In 2006, the world was introduced to "Heroes." Telling the story of super-powered individuals who began displaying their unique abilities after an eclipse, the show's first season hinted at what could be an intelligent and well-paced series about superheroes in the real world. Unfortunately, a writer's strike derailed much of what was planned for season two and the show had a hard time recovering. By the time it started gaining traction again in season four, it was too late; the season's cliffhanger finale became the series finale when the powers that be declined to pick the show up for a fifth season.
Now it seems as though we haven't seen the end of "Heroes" after all. Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBC has announced that it is bringing the show back as a 13-episode miniseries in 2015. The miniseries won't follow directly after the events of the previous seasons, though some previous cast members may make cameo appearances as their characters.
New event, new heroes
Several members of the original "Heroes" cast have kept themselves busy since the show was cancelled; Hayden Panettiere (Claire) is currently starring in ABC's "Nashville," Masi Oka (Hiro) joined the main cast of CBS' (NYSE:CBS) "Hawaii Five-0" in 2011, Milo Ventimiglia has four films coming out in 2014, and Zachary Quinto is filming Agent 47 in addition to future commitments to the "Star Trek" franchise. While it's possible that NBC could structure the series around the schedules of the original show's stars, there's no guarantee that it would be able to accommodate everyone and bring the miniseries event together.
Instead, "Heroes Reborn" will take on what appears to be a largely new cast that will be introduced in a digital series that leads up to the premiere. This doesn't mean that no one from the original show will appear, of course; in announcing the event, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke said "until we get closer to air in 2015, the show will be appropriately shrouded in secrecy, but we won't rule out the possibility of some of the show's original cast members popping back in."
Is there still an interest in 'Heroes'?
While it's not unheard of for networks to revisit shows years after they go off the air, the decision to bring back "Heroes" seems a bit odd at first. Though the show struggled significantly in seasons two and three, it had begun regaining momentum toward the end of season four before it was canceled. Series creator Tim Kring attempted unsuccessfully to get the show renewed for a half season or TV movie to wrap up the cliffhanger at the end of season 4, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
"Heroes" rumors have popped up occasionally since then, with the most recent being that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) was considering reviving the show as an Xbox exclusive alongside shows such as the upcoming Stephen Spielberg-produced "Halo" series. While those talks to revive "Heroes" were said to be in the early stages, nothing seemed to come of them. With the return of "Heroes" to NBC, the Microsoft talks obviously fell through.
It's possible that it was the interest from other sources that finally convinced NBC that fans might still be interested in "Heroes," or it could have been a new pitch from Kring after the Microsoft deal fell through. Regardless, NBC believes that it's worth the investment to bring the show back to life.
Will it pay off?
While several of the problems with "Heroes" can be attributed to the damage done by the writer's strike, a significant amount of time seemed to be spent trying to stretch out plotlines and avoid writing massively powered characters such as Sylar and Peter Patrelli into would-be gods. Subplots were added and dropped, new powers were gained and then never used again, and the third season at times felt like an attempt to reset some of the characters to bring back their first-season charm. This likely played into its eventual cancellation; by the time the story started moving in a positive direction again, many viewers had simply become tired of the rehashing and plot filler.
The new miniseries won't have to deal with that, however. With 13 episodes and a single story arc, it won't need to set up future stories or stretch out the plot for a big reveal in the final episode. When you factor in what is likely to be a largely new cast, the show might be able to reclaim some of what it had in the first season. Viewers will be able to watch the characters evolve over several episodes, with the story building toward a definitive conclusion.
"Heroes Reborn" has a chance to be a compelling show that gets the "Heroes" formula right. The big question that remains is whether it's too little, too late for people to watch it.
John Casteele owns shares of Microsoft. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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.