'Alphas' Could be the Next Superhero Breakout Show

Yahoo Contributor Network

We've seen a long line of superhero shows leap to the sky, and suddenly plummet to the television wasteland of cancellation.

Most recently, "Smallville," the unofficial leader of the pack, petered out with a less-than-perfect finale. The latest casualties are (in no particular order): "No Ordinary Family" (a kind of live action "Incredibles" starring "Fantastic Four's" own Michael Chiklis as the dad) and "The Cape" - all the hype in the world couldn't save it. Later examples include "Heroes" (couldn't stay consistent) and "The 4400" (canceled much too soon).

"Alphas," which premiers on the SyFy Channel on July 11 at 10 p.m. E.T. is one of the network's most promising shows since "Stargate Universe" and "Haven."

Zak Penn wrote the script and co-created the show with Michael Karnow. Penn also wrote the script to the forthcoming Marvel Studios flick, "The Avengers." Having those credentials up front for all the fan boys and girls to see means one simple thing -- it's a show about super powers and individuals doing "super" things. Period.

However, "Alphas" is also a show with a TV budget; it can't afford to alienate the mainstream audience by revealing the "S" on its chest too soon. They're playing up the action and espionage angle and that's a very good idea.

Fortunately, the show already has some built-in qualities working in its favor.

It's on the SyFy Channel -- A smaller audience means lower expectations, which could allow the show to build a cult following. Top it off with critical praise and "Alphas" might become a hit. "Alphas" would have fit quite nicely on the summer roster for a network like Fox or F/X, but the producers made a smart move pitching the show to a channel devoted to imaginative storytelling. Good consistent storytelling might lead to consistent ratings.

Audiences get a fresh start -- One of the best parts of any long-term relationship is the start of it. While it's great when a show finds its voice and starts building character back stories and complex story arcs, getting acquainted can actually be one of the better parts of the show/audience relationship. Furthermore, "Alphas" doesn't have a graphic novel, movie or series of books to live up to or to tie its narrative hands.

It nudges the superhero genre without fully committing to it -- They're not trying to particularly flip, overturn or reinvent the wheel with "Alphas." It's an action adventure show that isn't trying to be a comic book, or comic book movie on TV. People jumping around, things blowing up, pretty faces, buff bodies and some obligatory sexual tension might be enough to keep a viewership and build on it. So long as it never really flirts with the "ordinary people with extraordinary abilities" setup, it might be worth the ride.

Audiences generally like group dynamics -- Ensemble casts, whether it's "The A-Team," "Angel," "Buffy," "Lost" or "Dollhouse," are really about a group of people forced, either by common goals, interests or necessity, to work together. From this, you can get a rich canvas of storytelling. The five "Alphas" (Bill Harken, Cameron Hicks, Nina Theroux, Gary Bell and Rachel Pizad) will have to give us something we'd like to see each week. Yeah, give us cool concepts and great special effects, but more than that, give us characters and characteristics worth tuning in to see.

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