When Heroes debuted in 2006, it rode a wave of acclaim that turned it into must-see TV. While I wouldn't call it groundbreaking — even back then it was pretty clearly riffing on concepts X-Men had explored years prior — it was just good. Series creator and showrunner Tim Kring did something different with the show that year; he took a group of ordinary but compelling people, gave them superpowers, and threw them into a mystery that could decide the fate of the world.
Nine years have passed since then, and Heroes is by now a joke. People talk about that first season fondly. The second season was rough, sure, but there was that writer's strike. Never mention seasons three and four. Still, Kring has hope he can bring audiences who were so burned by the original run back to the series, right along with new fans. He knows he and NBC need to do something different all over again, and they have a chance with Heroes Reborn. It just happens to be much harder to do in 2015.
"People may say they want the old show back, but if you give them that, they'll hate you for it."
"The truth is," Kring told me, "when the show came out, it looked and felt like nothing else on TV. And here we are nine years later and there are lots of things that look and feel like Heroes did. People may say that they want the old show back, but if you give them [that], they'll hate you for it. So we tried to create a brand new idea here."
Easier said than done. The footage released at Comic-Con shows a world five years removed from the end of the original series. People with superpowers (called EVOs) are being hunted down and murdered by a hateful society. Older characters like Noah Bennett, otherwise known as HRG (aka "horn-rimmed glasses"), are now on the run, while new characters must cope with a darker, more violent world. Overall, this direction seems shrug-worthy at best. The series has seemingly moved away from the wonder on display in the first season and gone full bore into grimdark territory, which is already so tired. Fans willing to give the new series a chance have every reason in the world to worry.
However, Kring assured me that "the paint is still wet," that he is doing everything he can to go in new directions, and that there’s so much more story to tell in this revival. That gave me a little bit of hope despite all my misgivings. Heroes Reborn isn't special on its own, and Kring knows it. It isn't the only show about superheroes on television anymore — shows like Daredevil and Arrow are already on people's radar. It isn't the only reboot of a beloved series that's hitting TV either, what with X-Files and Twin Peaks ready to make comebacks. The only way to make this fallen series work is to do something different. Otherwise, not only will it be be bad but utterly irrelevant. That Kring and NBC know that is a good sign, even if it isn't a sure sign of success.
Heroes is back to square one
I won't pretend that I think Reborn can reach the heights of the first season. That first run worked so well because it felt so new. But maybe this effort can be something quality, something that overcomes past failures. Kring and the Heroes name are back at square one. Maybe that’s a good thing.