When you think of NBC, the catchphrase “Must-See TV” immediately comes to mind. Since Tim Kring’s comic book drama Heroes hit the airwaves, that phrase has never been truer, and NBC is catching on. This season, NBC has added sci-fi inspired shows Journeyman and Chuck, and the reinvented Bionic Woman to its lineup. What is it about Heroes that has invigorated a network and sent ratings through the roof?
First and foremost, it’s the story. Who isn’t fascinated by superpowers? Sometimes I find myself daydreaming at inappropriate times about whether I’d prefer the ability to read minds over the ability to control and travel through time. I’m a grown woman with a master’s degree, and this is what I find myself thinking about! Like J.J. Abrams with Lost, Tim Kring has imagined a fully-fleshed story. Kring tips the scales of success with his series, however, by giving the viewers more of what they want than Abrams: answers. Throughout the first season, Kring and the writers of Heroes pepper the series with answers to key questions. He gives us just enough time to wonder if Peter will save the cheerleader and the world, how Sylar became Sylar, and who Claire’s parents might be. Just when we’re ready to bang our heads against the wall, we get the answers we’ve been waiting for. And that’s a good thing, because the bruises we’d given ourselves during Lost hadn’t quite healed yet.
A story is only as good as its characters, and the cast of Heroes couldn’t play them any better. It can be difficult to invest in a show where the characters are so plentiful, you can barely remember their names, but this isn’t the case with Heroes. There’s Noah Bennet, known by fans as HRG for his choice of spectacles. One minute, he’s a lying git, and the next, he’s a fiercely loyal father, and you love him so much you’d give him a kidney if he needed it. The change in his character was seamless – a testament to Kring, the writers, and actor Jack Coleman. There’s Hiro Nakamura, played by Emmy nominated genius (his IQ is 189!) Masi Oka, who journeys through time to find the hero within. We root for Claire, the indestructible cheerleader, for Matt Parkman, the telepathic cop who can’t seem to get a break, and for Peter, the troubled brother of a flying politician with the weight of the world on his shoulders. And we especially love to hate Sylar, played to perfection by Zachary Quinto. The ultimate overachieving villain, Sylar won’t be satisfied until he has everyone’s lunch money. While his methods are deplorable, it sure is fun watching him get into the minds of his victims. Literally.
Now in its second season, what can Heroes do to keep viewers tuned in week after week? For one, no long hiatuses, please! Currently, the plan is to air the episodes without interruption, and follow the regular season with Heroes: Origins, a spinoff show which will introduce a new character each week. At the close of Origins, viewers will decide which character will join the main cast of Heroes. As much as we hate to see them go (RIP Hiro’s dad, played by the incomparable George Takei), phasing out familiar characters to make way for new ones is necessary. This season, a mysterious subplot unfolds as certain characters are targeted by a yet-unseen killer. We’ve already caught a glimpse of some new heroes, including Maya, whose uncontrolled power has something to do with sudden death and bleeding eyeballs. Fans have anxiously awaited the appearance of Hiro’s childhood hero, Takezo Kensei, played by Alias’ David Anders (Sark). Don’t be fooled by his fraudulent front – he has superpowers that will knock your socks off. Another coup for the show is the addition of Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), whose lapses in conscience will present a new twist. Look for Star Trek alumnus Nichelle Nichols to have a connection to adorably technopathic Micha. Don’t be surprised to see some familiar characters in a new light. Remember the swordsmith’s daughter and the hovering highschooler from the season premiere? Consider them potential love interests for two of our favorite heroes.
For NBC, Monday is the new Thursday. With the sophomore season of Heroes at the helm, the network should feel very, very safe.