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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
This week's column is another one devoted to a single program: the return of Heroes.
The show is one of the few bona-fide success stories in a field of noble, faltering failures in the 2006-07 season. Tonight's episode, airing at 9 on WFLA-Ch. 8, is a must-see for fans who have waited since Dec. 4 to learn whether a growing band of average folks with superpowers can stop a nuclear blast prophesied to destroy New York City.
And, I'm sorry to say, it may be a disappointment.
The episode picks up in the wake of our heroes' successful work in keeping cheerleader Claire Bennet alive. This, of course, ruins the catchy slogan NBC crafted to sell the cliffhanger "Save the cheerleader; save the world", so it has come up with a new one: "Are you on the list?"
Frankly, I'm hoping the creator of that lame-o tagline is on some sort of list that involves collecting unemployment. But it does reflect the tone of tonight's return, which feels much more like running in place than breaking new ground. (ALERT: LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD).
Claire is back home, pretending not to remember the attack from superpowered serial killer Syler that eliminated a former friend from school. Her father, the as-yet-unnamed H.R.G. (for the horn rimmed glasses he wears), thinks an employee of his erased her memory, but the employee did not. Seemingly aware of Claire's destiny, he declined to take her memory, and the two are now allies.
Throughout tonight's show, we're caught up on various characters: Hiro, the time-traveling teleporter, feels his powers weakening. Split-personality case Niki pays an awful price for the shooting spree that nearly killed her husband. Mind-reading police officer Matt finds himself outfoxed by H.R.G. And ailing superpower sponge Peter bumps into a new hero, played by British actor Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who).
But new questions emerge: Matt's partner doubts his mind-reading abilities, so why doesn't he just show her? If Niki's superstrong alter ego can break police nightsticks with her bare hands, why does she stay in their custody?
It's the typical fate of high-octane series, which start and finish strong but tend to lag in the middle. Unfortunately, with so many closely-watched series taking winter breaks - Prison Break returns tonight on Fox, and Lost comes back on ABC on Feb. 7 - these midseries returns are nearly as important.
So why is this lukewarm review stuck in a column called Watch This? Because that's how good Heroes really is: Even when it's not so well done, it's still worth watching.
Eric Deggans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8521. See his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/media.