews, but in no way impacts the greatness of season one.)

As TV shows begin to be shot on high-definition cameras, we will see more and more shows being released in HD DVD and Blu-ray. Few to date have been released, but this series on HD DVD is the best in terms of audio and video quality and special features.

With the show already originally being aired in 1080i, the improvement in video and audio lies in the lack of compression by the satellite/cable providers. The video transfer of this season has excellent retention of details. In many scenes throughout the season you can see the difference between broadcast and HD DVD. For example in the first episode of the season, there is raging fire amidst a major train wreck. Claire Bennet performs a heroic act by rescuing a trapped man. In the scene the flames are very fluid with no signs of motion artifacts. The color in this scene, and throughout the show, is astounding. Normally, most TVs have trouble resolving fast motion, red objects. However, Claire's cheerleader outfit (the majority being red) was perfectly clean with no noticeable pixilation. This is not the case with the digital cable broadcast.

One episode that is interesting to compare to the HD digital cable broadcast is Chapter 17, “Company Man”. Toward the end of this episode there is a massive explosion. The HD broadcast was loaded with motion and compression artifacts. They were extremely noticeable on Ted's plaid jacket and the glowing fire. Fast motion camera sweeps were completely pixilated on the broadcast. The HD DVD transfer has none of this. The scene is crystal clear.

This is one show on HD DVD that you do not have to worry about being jarred by the appearance of your favorite actors or actresses. The make-up department did an excellent job of adapting their application styles to suit the demands that 1080p resolution puts on the appearance of actors.

The HD DVD video transfer does have a couple noticeable drawbacks, but nothing extremely major. First, many sky shots and dark blue objects appear to be very grainy. I have yet to see a sky blue shot that didn't contain grain, short of those that are computer generated, so this was not a concern for me. In episode seven you see Peter's dark blue nurse outfit, which also appears grainy. This ties into the second noticeable flaw and that is the transfer of black levels. Some of the fine details in the dark scenes are lost. The black levels however are still impressive enough to retain the depth of the shots. All in all, colors and black levels are well represented in the HD DVD transfer.

The only audio on the HD DVD is a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track. This is better than standard Dolby Digital encoding, but I would had liked to had heard a Dolby TrueHD or DTS track on this release. While the show does not have much in the way of dynamics, I still believe the audio track would have benefited from even less compressed audio. The dialogue track, which plagues many TV shows is extremely well recorded and represented on this HD DVD, which is why I am not completely distraught over the lack of a TrueHD track.

Another shining moment for this HD DVD release is the bundle of special features that are included. Most notably, there is the inclusion of the 73-minute, unaired pilot episode. Unlike many of these cuts, this truly was an alternate showing of the pilot. This cut includes a rearrangement of the scenes, additional plots and scenes (beyond those shown in the plethora of deleted scenes), and most interestingly, plots and dialogues that were in the aired pilot but that were shot in different atmospheres. Watching this episode will show you how intricate the series' plots are, and how editing team and writers can adapt to the loss of plotlines. Extremely well done, a must see.

The box set also contains a total of 50 deleted scenes. Nearly every episode has something deleted from it. Most of these scenes are not those pointless deleted scenes that are including on my DVDs, but rather interesting. There were many scenes that were cut that I thought would have been great to leave in the show. Most likely they were cut do to time constraints or to avoid giving away too much information too soon.

There are also several featurettes on these discs. “The Special Effects” and “The Score” are particularly interesting for those that like to learn about the background of the actors in the show and the production of the series. The audio commentary by Tim Kring on the unaired pilot episode is well done. I highly recommend watching the episode without the commentary first, and then watching it again with the commentary on. There are many great explanations by the show's creator.

There are a few exclusive HD DVD special features. These include, “Character Connections”, allowing you to discover all the links between your favorite characters, “Helix Revealed”, which reveals the hidden helix symbol throughout the season, “Picture In Picture” which allows you to watch video commentaries at the same time as the episode, and an “Artwork Presentation”, which allows you to view the details of Isaac's painting during the show. There is also a web-enabled, Genetic Abilities Test. It is entertaining. My result indicates that I have telekinesis. Not really one of powers I wished for in my childhood, but in today's world it would be practical.

If you are tired of these mindless situation comedies on TV, the never-ending string of reality shows, and all those lawyer practice shows, then this is the show you need to reignite your TV viewing. Even if you like the above-mentioned genres, I still highly recommend this series. So go grab yourself an HD DVD player and this TV series, and immerse yourself in a world of possibilities.

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