Beyond the Abilities of Normal Humans

Another gripe about the dumbing down of the media

There’s a new show called “Alphas” on the Sci Fi channel that premiered this week after months of attempts to build up buzz around it. Here’s a review on the Onion’s AV Club, because this post isn’t a review.

This post is bitching about the first 10 or 15 minutes that I saw. The premise of the show is basically X-Men done as a police procedural: a team of people with “special abilities” get together and solve crimes with David Strathairn as a hairier Professor Xavier. Fair enough.

At the beginning of the episode, we get an introductory scene for each of mutants alphas heading towards this week’s big case. Each scene explains exactly what each character’s power is: the woman with super-persuasion powers talks her way out of a traffic ticket, the man with super-strength pushes an SUV out of the way, the girl with super-senses overhears a whispered conversation out of a sea of noise, and the over-protected autistic kid who can sense TV and radio transmissions watches TV signals no one can watch while his mom tries to talk to him.

After each one, there’s a zoom in on the agent’s personnel file that lists his or her name and power. It’s completely, insultingly superfluous.

Due to my super-human ability to perceive what I’m being shown in a television program, I’d already figured out each character’s name and super-power from the scene showing their name and super-power. But somebody on the production decided to completely underestimate the audience’s intelligence and insist on treating us like easily confused simpletons. Whether it was an executive somewhere, or one of the show creators pre-censoring himself, I don’t know. Either way, it’s infuriating.

Each one is around 10 seconds long, so in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big a deal. What makes it so obnoxious is that it was so unnecessary — the set-up scenes were so well done, comparatively. They conveyed every single thing they needed to. It just reeks of that “what if people don’t get it?” attitude.

The show itself is fine, from what I’ve seen; the Onion review’s description of a less pretentious Heroes is pretty on target. It’s a lot like what you’d expect a USA Network show about people with super powers to be. And I just don’t think people on the USA Network have any business assuming they’re smarter than the people watching.

Nobody does, actually, but those guys in particular.