Televised drama has always given us choices — not always good ones, but they are still there. For a while medical shows were the rage (ER), and then we had the rash of cop dramas (NYPD Blue), and then the crime procedurals (CSI). Then Lost came around in 2004 and reintroduced the serialized, season long arc style to a wider audience, not to mention the fact that it has its base in science fiction.
Now, serialized tales have been around for a lot longer than Lost, but it was that show that brought them back to the large audience. Genre fans have long been treated to them with the likes of Buffy, Babylon 5, DS9, and Angel, among others. But, with the explosive popularity of Lost, there was renewed interest in the sci-fi serial and the networks went looking for the next big thing. 2005 had a few failed attempts with Surface, Invasion, and Threshold. Then 2006 rolled around and NBC introduced us to Heroes.
Heroes has roots in science fiction and comic books, two decidedly geeky areas. It's an epic story of people around the world exhibiting superhero-like abilities. The story aimed to bring all of these people together to "save the cheerleader, save the world" — not to mention stopping a massive explosion from devastating New York.
I remember when I first saw the ads for the show. I thought it looked pretty good, although I did have some initial resevations. The show reminded me, almost suspiciously so, of USA Network's The 4400. That show concerns 4400 people who have been abducted over the years, who are all returned at the same time. Each of those people exhibited a special ability, and they started choosing the side of good or bad, with the government in the middle. I was worried this was just going to be a copy of that show. Then there are always going to be the comparisons to comic books like The X-Men, which clearly played some sort of inspirational role in the genesis of Heroes.
Heroes is a fantastic new show which shows us how to weave multiple storylines and a large cast into a show that is compelling, fresh, and fun to watch. After saying all of that, I must admit that I wasn't sure I was going to like it. I remember watching the first episode and being a little put off by all of the character-hopping that was going on, and then the second episode rolled around and we had more characters added to the mix. I had the distinct feeling that it was going to be something of a train wreck. Fortunately for me, I decided to ride it out and continue watching. The more I watched, the more I was rewarded with the weave of characters becoming tighter, individual characters coming into sharper focus — an overall intriguing televised version of a comic book.
As we all know, the concept of discovering superhero-like abilities is nothing new. We have all seen it in countless comic books and movies. That is not what makes this show so special. It has much more to do with the story and characters. Heroes lives and dies by the ability of the writers to deliver a complex story that offers enough suspense, action, drama, and humor to keep everyone coming back. The second factor by which Heroes will succeed is the characters. The story can be fantastically written, which will be enough for some, but it is going to be the characters and the performances that will seal the deal.
Characters such as a Japanese computer programmer, an LA cop, a drug addicted artist, a hospice nurse, a candidate for mayor, an Internet entrepeneur, a high school cheerleader, among others are all involved in an attempt to prevent an explosion in New York City whether they know it or not. Each have their own stories which tie into the large arc. Plus we get bad guys like the mysterious Sylar seeking to deter the heroes.
Heroes is a show that delivers the goods in its freshman season. It introduced the world to a number of memorable characters such as the exuberant time-traveling teleporter Hiro (Masi Oka), the indestructible Claire (Hayden Panettiere), and the lynch pin hero Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia). We got a story that had a defined arc that actually had a conclusion come the final episode. Can't wait to see where we go next.
Audio/Video. This standard definiton set (it is also available on HD DVD) looks and sounds excellent. The audio is a very nice 5.1 Dolby mix which makes good use of all channels with its sound effects and music. The video is 16:9 anamorphic and looks better than the televised broadcast that I witnessed. Colors are sharp and clearly defined, the black levels are good, and there are no apparent compression issues. Overall, this is a very nice looking set.
Extras. There are a number of extras included on the set.
- Unaired 73 Minute Pilot. On the first disk, we get the Tim Kring (he is the show's creator) cut of the pilot episode which is considerably different from the one we all saw. It includes the introduction of Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg) in the pilot (he first appears in the second episode), and a storyline involving a terrorist plot to cause the New York explosion. Parkman's wife is a different actress as well. This is the biggest difference, as all terrorist related scenes were cut as they rejiggered the story away from terrorism. There is also a commentary track with Kring which is good as he talks about the production and the changes that were made.
- Deleted Scenes. Each disk includes a selection of deleted scenes, with 50 total spread across the set.
- Commentaries. A scattering of episodes across all disks have commentary tracks, including the season finale.
- Making of: Behind the Scenes Look at the Making of Heroes. This is a rather fluffy look at the creation and development of the show. I did like the footage from Comicon. It runs about ten minutes.
- Special Effects: Examine the Flying Scenes and Other Cool Effects. This was kind of neat, but still pretty short, running just under nine minutes. Though we do learn what Masi Oka did prior to moving in front of the screen.
- The Stunts. A little bit better than the special effects featurette, this one goes into all of the blue screen shots and sword fighting and other practical stunts. It runs for ten minutes.
- Profile of Artist Tim Sale. Sale does all of the artwork that is attributed to junkie future painter Issac Mendez. This eleven minute featurette looks into how he creates his art, the interaction with the production, and input he has had on the items found in the loft apartment set.
- The Score. Running nine minutes, we are given a glimpse into what the composers go through and the fun they have creating the musical cues for the series.
- Mind Reader Game. A little interactive game that is cute once.
Bottom line. This is a fantastic series with a ton of future potential. This set is a great way to get caught up on the show you missed, or to relive the scenes that caught your eye the first time around. It is nicely presented in a sturdy digipak slipcase, with the classy Heroes logo on the cover, and onscreen menus which play like panels of a comic book. If you are a fan or merely curious, buy or rent this set as soon as you get the chance.