Heroes Execs discuss show’s future, LOST, more

Hiro and Ando meet Hiro's fatherOGMOG EXCLUSIVE: LOST returns to ABC tonight, but as much as I loved the first two seasons on the island, I’m putting my faith in NBC’s Heroes.

Cobbler and I sat in on a panel discussion Monday night with Heroes creators Tim Kring and Jeph Loeb, directors Greg Beeman and Allan Arkush, writer/co-executive producer Jesse Alexander, and actor Masi Oka.

The panel discussed the Heroes writing process, future plans for the show, how they pitched the show to NBC, and their beefs with LOST. More, spoilers included, after the jump.

The first season of this comic book heroinarrative is a bit more than halfway through, and unlike the first seasons of say, Alias, 24, or LOST - which catapulted us towards an anticipated Season 2 premiere - there have been occasional dud episodes. However, after hearing what these guys had to say, it became apparent that story-telling-wise, they have their heads in the right place. I’m on board for whatever they have in store.

Highlights from the panel are below, including what might be considered to be spoilers, so reader beware.

The Five Year Plan
Unlike other heroinarratives, like LOST, which have begun to meander, the Heroes gang has a five year plan. “We’ve thought about seasons 1-5 and how we might arc them,” said series creator Tim Kring. The creators explained that both specific and general story arcs have been considered far in advance. This week’s reveal of Nathan Petrelli being Claire’s father, for example, has been planned since day one.

The Heroes pitch
Tim Kring described his extremely rehearsed NBC pitch, in which he led execs through the entire story of the pilot, with full detail, up to the multiple cliffhanger ending, which left each character in peril. When the Peacock execs eagerly asked what happened next, Kring replied, “Well, you’ll just have to wait and find out.”

Heroes likened to 24, rather than LOST
The creators compared Heroes more to 24 than to LOST, and said that each season will conclude in a way. “The first season will come to a conclusion,” Co-executive producer and comic book guru Jeph Loeb told the audience. “Next season will be a brand new adventure.”

Tim Kring also weighed in here, noting that the main questions raised in the first season would be answered by the season finale. Loeb advised fans to think about the show like a graphic novel, telling new stories each book (or season), while retaining information from past stories. “We wanted an opportunity where we could tell stories about people,” Loeb said. “New people will come in, old ones will come back.”

Eternal Sunshine + The Incredibles = Heroes?
“I saw Eternal Sunshine and The Incredibles back to back - and they were my two favorite movies of that year… There was something about the Charlie Kaufman characters, these hyper-ordinary characters that I really responded to… people you felt like you knew, or maybe went to school with.. people who were unexpected and ordinary…. The Incredibles took the idea of people trying to live an ordinary life… and all of the stress and strain that being different imposed on these very ordinary lives.” - Tim Kring, series creator

Jeph Loeb on the Comic art form:
“I grew up reading comics, I actually still write comics… and when I’m not doing the show, I’m writing Wolverine at the moment. So, as to why comics are an enduring form, for me its a combination of the wish fulfilling aspect of it - that the most ordinary people can rise up and become heroes, and secondly it’s a truly American art form, Jazz and Comics. There were comics all over the world, but Superman was the first comic book super hero… It’s an art form that anyone can understand and anyone can enjoy… it’s become part of our culture. What’s unique is that Tim never read comics or had seen any of the movies- the Incredibles was as close as he had came…The thing that makes comics work is that the people are only as much as their alter egos are. Spider-man is cool, but ultimately he’s just some guy in his pajamas going around shooting web out of his hand, but once you know Peter Parker…”

The Writing Process
Unlike a majority of heroinarratives, Heroes is written collaboratively. “On Heroes where we have maybe five characters per episode and each episode has four beats, its very easy to [run out of time],” explained Jesse Alexander. “On a serialized show, time is your ultimate enemy in the creative process, because you want to think about where you’re taking the characters, but you also have to get episodes completed.”

Tim Kring explained this idea was born out of necessity. “The show was picked up in mid-May and we were in production by July and on the air by September, and we wanted to take advantage of cross-boarding the first few episodes because there were so many episodes that took place in different locations. Instead of shooting three scenes in one place, you could shoot, say, nine scenes. In order to do that we had to have not just three scripts, but four scrips, because one had to be prepping for the next go around - so we had to have four scripts in the next five weeks. And we realized there was really only one way to do this: if we all worked together.”

Kring also hinted that in many cases, certain writers write certain characters. This offers possible explanation (other than Ali Larter’s terrible acting) for why the Niki Sanders storyline is so mediocre.

Thoughts on LOST:
Both Jesse Alexander and Jeph Loeb worked on the first season of LOST before stepping down. Alexander as an executive consultant, and Loeb as a supervising producer. Alexander praised the collaborative story telling process on Heroes: “I worked on two other shows before this, (LOST and ALIAS) and we had the structure of an old writers room and it hurt us creatively.”

Loeb commented on the necessity of “plant and payoff,” the process of setting up information in previous episodes so that reveals make sense, rather than surprise the viewer. “On LOST,” joked Loeb, “someone new would just walk up and say ‘Hi, I’ve been here the whole time.’”

Tim Kring on realism, and making promises with the audience:
“The power to go back in time - which Hiro’s character has - is almost too powerful of a power for the writer’s room to deal with, because it means you can write yourselves out of corners. It became very important to us to tell a story (ep. 10) where someone needed to be saved. It was very important to see Hiro try to go back in time to save someone and be unable to–to make a pact with the audience that this was not going to be easy, and that this was not going to be a simple thing–to go back in time.”

