NBC, Mondays, 9 p.m. (ET) | [ stars]
Here is the rare show that has lived up to its heroic promise: I'd award it a blue cape and winged shoes, except that it's already soaring over our heads and dazzling us. Heroes hurtles into the final stretch of its first season with possibly the most anticipated climax (May 21) of any series. Our planet is full of normal-looking mutants with special powers and problem personalities. One of them is destined to literally ignite into a bomb and decimate Manhattan. This plays out like 9/11 in comic-book form, with a surprising undercurrent suggesting The Manchurian Candidate. Meanwhile, the show's great prowling villain, Sylar (Zachary Quinto), has eyes set beneath a mole's brow and the ability to saw heads open with his finger. The show allows him a little sympathy when he visits his mom. (It goes badly.) Heroes hasn't faltered in keeping all these things in play. And you have to be grateful for a show that can generate a new star like Hayden Panettiere, 17, as self-healing cheerleader Claire Bennet. It's unthinkable that she won't make it into season 2. That's super.
Saturday Night Live in the '90s: Pop Culture Nation
NBC, May 6, 9 p.m. ET | [2 stars]
Despite the title, this is a modest history of the NBC series in the decade leading up to the millennium. The show was struggling for relevancy and suffered both creative and ratings slumps as it tried to stretch its audience beyond the baby boomers—but in the end it produced some first-rate comedians, notably Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, Molly Shannon and Adam Sandler, whose deliberately puerile yowping baffled producer Lorne Michaels. This two-hour documentary could have been more generous with the clips. You'll learn a lot but won't laugh enough. Is that what history means?