‘Heroes' looking for a rebound when it returns

By the time the most important show on NBC's prime-time schedule, “Heroes,” returns on Sept. 22, it will have been out of sight for nine months. Its creator, Tim Kring, can only hope that it has not been out of mind for some of the most passionate fans in television.

“A little absence can really be a benefit,” Kring said, citing other “eventlike shows” like “The Sopranos” that have rebounded from long gaps between seasons.

For a still-new hit series, “Heroes” has had a rocky ride, fueled by a truncated season last year and reactions of rabid viewers.

“The double-edged sword of our fan base is they have a passion for the show,” Kring said. “And that passion cuts both ways. It cuts towards, ‘You're the greatest thing ever' and towards ‘You've disappointed me.'”

In an interview in November, just after production was cut off by the writers' strike that shut down Hollywood, Kring acknowledged early missteps, including introducing too many new characters, dabbling too much in romance and depositing one of the fans' favorite characters, Hiro, in feudal Japan for too long.

Kring is enthusiastic about the new season, which will run in 13 episodes. It is called “Villains” and will focus on a single big story line and rely on its main characters. It will explore what he called “the primal questions” from Season 1: “Who am I? What is my purpose?”

Kring says the audience got used to the “adrenaline pace” from Season 1, and when Season 2 started with the introduction of still more new characters, the viewers “lost a bit of patience for the build-up. … When any new characters come in, we need to connect them to the story line and characters they're already familiar with.”

As to the Hiro trip back in time, Kring acknowledged that “some people didn't like that we had separated Hiro from the other characters.” And romance? “I had sort of said romance would be a different thing for a show like ours because we have such adrenaline in the storytelling. It has to be a battlefield romance.”