Magazine article The Spectator

Wish Fulfilment

Magazine article The Spectator

Wish Fulfilment

Article excerpt

Which super power would you choose?

When I was young, the one I quite wanted was invisibility. I imagined myself sneaking into the bedrooms of all the girls I fancied and persuading them that I was an incubus come to satisfy their every desire.

An ability to arrest time with a stopwatch would be a handy power too, as would being able to fly or teleport. But the impression I get with super powers is that you're not allowed to be too greedy. I was trying to think which low-level super power I'd accept today and I realised how unambitious I've become. Being able to go to the loo without ever again needing to wipe your bottom -- I'd be quite happy with that. Always going to sleep within 30 seconds of one's head hitting the pillow, that would be even better. Or how about -- completing one's next novel, rewrites included, in less than a year:

God, how I'd kill for that one.

So this week, as you may have guessed, we're talking about Heroes (BBC2, Wednesday), the new US import about a disparate group of young people (the Japanese manga-reading sarariman; the blonde Texan cheerleader; the Indian biologist, etc. ) united by the fact that they all have special powers.

The best deal has gone to the Texan girlie, who gets to walk through infernos, get her hand mangled in the kitchen waste-disposal unit, fall off high buildings so that her ribs poke hideously through her flesh, and get her neck accidentally broken by the college football jock, but then end up totally unscathed because of her remarkable autoregenerative skills.

Another one can fly; another one can bend the space-time continuum; another can read people's thoughts; but it's not all good. You wouldn't want to be the tortured artist who paints apocalyptic visions of the future because he's so appalled he takes too many drugs and then blows his head off.

Nor, probably, the (very sexy) blonde parttime stripper with the evil mirror-twin-cumguardian-angel who does things like brutally murder men who are trying to rape her.

I like this sort of tosh, probably enough to keep on watching, but only just -- which is my problem with pretty much all US TV drama that isn't The Sopranos. It never seems to be constructed on the basis: 'Just how totally brilliant can we make this programme?' but much more on the lines of: 'What's the maximum level of crapness we can inflict on our audience, while yet keeping them watching.' Perhaps the most infuriating thing about Heroes is just how much of each episode is dedicated to plot recapping. …

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