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Save The Cheerleader, Save The Show
Monday, November 20, 2006 - reddit
Promotional teasers have promised that the tagline "SAVE THE CHEERLEADER, SAVE THE WORLD" will be paid off sometime during this evenings episode of Heroes. I have more questions than answers, not the least among them is: are the writers capable of paying off the hype?
It depends on what you consider a payoff. If you hype an epic showdown between your protagonist and your antagonist near the end of the season, and they battle to a conclusion, then that's a good payoff (especially if you didn't expect the ending you get.) If the result isn't final, then it's a cheat. You never want to setup something you can't payoff, people won't forgive you for it.
So from the audience perspective, they just want something cool to happen. From the writers perspective, we want something that makes sense and was well thought about, set in play from the very beginning of possible. I don't think we'll get either, frankly.
The first time I heard the tagline, it made me think of "I'll be back" from James Cameron's The Terminator. Now an iconic phrase, it wasn't any more important to Cameron than any other piece of dialog when he wrote the screenplay 22 years ago. That is has become so much more doesn't change the fact that as far as elements in scripts go, it was mostly an afterthought.
Here we have another one of those moments, only the producers of Heroes have placed themselves in the unenviable position of having to live up to the iconic hype just a short time after it started while Cameron had all the time in the world.
There is every possibility that what the writers come up with will meet the majorities expectations, which will in turn set the bar that they'll have to meet from this point on, especially for the season finale. They could have been trapped in this position by an overzealous marketing division within NBC Universal, which is not out of the question given that the people responsible for these shows often have nothing to do with the teasers.
It could be a partial pay-off which only serves to hype the season finale, which in term may not get paid off either. We'll just have to wait and see.
The reason I made a play on the tagline with my title is that I've been arguing unsuccessfully that setting up too many questions without resolving some of them at a gradual pace will eventually frustrate fans, regardless of how they feel about the show right now. Television history is littered with dead shows for this reason.
While I originally believed that it would take perhaps 5-10 episodes into the sophomore season for people to start tuning out, tonights episode may be portent my theory right here, right now.
If it all works out, breath a sigh of relief. I know I will. If it doesn't feel right or is passed down the line for later episodes without resolving anything set up thus far, you'll be hearing this for a while:
I told you so.
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