The word is that MSN is interested in getting the rights to the show so that the newly formed Xbox Entertainment Studios can produce it as a new series, presumably for Xbox’s exclusive content roster. Microsoft is already well under way in developing a strategy for creating original content, having already hired former NBC development executive Jada Miranda, who’s overseeing production of Xbox entertainment studio along with ex-CBS president Nancy Tellem. Those hires are, of course, very significant, but a question has to be asked: Why Heroes, and why now? I can think of several reasons.
First, the obvious: when Heroes debuted in 2008, it was the critical darling of the year. The American Film Institute said it was “one of the ten best shows of the year,” and other reviewers compared it to the likes of Lost (which honestly, turned out to be true in at least one sense: it lost its way and never quite recovered, though Lost handled its misfires with far more grace), and the show carried around 14 million viewers during its first year. More impressive, it carried about 13 million in its second year, which, let’s be honest, was a special kind of awful.
Second, for all its failings, Heroes had a pretty impressive world built up around it. Outside of just the show, there were graphic novels with numerous other characters and events unfolding, and in fact, the original plan was for the show to focus on a new, core group of characters each season. That was actually a good idea, but of course the suits at NBC scuttled it when they saw the huge numbers Heroes was pulling in. Worse, after the departure of Bryan Fuller, who in my opinion made all the difference in quality for the show, it became pretty clear that the powers that be really didn’t have a sense of where to take the show from then on out. With the exception of a brief period toward the end of season 3 and beginning of season 4, during which Fuller not coincidentally returned to the show, Heroes never felt like it had direction again. Combined with stagnant character development and contrived events that had very little plot, it’s no surprise why Heroes died, but it wasn’t for lack of quality possibilities–just that those possibilities went untapped. Think about it this way: Heroes was basically “X-Men Lite,” and X-Men, let’s face it, has kept up good stories for about half a century consecutively. There’s no reason Heroes needed to lose itself after one season.
Last but not least, look at the lineup of 2013. Most of our biggest blockbusters for the year are superhero and/or sci-fi stories: Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, Star Trek–to say nothing of next year’s big movies, like X-Men: Days of Future Past and oh, yeah–The Avengers 2. We’re steeped in fantasy and sci fi shows, from The Walking Dead to Once Upon a Time, to say nothing of next year’s launch of Marvel’s SHIELD tv series. Short and sweet version: there’s a shitload of demand for superhero and sci-fi/fantasy stories, and the world of Heroes is rife with possibilities, and there’s something of a vacuum in the serialized superhero drama department on television. If there were ever a time for Heroes to return, it’s now.
Now, having said all of that, I think it’s important to remember something: for all its potential to be amazing, Heroes also has the potential to suck, and we’ve already seen it do both. How can it succeed where it’s already failed? Well, in my opinion, the first thing it needs to do is thoroughly ground its characters. We need to be able to relate to these people on a human level or their powers will only be so much sfx, which can’t carry a show on its own. The second thing it needs is a plan–I believe the key is to map out a minimum of 3 seasons worth of story and character arcs, with logical breaking points where you could stop if it didn’t make financial sense to keep producing the show, yet still make the fans feel they’d had resolution more or less. The third item on my list is that, because it’s a superhero show, it does need a special effects budget and occasional moments of super-powered action that’s on screen, not just flashing lights outside a door and the sounds of guys slamming each other around. It doesn’t need to be every episode, but at least a couple of times per season, you need to deliver a payoff to the audience. Hell, I’d love to see each season finale be a cliffhanger that resolves in a summer movie with a big SFX budget, but who the hell knows if that’s likely.
So those are my thoughts, but what are yours? Do you want to see Heroes return? If you do, what do you think it’ll take to make it a success rather than a fortress of suck? Tell me in the comments!