August 6, 2008
NBC Hopes for a ‘Heroes’ Welcome
By Chuck Barney
If you can think back that far, you might recall a character in "Heroes" who possessed the ability to wipe away instantly the memories from human brains. It's a power producers and writers of the show probably wish they could deploy on some fans.
"Heroes" had its second season cut short -- the last fresh episode aired in December -- by the writers' strike, and perhaps it was for the best. The freshest memories many viewers and critics have of the series are not fond ones. For much of the season, the plot lines meandered and slowed to a crawl. New characters proved to be awkward fits, and some old characters were saddled with lame stories (Peter has amnesia?).
Now, creator Tim Kring and the bigwigs at NBC want you to forget all that. They're promising big improvements when the show returns with a two-hour opener on Sept. 22. Of course, they hope the fans -- and lofty ratings -- come back as well.
"You look at shows like 'The Sopranos,' which took a huge amount of time off before it returned stronger than ever," NBC entertainment chief Ben Silverman told reporters at the recent TV critics press tour. "Or something like 'The Dark Knight,' which got re-conceived and relaunched the 'Batman' franchise to the highest numbers of any film in history. And we believe 'Heroes' is that show. We think 'Heroes' has an audience that loves it and is going to return. But we think we have an opportunity to expand that audience, too."
"Heroes," of course, won't be the only show attempting a relaunch this fall after a long layoff. But it might be the most important one. As a high-concept, big-tent franchise, it represents a crucial component for NBC, which has struggled mightily in recent years.
The road to redemption (and resurrection) began last week with promotional appearances by "Heroes" personnel at the press tour and the Comic-Con fan convention in San Diego. The latter event was deemed so essential that every member of the show's cast appeared, and attendees were awarded with a preview screening of the season's first hour (Volume III, "The Second Coming") -- a perk not accorded the critics.
Obviously, NBC was hoping to build excitement at Comic-Con -- and benefit from some viral marketing in the process. "Go back and talk about it and say it's better than ever," Kring, a Pittsburg native, shamelessly urged the crowd of 6,000-plus.
Based on reports coming out of San Diego, Season 3 will pick up with a "future" Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) returning to modern day in an effort to prevent his brother, Nathan (Adrian Pasdar), from exposing their secret powers to the world.
In other developments, Mohinder (Sendhil Ramamurthy) develops a special serum to bestow superpowers on regular people and then injects himself with it. And the sinister Sylar (Zachary Quinto) traps Claire (Hayden Panettiere) in her house and steals her ability to heal.
Panettiere, who made the rounds at the NBC party during the press tour, told me she's thrilled with the way Season 3 is developing so far. "We're getting back to more action and adventure and those wonderful cliffhangers," she said. "The storytelling is really heightened and it's really fun, and a lot of the main characters are back working together again."
As for her character, Claire, "she's starting to spread her wings and fighting to break away (from her domineering father) and she's starting to succeed at that." And viewers will meet a future Claire "who is bad and mean."
But what about following the plot line from season to season? It has been so long since "Heroes" aired that it might be difficult to recall what took place.
"It's a completely different story line," she says. "If you don't know exactly what happened, I think you're OK. You don't need to remember."
See? They've got that mind-erasing working already.
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