Jack Coleman, Noah Gray-Cabey, Greg Grunberg, Zachary Quinto, Santiago Cabrera, Leonard Roberts
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All photos © NBC
Reviewed by Will Harris
iven that we’ve been blogging “Heroes” every week since its premiere, there’s little reason to delve too deeply into the back story of the show within this review, so let us start with this reminder about the series (that its tremendous success may have caused us to forget):
It could’ve gone so very, very wrong.
When NBC first began to trumpet the concept of a drama about normal, ordinary individuals around the world suddenly beginning to develop superhuman abilities, it was hard to imagine that it would ever work. There had been shows about normal people receiving the gift of super powers in the past – “The Greatest American Hero” and “Misfits of Science,” to name but two – but rarely were they done for anything other than laughs. To do such a series and play it as a drama seemed inconceivable, if only because the utilization of special effects to demonstrate such powers is like walking a mine field: one misstep, and all the work you’ve done to suspend the viewer’s disbelief is gone in an instant.
Fortunately, “Heroes” proved the naysayers wrong, thanks to one man: Tim Kring.
Kring’s vision for “Heroes,” as well as his desire to let the show’s drama play out in a gradual, unraveling fashion, made for electrifying television week after week. As the series began, we watched several disparate individuals, including a cheerleader, an office drone, a home hospice worker, a politician, an online porn queen, and a smack-addicted artist, as they came to the realization that they each possessed unique gifts; or, one might argue, curses.
Kring created a labyrinthine plot, however, which found the most unexpected characters connected to each other, some more morally ambiguous than others. For every hero, it seemed, there was a villain, with some of the characters changing back and forth from episode to episode. Characterization was definitely the key to the series, as were the interactions between families, friends and allies formed by circumstance. There were, however, still considerable amounts of special-effects eye candy to be had, as we were quickly reminded to what a level green-screen technology has evolved since the days of “Misfits of Science.”
The only real complaint about the first season “Heroes,” if you’re really searching for one, is that we spent the entire year building up to a tremendous showdown between heroes and villains, and the result turned out to be something closer to a whisper than a scream. It wasn’t exactly anticlimactic, but it wasn’t necessarily the battle royal that we’d been anticipating.
As far as the DVD set goes, it’s fair to say that even if you watched “Heroes” from its inception, the presentation of the show here is gorgeous, both in picture and sound. If you’d be thinking that you might need to revisit the show to get properly psyched for the Season Two premiere on Sept. 24, now’s the time.
Special Features: Those who’ve been in on the show since the very beginning will be most interested to check out the previously unaired, unedited version of the pilot, which, more than anything else, provides insight to the question of why the character of Matt Parkman never made it into the first episode of the show. It turns out, originally, there was a significant subplot involving terrorists, where Parkman was heavily featured, but NBC was still teetering back and forth between whether or not the show would air at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m., and they were uncomfortable with such a heavy topic being featured in the 8 o’clock hour. As a result, the entire plotline was excised (though, ironically, the show ended up getting a 9 p.m. timeslot, anyway), and the restructuring of the pilot to fill in the gaps necessitated losing Parkman ‘til Episode Two. Kring provides audio commentary as well, where he clarifies each and every difference between what actually aired and what didn’t.
In addition to the pilot, we also get several audio commentaries from the cast and crew, though they were clearly recorded while the show was still in production, as there’s a tendency to go to a chapter break and return with a different group of actors. For example, during one episode, the screen fades to black, at which point Zachary Quinto has vanished from the commentary because of shooting commitments, but he’s been replaced by Jack Coleman. It works surprisingly well, however, because the inclusion of new blood into the mix means that there are precious few silences during the episodes. (Coleman’s most interesting revelation – and it may not be true, but it’s funny, anyway – is that the network refused to allow the death of the Bennett family dog, Mr. Muggles.) Other features include a ton of deleted scenes, several featurettes (“The Making of ‘Heroes,’” “The Special Effects,” “The Stunts,” “The Score,” and a profile of artist Tim Sale, who was responsible for most of the paintings seen in the series), and a “Mind Reader” game. The latter’s mostly a novelty, but the other stuff will definitely make the show’s fans giddy.
And just in case that wasn't already enough, Blu-ray owners get something a little more... special. Though most of the material contained within the U-Control feature isn't much to brag about (like the ability to view Tim Sale's artwork up close, or "Heroes Connections," little notes that track each character’s journey throughout the season), but the picture-in-picture video commentaries are just as cool as you'd expect. Offering an entirely new dimension to the commentary experience, it's nice to be able to watch the participants actually interact with another, instead of just listening to their voices. More studios should really take advantage of this option, and with Blu-ray only getting more popular by the day, they probably eventually will.