'Heroes Reborn': Can it recapture the original show's glory?

'Heroes Reborn' is a 13-episode show set in the world of NBC's mid-2000s program 'Heroes,' including some original 'Heroes' stars and some new talent.

Christos Kalohiridis/NBC/AP
'Heroes Reborn' stars Ryan Guzman.

NBC’s new show “Heroes Reborn,” dipping back into a world peopled with unlikely superheroes, debuts tonight. Can it recapture the creativity of the original show’s early run?

The original show “Heroes” ran from 2006 to 2010 and starred Hayden Panettiere, Milo Ventomigli, Masi Oka, Ali Larter, and many others. It centered on people all over the world who suddenly discovered they had superpowers. 

“Heroes” became a ratings hit for NBC in its first season and was critically well-reviewed then as well. The early episodes of the show were full of enigmatic hints about what would happen when the heroes faced off with a mysterious villain (Zachary Quinto in a breakout role). But many viewers were underwhelmed by the season one finale, featuring the built-up battle, and many believed the show never recovered, though it continued to air for another three seasons. By the end, ratings were much lower than they were originally.

Now “Heroes Reborn” is NBC’s 13-episode (for now, one presumes) new take on the show. Actors including Mr. Oka and Jack Coleman have returned, along with some fresh characters. 

But critics so far aren’t won over, with reviewers writing that it “doesn’t make an airtight case for its revival,” is “awkward … muddled,” or is simply “a big hot mess.” 

Other reboots of old shows are in the pipeline, like Netflix’s “Fuller House” and Fox’s “The X-Files,” coming soon (“X-Files” arrives in January, while “Fuller” will stream sometime in 2016). If “Heroes Reborn” can’t recover, what can these other pending reboots learn from its stumbles?

Some critics are complaining that “Reborn” has too many of the same themes as the original show – lots of mysterious people working behind the scenes and those who think they know what’s going on but aren’t believed by anybody. Judging by the lukewarm reaction, it seems reboots need to bring something new to the table. Why are they being brought back? What’s different from the original episodes?

Some reviewers are also complaining about the overwhelming number of characters and plotlines. Future reboots would be wise to keep their stories simple (“X-Files” in particular would probably benefit from this) and provide support for viewers who haven’t seen the original program, or who have forgotten key details over the intervening decade.

“Heroes” fans will no doubt tune in tonight, as will people who never watched a minute of the original NBC show. Too many assumptions about how much viewers already know (and remember) of old characters or plotlines could well alienate new potential fans.

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