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Can NBC’s ‘Heroes’ Reboot Reclaim Mega-Ratings?

By Brett Gold – Feb 24, 2014 at 12:29PM

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NBC's once successful 'Heroes' will be making a return in 2015, but can it avoid the pitfalls that crashed the series during its first go round?

One of the top rookie series to come out of the 2006 freshman TV class was NBC's (a subsidiary of Comcast (CMCSA -0.31%)Heroes, and now four years after its cancellation it looks like the show is set for a comeback in 2015. Which begs the question...will people still be interested?

(Credit: NBC)

Surprise!

NBC's attempts to use the Olympics to launch its top new series have never really gone the way executives wanted. However, if you had the eyes of the world on your network every night for an international event like the Winter Games, you'd be hard pressed not to at least try! This year NBC actually pulled off a nice little coup as during Saturday night's coverage of the Olympics, executives slipped in a 20-second teaser clip announcing the return of Heroes in 2015.

While the network wouldn't go into great detail about its bombshell announcement, it did drop a few breadcrumbs to tease viewers and build interest in the project. For one the show will return as a 13-episode limited-run event series and have a new set of leads, but NBC isn't ruling out the return of a few famous faces. The network also confirmed that (in keeping with the current industry trend of utilizing social media) NBC would introduce the new characters through a web series designed to bring viewers up to speed on the new "heroes."

Heroic rise

Now remember the concept of Heroes was simple; ordinary people who realized they had extraordinary powers. The drama was a smash hit its freshman year and went onto receive eight Emmy nominations, including one for Best Drama. It was a fun series that played well in geek culture and introduced audiences to the likes of Hayden Panettiere, Masi Oka, Zachary Quinto, and Milo Ventimiglia (among others) who owe the series for giving them their big breaks.

The show was a Monday night spectacle that averaged about 13.8 million viewers its first year and pulled in a cross-section of demographics. Heroes for a time was pop culture personified as audiences and critics both sang the show's praises and hailed it as a clever edition to the primetime landscape.

Meteoric fall

Not long after its much maligned first-season finale, the same audience that supported the show began to turn on it, claiming it had it gotten a little too over the top for their liking. The viewers had reason to shun the show -- it jumped the shark incredibly quickly. Still, NBC stuck with it as the ratings began to plummet, ultimately bottoming out with average around 6.5 million viewers for its final season (about half of its original total).

The show was also mishandled as NBC overexposed its golden goose and at one point even tried to use a controversial ratings "double-dip' loophole to help boost its numbers, which Nielsen quickly closed when it became apparent what was going on.

Reborn

So back to the main question...will it work?

The idea of a Heroes revamp isn't new as reports surfaced last year that MSN was looking to reboot the program as an original series for the Xbox gaming system. Ultimately, those talks apparently stalled out as NBC will be the one's bringing back the show under the Heroes: Reborn moniker (and with creator Tim Kring back in the fold as well).

The problem with Heroes was that it always seemed like a one-and-done show that probably would have been better as a mini-series to start. Fans thought the first season finale felt forced and immediately rolled their eyes when they saw the premise for season two ... but they stuck with it. The second season premiere was the show's highest episode before the bottom fell out.

The longer the show went the more complicated and ridiculous it became. Kring was ahead of his time in many ways, though, as he designed each season as a volume that was supposed to be somewhat self-contained. But it didn't exactly work out that way. The idea was similar in nature to what FX does with American Horror Story, except Heroes kept the same characters, which stunted it growth. Had Heroes kept the same overall concept but used new actors every season, it would have kept its audience engaged and not been forced to find a way to keep its large ensemble front and center.

(Credit: NBC)

Limited-run series are the new in thing on TV and NBC's basically taking a page out Fox's playbook as that network is set to reboot 24 this summer. It's a strategy that could work, assuming that executives don't fall back into their own traps. Bringing in a new crop of actors is a smart move, and while it will be nostalgic to see some of the show's old favorites reappear, the writers need to be careful not to become reliant on them.

Keep an eye out for more news as it comes as this will be a fun story watch unfold the rest of this year and into next.

Brett Gold has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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