On Saturday, in the twilight hours of Olympics coverage, NBC dropped a bombshell: “Heroes” is making a comeback.
The Peacock network announced the return of “Heroes” in the form of “Heroes Reborn,” a 13-hour event series premiering in 2015, brought to you by the show’s original mastermind, Tim Kring. In a statement about the superhero series’ resurrection, NBC’s entertainment president Jennifer Salke said:
“The enormous impact ‘Heroes’ had on the television landscape when it first launched in 2006 was eye-opening. Shows with that kind of resonance don’t come around often and we thought it was time for another installment. We’re thrilled that visionary creator Tim Kring was as excited about jumping back into this show as we were and we look forward to all the new textures and layers Tim plans to add to his original concept. Until we get closer to air in 2015, the show will be appropriately shrouded in secrecy, but we won’t rule out the possibility of some of the show’s original cast members popping back in.”
“Heroes” is far from the only show to make an unexpected comeback in recent memory; think back to the fourth season of “Arrested Development” on Netflix last year, or May’s coming “24: Live Another Day.” But was anyone really clamoring for more “Heroes,” a show that suffered a dramatic drop in quality and ratings following its first season? Is a “Heroes” revival really worth the effort?
Well, maybe it is — assuming Kring and NBC can adhere to these simple rules.
1. Take a scalpel to season one. When “Heroes” premiered, it was must-watch television, a wholly unusual kind of superhero saga. The characters mattered, the stakes were high, the world was rich — but those strengths greatly weakened as the series chugged along in its subsequent three seasons.
With “Reborn,” Kring and NBC can’t just rehash the first season of “Heroes.” But they need to sit down and revisit season one, and remember what made it work. Keep the story tight, up the ante, and deliver an actual payoff — something that not even season one was able to deliver, honestly.
2. Remember the ending. If “Heroes” accomplished anything worthwhile in the years following season one, it’s the way the show ended. Unkillable cheerleader Claire Benne publicly outted herself as a superhuman, informing the world at large that people with abilities exist.
It’s a compelling idea and one worth exploring when “Heroes” returns. The public knows about superheroes (and villains) now. Lean into that revelation, and come up with a story that plays with the new status quo.
3. Ditch the cheerleader, save the show. Claire was at the front of the superheroes’ coming out party, but leave her, and the other cast members, in the past. Kring’s original idea for “Heroes” was to introduce a new set of super-powered individuals with every new season. That’s the way to go here.
The audience doesn’t need more Peter Petrelli. It certainly doesn’t need Nathan Petrelli, after killing and resurrecting and killing him again about 300 times. “Heroes” needs new Petrellis and Claires. It needs new characters for a new audience to invest in, not tired retreads of the heroes that came before.
4. Bring back Hiro. There are exceptions to every rule. “Heroes” can’t exist without Masi Oka’s time-traveling sword-slinger, for example; he’s an icon, and he needs to come back. HRG is another likely candidate to crossover from the “Heroes” of old to the new era.
There can be cameos here and there, and even large roles for a very small selection of returning characters. After all, longtime fans deserve some semblance of familiarity. As long as Kring and company keep the majority focus on a new set of heroes, villains and stakes, then some shades of the past are welcome for the ride.
5. Not everyone can be super. Of the many things “Heroes” got wrong in its final seasons, the show’s biggest offense was taking unpowered humans, like Mohinder Suresh and Ando Masahashi, and giving them super-boosts. It was a weird, hollow turn of events, leaving viewers without everyday heroes to root for. “Heroes,” don’t do that again.
6. Everyone must be special. You can have unique characters without superpowers, “Heroes.” It’s OK. Give it a shot. Suresh and Ando were two of the show’s best players, before they got their ludicrous Hulk and super-battery powers in the twilight seasons. “Reborn” needs to offer up some very basic, very human characters, but they have to matter to the super-powered stakes at the heart of the drama. It’s not an outrageous request.
7. Know the future. When “Heroes” began, there was a sense that the show knew exactly where it was headed, thanks to the visions of the future painted by Isaac Mendez. But when the show finally arrived at the first season finale, the showdown was a letdown, and felt largely unearned based on everything we’d seen previously.
Television seasons with large episode orders can prove too much for writers to contend with, from time to time. That was the case with “Heroes’” first season. It shouldn’t be the case here. With 13 episodes and a whole year to go before the returning as an “event series,” there’s plenty of time for Kring and his writers to figure out the totality of the story they’re going to tell. Before they start filming a single episode, they need to know how “Reborn” ends. If they don’t have that plan in place, we’ll all know it.
What advice do you have for the “Heroes” resurrection? Are you excited for “Reborn” to premiere?