Choosing the Powers
Tim Kring: “We chose the characters first and then I backed into the super powers based on the characters and what they seemed to want or need. Take Masi’s character for instance. I wanted a character that embraced this new found thing in his life with zeal–I wanted kind of a comic book geek, but we wanted a character that was trapped in a life that was kind of not of his making, so he’s an office worker. When we did the opening scene to introduce his character we did a CGI shot of all the cubicles to show how isolated he was.” [A shot strikingly similar to one of Bob Parr at work in The Incredibles.]

Kring also described that Niki’s split-personality ‘power’ was originally written as ability to be in two places at once, highly fitting for a single mother.

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15 Responses to “Heroes Execs discuss show’s future, LOST, more”

  1. Crabsense Says:

    This is an EPIC post. I don’t even watch HEROES, and I’m totally enthralled.

  2. Yablonovyy Says:

    Thanks so much for the details!! Amazing.

    I personally think Ali Larter is doing a very good job with an extremely difficult character — which is to say, you may feel she’s terrible, but I think that almost any actor trying to play recognizably different characters at the same time is going to have a time of it. Most actors only have one character in them, and get typecast, after all.

    The J/N Sanders storyline is, you’re right, extremely weak, especially insofar as they have consistently deus ex machinated the conflict points out of their story — which means the arc could have been, say, only 3 episodes long, and still be at the point it is now.

    However, I think they are springloading both of the parents, and the two of them will almost certainly be important antagonist-accomplices down the line, if Linderman threatens Micah in order to activate them for his ends. Again, you don’t need 10 episodes to set that up, but they still could be important. I hope?

  3. techSage Says:

    This statement in this article is false:
    “Unlike other heroinarratives, like LOST, which have begun to meander, the Heroes gang has a five year plan.”

    LOST creators on record several years ago having said that they structured the first 5 seasons before they shot the pilot.

  4. Sam Says:

    The Nikki story is so lame and the characters are so whiny. I don’t care about the “conflict”, I don’t care about their bad acting, and I don’t care for the sub-par storyline. I think the storyline needs to be put on the backburner and don’t think anyone would miss the characters if they were to suddenly disappear.

    At least they could have some guy come in one episode who can change people appearance, and they could switch out all the actors for that storyline. Ahh…it’s so bad.

    The cop is another one I don’t care too much about, but they can leave it in. Whatever.

    Hiro is the money character.

  5. Heroes Executives discuss Heroes - Heroes Revealed - NBC's Heroes Says:

    […] You can read all story at ogmog.com […]

  6. subcorpus Says:

    nice post …
    lotsa info …
    enjoyed it … thanks …

  7. Standler Says:

    Glad to get so much feedback on the post.

    I think, however, techSage may have misinterpreted some things I said. I never discredited LOST for saying they had a plan - merely that they’ve been meandering for some time. I’m a huge fan of LOST, and I certainly concede that no episode of HEROES has yet come close to the best episodes of LOST.

    When LOST is on its game, the story telling is fantastic. It is hands down some of the best television ever. However, I agree with many who believe the show has raised so many questions, gone in so many directions, and answered so little, that (at this point anyway) they’re unfairly testing the loyalty of their viewers. I hope that I will be proven wrong over the next fifteen weeks.

    While I have great expectations for HEROES, it’s not the show it needs to be - yet. After hearing the creators and writers talk, and learning their opinions on story telling, and making promises with their audience - my respect for the show has grown enormously.

  8. KushCash Says:

    Dudes, you can mess with my Lost - that’s fine…but don’t start messin’ with my Battlestar Galactica, cuz’ THEN IT’s ON!!!

  9. noname#7 Says:

    where did all this lost hating come from? season 1, season 2 amazing. season three, dont know yet because its not finished. and whats wrong with taking your time to develop a story and letting it grow slowly. enjoy it while it lasts cause at some point it will come to an end. and heroes…. well, the four episodes i have seen have had some interesting moments, but the acting is terrible. i will watch though just because everything else is so bad.

  10. Brian Stempien Says:

    Jeof Loeb is full of shit.

    Lost has no plan? Lost has a five year plan.

  11. Standler Says:

    As a fan of LOST, I’m very interested to know where everyone is getting this info about LOST’s five year plan.

    I remember reading that LOST originally had a planned 3 season arc - but that was a long time ago.

    If anyone’s got a source on any of this LOST plan, I would love to read it.

  12. JCarpio Says:

    It’s funny that you think Jeph is full of it. Did you work on the staff of Lost too?

    And also, he is right.. The brazilian guy and girl came out of nowhere, it seems, with little setup.

    I like Lost, but i am one of those fans that the show is testing.

  13. techSage Says:

    Here is the source for the “five (or six) year plan” for LOST from lostpedia.com’s transcript of Season 1 DVD Disc 7 (Extras), Genesis of Lost (http://www.lostpedia.com/wiki/The_Genesis_of_Lost):

    Bryan Burk: So we started talking about what the show was, and who these people were, and where they had landed, and what that thing was on the island. And the big picture of where we’re going and at the end of an initial conversation, of like twenty or thirty minutes, we discussed had where the show goes for, I believe for the first five or six years. Like, we understood the big picture. And it was then that we realized, we know what this show is.

  14. Joost Says:

    The show is beginning to slow down, which I dislike because the heroes show said the explosion would take place in 2 weeks, but it seems like more then 2 weeks have passed (technically we’ve seen at least a month pass by in the heroes world).

  15. Scubophilus Thistler » Blog Archive » links for 2007-02-10 Says:

    […] Heroes Execs discuss show’s future, LOST, more (tags: television Heroes) […]

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