19 February, 2007
Heroes is about a group of people around the world, mostly America though natch, who discover they have developed superpowers, just when the world could be in danger.
I saw the pilot of this and loved it instantly. Sure there are flaws but what kind of love is it if you care about a few imperfections? I thought it would obviously be a huge hit but the trade press reviews suggested that it would only appeal to geeks. I took that personally and thought maybe they were right - for about ten minutes.
Every quality US network show and some really ropey ones had been bought by UK broadcasters but still no-one had bought Heroes. It was doing my head in and so I was relieved, and a little bit smug to be honest, that Heroes became the biggest hit of the new season. But at the same time I was slightly depressed at the UK buyers who bought surefire shits but honestly believed Heroes would have limited appeal. But that's the way the acquistion (and commissioning) cookie crumbles.
But to hedge my bets in a cowardly manner, Heroes may still fail in the UK but it clearly had more chance of success from the pilot than the shockingly bad style="font-weight:bold;">Runaway (bought by Channel 4) and Vanished (bought by Five) both cancelled early.
Heroes was created by Tim Kring who brought us crime procedural Crossing Jordan which I didn't like all that much, although it has lasted five seasons. There are some character and story choices he's made I could quibble with but he appears to be fixing them as the season progresses. The pilot, although good fun, is a bit muddled and tries to set-up too much. It was going to air in the US with episode 2 back to back but didn't. I agreed with the decision as that would perhaps be too much information to take in but Sci-Fi UK are showing episodes 1 and 2 back to back so we'll see if anyone's brain explodes. The advantage of showing both together is that a major popular character is introduced in part 2.
Science-fiction is notoriously difficult in getting a mass audience but Lost changed that by not being about the science fiction but by being about characters affected by science fiction. Heroes learns that lesson and it's clear from the outset that it's about people learning to cope with changes in their body that make them freaks. Hiro is stuck in an office cubicle doing a dull job and he loves his power but single Mom Niki hates what's happened to her and is scared by it. It turns out that Kring consulted with the Lost producers on how to sustain a series with major mysteries, which makes sense.
Interestingly, when the writing team works on an episode, each writer takes a character and writes the individual scenes surrounding that character. These stories are then combined and given to the episode writer, allowing every writer to contribute to every episode.
Pilot screenplay (pdf))
Tim Kring interview (by Damon Lindelof of Lost)
Tim Kring Sci-Fi UK interview
Q & A with Joe Pokaski and Aron Coleite, members of the "Heroes" writing staff (Spoilers - based on first five episodes)
Heroes, Sci-Fi channel (Sky 129, Virgin 135)
Monday, 10:00pm - Wednesday, 9:00pm
Thursday, 10:00pm - Friday, 11:00pm
It will be shown on BBC2 in the autumn.