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Pressure is on for 'Heroes' as hit show faces its second season

Hal Boedeker
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

Heroes

Airtime: Mondays, 9pm ET
Cast: Santiago Cabrera, Ali Larter, Masi Oka, Hayden Panettiere, Adrian Pasdar, Sendhil Ramamurth, Milo Ventimiglia
MPAA rating: N/A
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: NBC
US release date: 2006-09-25
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NBC found a lifeline with "Heroes," the biggest new hit last season. The success will reverberate with the DVD release Aug. 28, at the Emmys Sept. 16 and in many new fall series that feature superheroes.

Then there's the main event: Season two starts Sept. 24. And yet series creator Tim Kring says he's not feeling pressure to top last season.

"It's pressure to keep it going," Kring says. "This particular show has become a show defined by its ability to defy your expectations. People want that experience of watching the show and not knowing where it's going to take them."

Here are a few second-season destinations anyway: Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Egypt, Haiti and Ukraine. "Heroes" will introduce more everyday characters with astonishing powers.

"The message of hope caught people's attention," Kring says. "There's something hopeful about the idea we have these abilities, and abilities to connect around the world."

NBC Universal hopes to connect a vital property with more consumers. Universal Media Studios produces the series, which is a model for how NBC hopes to expand its business online and internationally.

"A hit does drive the business," says Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment. "Then we can build so much of this around it."

Universal Studios Home Entertainment is releasing the first-season DVD weeks before season two begins. The goal: gain viewers who haven't watched and please fans with extra content.

"There's like 50 extended and deleted scenes," says Masi Oka, who plays Hiro. "You get to see the behind-the-scenes things, the making of, Tim Kring's commentary on the 72-minute pilot that we premiered at Comic-Con." (NBC aired a shorter version.)

Kring promotes the HD-DVD that allows fans to follow various threads in the show. Early on, Kring strove to have all the characters in every episode. In season two, the storytelling will change a bit.

"I think we can expect to spend a little more time this year on fewer story lines per episode that allow us to highlight certain characters each week," Kring says. "By extension, some characters will be left out of the episodes each week."

"Heroes" will produce 24 episodes next season. The plan is for them to end in April. "Heroes: Origins," a six-episode anthology series, will air in May and introduce characters separate from the main series.

At the Emmys next month, "Heroes" will compete for best drama and Oka is up for supporting dramatic actor.

"I'm just definitely floored and humbled," Oka says. His take on the role: "kind of the average everyman that viewers can imagine themselves being."

Kring says HBO's "The Sopranos" is the show to beat. "Heroes" received eight nominations, and Kring says any victories will help a show that many viewers dismissed as fantasy or sci-fi.

"Those kinds of shows are not always associated with critical acclaim or with awards," Kring says. "It stamps the show with a certain mark of quality that will attract new viewers."

A surer sign of success than awards: Other programmers have studied the "Heroes" model. Characters with extraordinary powers can be found in ABC's "Pushing Daisies," The CW's "Reaper" and CBS' "Moonlight." NBC will schedule two such series with "Heroes" on Mondays: "Chuck" and "Journeyman."

"We've got to be a little careful that just because a "Heroes" works in season one that 10 shows like that can work," says Steve McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment.

And there are limits to how far NBC Universal can extend the "Heroes" brand. What about a theme-park ride?

"No one has talked to me yet," Kring says.

He dismisses the idea of a movie. "The show is doing everything that a movie would do," Kring says. "I'm not sure what story we would tell."

But Oka cites the success of "The Simpsons Movie": "If you want a `Heroes' movie, please keep us afloat for another 14 seasons."

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