Forget the cheerleader; Heroes needs to save itself. Defying all logic, the television series about everyday people with superpowers has succeeded in getting second chance after second chance, winning back audiences with each new season only to lose them again by season's end. Here's what Heroes needs to do to save itself.
1. Work as a team
Every season of Heroes has worked the same: scatter the heroes, then slowly get the band back together again to fight an enemy (usually Sylar). They need to start with the band (or at least 3-4 members of the band) together from the very beginning. Part of what makes super hero team comics work is how the characters -- and their powers -- interact. Scatter the team, and you lose that dynamic.
2. Ditch the future paintings
In the first season, and even the second, Isaac's paintings of the future mapped out story arcs while at the same time tying Heroes to its comic book roots. But by season three, when cop-turned-telepath Matt was in Africa on half-baked vision quests, it was a gimmick that had outlived its usefulness. Its time to take off the training wheels; make up the future as you go.
3. No more time travel
Yeah, it's Hiro's shtick, but the time travel thing has been beaten to death. Too many time lines, too many futures in peril, too many lame conclusions. I'd love to see Hiro use his mastery of time to wage battle in the near future, instead of trying to prevent some distant apocalypse for the umpteenth time.
4. Bring Back Samurai Hiro
The single best scene in the first season of Heroes was when modern-day Hiro met his battle scarred cyber-samurai self. Sure it was wish fulfillment for every geek who ever wanted to wield a sword ... but that's entirely the point. There was a nice progression where Hiro was learning how to wield the sword, but I don't think we've seen it since Season 2. It's Season 4 now, and it's time Hiro started catching up with his future by becoming the warrior-hero we glimpsed in Season 1.
5. An onscreen fight between Sylar and Peter.
Every season of Heroes I've watched has built up a big battle between Sylar and Peter Petrelli. It's only natural: they're the show's only power polyglots (Sylar steals powers by killing people, Peter borrows them from others he comes into contact with) and thus, they're natural opponents. Yet time and again, their confrontations occur offscreen. We see flashing lights, we hear explosions, but not once do we actually see the battle. Now I get why -- such a scene would cost a fortune in special effects -- but we're talking about saving Heroes here; if you want to win back fans, you need to go big. An effects ladden showdown is just what the doctor ordered. Also, this plays nicely into No. 6, which is:
6. Kill Sylar
Sylar was a fun, creepy villain ... in Season 1. Since then every season has begun by robbing him of his powers, and spending 6-12 episodes watching him slowly recover them only to be defeated and repeat the whole process over again. Yes, comic books do the same thing (Magneto, Lex Luther, the Joker) but they have the virtue of rotating between boogymen. Batman might always have to deal with the Joker, but along the way he also battles Penguin, Two-Face and a host of other villains. It's time to ice Sylar for a season or two.
After watching the Season 4 premiere, I don't think Heroes is going to do any of this. Sylar is trapped inside his own mind, locked into the form of Nathan Petrelli, but slowly escaping. The heroes themselves are scattered to the four winds again, Hiro is back to time traveling, and our major villains (or at least, antagonists) are circus carnies obsessed with revenge and able to divine the future through the use of tattoos. Meh. I'll probably do the same thing I always do (and I suspect, most of you do as well) which is what the series for a few episodes, see if it's got legs, and then decide whether to tune out. I'm not optimistic.