Essays · TV

Foreign Objects: No Heroics (Series One)

Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to… the UK!
By  · Published on December 4th, 2008

Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport and get your shots, because this week we’re heading to…

the UK!  This week is a brief departure for Foreign Objects in that it won’t be featuring a film.  Instead, I’ll be reviewing the first season of a new British TV series.  One thing to note regarding television shows in the UK… they refer to their seasons as series.  So a show’s first season is referred to as the first series.  It’s silly and confusing, I know, but it’s not worth starting a revolution over.

A few months ago, as the Fall 2008 TV season was getting ready to begin here in the US, I came across anadvanced trailer for ITV2’s upcoming sitcom, “No Heroics.”  The trailer was humorous and had great potential, so I posted a piece asking if it could be the best new show of the season… and judging by the comments left by people more familiar with ITV2 than I the answer was a resounding “Not bloody likely.”  Apparently the network’s history of quality ranged from mediocre to pure shite, and there was no reason to expect anything more from “No Heroics.”  Having just recently finished watching all six episodes of the first series, I can say with conviction that the show is far from pure shite.  Of course, it’s even further away from being the best new show of the season…

“No Heroics” takes place in a modern-day England where superheroes are a normal part of every day society.  They do heroic deeds, but they also mow their lawns, ride the bus, and make sex tapes.  The focus here is not on their exploits though as much as it is on four friends who spend their off-duty time together at a bar called The Fortress.  The bar has three rules posted on the door: No Masks, No Powers, and No Heroics.  Think Mystery Men meets “Cheers” and you’ll have a good idea what to expect of the show.

The quartet consists of: Alex, aka The Hotness… he can create fire, and desperately wants to be a famous superhero.  Sarah, aka Electroclash… she can control electronic machines with her voice, used to date Alex, and is filled with piss and vinegar.  Don, aka Timebomb… he can see sixty seconds into the future, is a gay Spaniard, is an expert at torture, and has retired from the superhero business.  Jenny, aka She-Force… she’s the third strongest woman in the world, has self esteem issues, and used to be part of a dynamic duo with Sarah called Ladytrouble.  The four friends are joined by a few other regulars including Devlin, aka Excelsor… he’s the public’s ideal superhero, he has multiple powers, and he’s the most well-known ‘cape’ in the land.  He’s also a complete and utter dick.  And there’s Simon, aka Thundermonkey… he works at the Fortress as a doorman, coatroom attendant, and all-around rule enforcer.  His power is the ability to “call” specially trained chimpanzees to his aid, but they take up to two hours to arrive depending on proximity.

The premise sounds like a potential comedy goldmine, but throughout the first couple of episodes creator/writer Drew Pearce appears to be digging in a completely different hole.  There’s a lot of whining and complaining interspersed with enough “fucks” to populate Gotham.  The dialogue definitely has a strong sexual bent in the form of insults, comments, and innuendo.  Ballsacks, twats, cock-breakers, puppy farts, and one character jizzing on Excelsor’s face (in tattoo form) all make appearances, some repeatedly.  This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but for much of the series the expletives seem to make up the majority of the “comedy.”

That’s not to say there aren’t some very funny bits… a fan tells Sarah and Jenny that Ladytrouble was a seminal pairing, and Sarah retorts “You smell seminal.”  The most consistently funny character is Timebomb, played by James Lance.  Between his accent, his love of sex and violence, and his perfectly timed views into the future, Timebomb quickly becomes the saving grace of the show.  Excelsor tries to bully him as he’s done to The Hotness by not letting him pass until he says the password.  “Oh, the password,” Timebomb says.  “I remember. Is it let me through or I’ll rape you then kill you?”

Like the comedy, the characters and story lines take a few episodes before they start to gel and become interesting.  We learn more about what makes Sarah so snarky, and it can all be traced back to her mom and dad who are two of the most respected superheroes around.  Alex’s yearning for fame and fortune comes head to head with the remains of his past love with Sarah.  Jenny’s own quest for a normal life and relationships leads to a discovery of a local Anti-Cape League, basically a hate group equivalent to neo-nazis.  And Don’s past work in the field of torture comes into play after a shocking (but humorous) death.

That’s not to say the foul language, talk of cape rape, and references to putting the pickle in the ham sandwich disappear.  “No Heroics” remains dirty as fuck through all six episodes, but even as the characters become more appealing and interesting, the jokes get funnier.  By the end of series one, I can honestly say I’m hooked.  The show isn’t great, but like I said at the top it’s definitely good.  And one look at the prime time schedule here in the States should tell you that “good” sometimes is good enough.

Have you seen No Heroics?  What do you think?  Will you tune in for series two?

The Upside: The premise has promise; the characters do start to grow on you by episode three; some of the dialogue is pretty damn funny

The Downside: Not nearly as funny as it should have been; the show relies entirely too much on the sexual and scatological; being a British show there’s only six episode in the entire first season

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.