Over the last five years or so I have managed to get my regular television viewing down to approximately 0 (zero) hours per week. By that I mean sitting down on the couch on Sunday at 9, for instance, to see a regularly scheduled show. (Lee has the TV on all day to a news station, or sometimes a movie, but I don’t watch or listen … and actually, neither does she. She likes it in the background. And she often watches Jon Stewart or Bill Maher, but I hardly ever do.) I mean, what’s the point? I cannot abide commercials anymore, so if I decided I did want to see something, I’d tape it (don’t have TIVO) and time shift so I can FF. But I don’t even do that anymore. These days, anything that has any quality at all will be showing up on DVD within a year. By renting them, we can watch a whole season in a few nights and not have to wait a week to have cliffhangers resolved. Everything stays fresh in your mind. I really doubt that I will ever watch another TV show the way I used to watch “Hill Street Blues.” And I do not miss it one bit. I don’t have an office water cooler to hang around and discuss last night’s episode of whatever; I don’t care if I’m a year behind the times. Thus, we have not yet seen “The Wire,” and several other shows that might be worthy of our attention. We’ll get to them, there’s no hurry.
So, I had heard from several sources that “Heroes” was a good one. This week we started renting them, and have now zipped through all of the first season. My verdict: Tightly written, very imaginative, inventive, mostly intelligent, with appealing characters and great pacing. Insanely complicated plot lines, which is another reason I’m glad we viewed them one right after the other.
I have only one problem with the series (granting them the license to create any damn improbable/impossible “power” they want to dream up), which is, unfortunately, at the very center of the concept, and that is its view of evolution. It’s no wonder that so many people have bailed out on the whole idea of evolution and taken refuge in that idiot’s delight, “creationism,” or even worse, “creation science,” when you get crazy takes like this on evolution. Much is made here of concepts like “the evolutionary imperative,” as if it is a process with a goal, and “the next step up the ladder,” as if the billions of years of evolution life on Earth has undergone has resulted in organisms that are somehow “superior” to those that went before, and that the future holds more advances.
Not true, my friends. Evolution does not have a purpose any more than gravity does. Gravity does not have a “goal” of attracting other objects; it is merely a property of matter that leads to the formation of stars and planets. Evolution is merely the result of chemical reactions that produced what we call “life,” and the endless variations the environment works on those chemicals. Some are better suited to their environment than others, and those survive. Changes are always happening. 999,999 times out of a million, those changes are disastrous for the individual; it dies, and the species is strengthened. Once out of a million times a change is beneficial, and sometimes, if it is beneficial enough, it spreads though a species, which is now marginally better adapted to its environment. Add many millions of these changes together over many millions of generations, and new plants and animals are created in a very, very, very slow process.
It is true that complexity has increased as evolution moved from proto-life to single-celled and then to multi-cellular animals, but complexity is not, in and of itself, necessarily a survival characteristic. Right now there are literally thousands of very complex species that are on the brink of extinction because they have been unable to cope with an environment in which humans control the entire planet. But most bacterial species are not in any danger. We tend to view humans as somehow at the apex of a process, and it just ain’t true. We are no more complex than, say, a gerbil, we just have a more versatile brain. Whether that brain will turn out to be a positive thing is still very much in question. Ask me again in 100,000 years. (My current guess? On good days I see humanity spreading to the stars. On bad days, I see a scorched, radioactive Earth, or one where all humans died of a plague caused by our tampering with DNA. And you know what? The well-adapted species, like the cockroach, the alligator, and the shark, will still be there, and evolving to fill the environmental niches left empty by our brief but disastrous reign as kings of the planet.)
So, I have to ignore all the twaddle about how these mutated people, these “heroes,” are the “next step up the ladder.” There is no ladder. But it’s not hard to do, because the writing and the plots and the acting and the characters are sufficiently well-wrought that I can enjoy the rest of the show without worrying too much about the New Agey bullshit. In short, one of the best new TV series I’ve seen in a long time. I’m looking forward to Season Two, the one cut short by the writer’s strike. I understand Season Three will start in September … and I’ll wait a year for the DVD.