September 15, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Toronto Film Festival/Series Premiere Review: “Heroes Reborn”


HEROES REBORN:  Thursday 8PM on NBC, starting September 24


This year, for the first time, the Toronto Film Festival has included a slate of television productions from around the world in its line-up, formalizing the degree to which the status of TV has changed in the last few years.  That’s completely logical.  What makes less sense is the decision of the programmers to give the one slot for a US network/cable show to the first 2 episodes of NBC’s HEROES REBORN, a series that was never meant to be of film festival caliber, and certainly isn’t.

The original Heroes (created, as is this new sequel/reboot, by Tim Kring) deserved credit for anticipating the superhero craze.  It began airing 2 years before Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe and all that came with it; just 9 years later, the movie studios plan their decades around the genre, CW is quickly becoming an all-superpowers network, and even CBS has joined in with SupergirlHeroes started as a huge hit, but it’s remembered now as a textbook example of how quickly a series can be burned to the ground by terrible creative decisions, especially plotting that was both repetitive and often incomprehensible.  (A section of Season 2 took place in medieval Japan, and one of the show’s motifs became characters who switched from good to evil on a monthly and sometimes weekly basis.)

The initial hours of Heroes Reborn (the first written by Kring and directed by Matt Shakman; the 2d written by Executive Producer Peter Elkoff and directed by Greg Beeman) will provide fuel both for Heroes fans and those who couldn’t see it end fast enough, because for better and worse it’s almost exactly like the first series.  A prologue presents a 9/11-like bombing of what was supposed to have been a celebratory gathering of normal humans and the superpowered (known as “Evos”) in Odessa, Texas, sending the remaining Evos into hiding after it’s assumed that terrorists among them set the bomb.  The main action picks up a year later, when “truthers” are insisting that a much larger conspiracy was involved, and of course they’re right:  Primatech, the evil multinational conglomerate that was destroyed in the course of Heroes, turns out to have been bought by an even bigger and presumably more evil multinational.

The only regular character from Heroes to return is Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman), with a few others making cameo appearances (and more to come).  He starts by believing his daughter Claire had died in the bombing, but by the end of the 2d hour realizes she could be alive (since she was played by Hayden Panettiere, he might try looking for her in Tennessee).  New characters provide rough analogues for the ones we met the first time around:  there’s a cute pair of American teens (played by Robbie Kay and Gatlin Green), a cute pair of Japanese teens (Kiki Sukezane and Toru Uchikado), an ordinary guy who does heroic things (Ryan Guzman), and someone introduced as a villain (Zachary Levi) who’s almost certain to change sides before long.  The main new element is that the Japanese characters are sucked into a videogame, allowing for some computer-animated battles.

The acting is as wooden as it ever was, and the dialogue is basic to the point of simple-mindedness.  However, Kring is a champion of twists and cliffhangers, and there are enough in the first segments to keep one watching.  The risk here is that starting off was never a problem for Kring–it was sustaining his plots once they were launched, and we won’t know whether he’s gotten any better at that until the season goes on.

Although Heroes Reborn has been promoted as a limited series “special event,” the fact that the first episode begins with a title card reading “Volume 1” means that all concerned would like it to be a regular series once again.  It’s heading into an extremely difficult timeslot, facing Thursday Night Football (and then The Big Bang Theory), Grey’s Anatomy, The Vampire Diaries and Bones (although all of the latter 3 are in various stages of decline).  Considering that NBC started last season with The Slap in that spot, some improvement should be assured, but whether it will last is another question entirely.  Heroes can be reborn, but they can die again too.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."