‘Heroes,’ ‘Chronicles’ score high praise

Joe Cramer

It’s the end of September, and you know what that means: The fall TV season is kicking off.

The past few weeks have seen the premiere episodes of most of the networks’ new shows and returning favorites.

While many notable new shows, such as “Fringe,” have unexpectedly generated a lot of hype, two returning action/sci-fi shows, “Heroes” and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” seem to have eluded this buzz.

This is unfortunate because, despite some flaws, they are two of the most ambitious and impressive series that TV has offered in some time.

What distinguishes these shows from the rest of the pack is not anything that the Emmys are likely to reward.

The acting and dialogue are nothing special (and sometimes flat-out cheesy), but these two shows aim to impress in a different way.

Collectively, they represent an extremely interesting trend in modern network TV that seems to indicate a shift toward movie-like production values and scope. Watching either of these shows feels like watching an extremely long movie unfold week after week.

Both their plots and sub-plots extend far beyond one episode and usually take a full season to develop.

Clearly inspired by movies in plot and special effects, they are simply more interesting to watch than the average sitcom or medical show.

“Heroes,” a product of the rising popularity of superheroes and comic books in popular culture, begins with a fresh start, coming off a disappointing and abbreviated second season.

This season, titled “Villains,” introduces a dark and ambitious new storyline that promises to explore the dark side within all the heroes, as well as the potential for good in some of the series’ most sinister and enigmatic villains.

“Good will battle evil” as some of the world’s most dangerous super-criminals escape from their top-secret, underground prison.

From the two-hour premiere, it seems as though the creators are upping the ante in almost every aspect: more powers, more superheroes and higher stakes.

Its ambitious plot is consistent with the trend toward more cinematic and epic production values in TV, and the show’s stunning special effects contribute heavily.

The heroes’ powers are all rendered beautifully, making you feel like you are watching a super-sized summer blockbuster in one-hour segments rather than a one-hour episode.

The only faults here are the wooden acting and sometimes laughable dialogue, but in an action-orientated show such as this, they do not detract from the overall experience.

Another ambitious series, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” is starting up its first full season this year.

Based on the popular movie franchise with Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Chronicles” continues the story of Sarah Connor and her son John who is destined to lead the remains of the human race in war against machines in the future.

This season sees the mother-and-son team, accompanied by a Terminator reprogrammed to protect John, take a more active role in the fate of mankind as they try to destroy the computer network that will eventually lead to the rise of the machines.

Like that of “Heroes,” the plot of “Chronicles” is epic in scale – the kind you would expect to see on the big screen.

Equally impressive are the special effects and action scenes, which give the series a distinctly cinematic feel through its thrilling shootouts and car chases. The show is a massive undertaking for a TV network and not without risk.

In less-capable hands, this show could have failed miserably and been laughed off the air by the legions of “Terminator” fans.

It’s not perfect and can be a bit repetitive from episode to episode, but the actors carry their roles well, even when not given much to work with in the dialogue department.

If “Heroes” and “Chronicles” are any indication, TV is headed to an interesting place.

Taking cues from revolutionary shows like “24” and production values from movies, these shows prove that TV can produce high-quality entertainment that rivals some of Hollywood’s blockbuster movies.

We’ll see if this trend of quality continues later this season when “Lost” and “24” return, but right now, it is safe to say that TV is moving in a more exciting and creative direction than ever before.