Remember that time a cult TV show got canceled, and lots of people were very very upset and spent a long time shouting about it on the Internet? And then after years of letter-writing campaigns and Comic Con appearances and social media outreach, the show came back for a one-off episode, or a Kickstarter-funded comeback movie?
Heroes is not that show.
On Saturday, NBC announced that Heroes’ creator Tim Kring would be bringing back the show for a 13-episode miniseries, five years after its cancelation in 2010. This news was met with a resounding chorus of... “But why?”
A new Heroes mini-series? Why the hell would you do this, NBC? That horse has been dead since 2006. Stop beating it. Stop.— Darik Kirschman (@djhkirschman) February 23, 2014
Why is NBC reviving Heroes. Are you THAT desperate NBC ???? Apparently so.— madison. (@pawneegodess) February 23, 2014
#TrueDetectiveSeason2 - a pair of lawmen with seemingly incompatible personalities team up to figure out why NBC is bringing back Heroes— Matthew Cox (@MattCox) February 23, 2014
There are plenty of names that spring to mind when you think of TV shows that were canceled before their time. Firefly. Veronica Mars. Pushing Daisies. All of these shows have one or two factors in common: a rabidly enthusiastic fanbase, critical acclaim in the face of mediocre ratings, or stories that were left untold due to early cancellation. Heroes doesn’t really have any of these things counting in its favor, particularly since the new miniseries is unlikely to feature any of the original core cast members in a central role.
Basically, NBC’s plan is to reboot a TV show that failed in its latter seasons, with the new version featuring no recognizable characters, but still using the same showrunner who was in charge when it was canceled in the first place.
Even on Tumblr, that haven of fannish enthusiasm, the responses on the “Heroes” and “Heroes Reborn” tags are a 50-50 split between genuine interest and pessimistic bafflement.
“Do people realize Heroes wasn’t on hiatus?” writes backflipbrendon. “It was cancelled. And for a good reason.”
Another blogger writes: “I guess my big question in regards to Heroes Reborn is…why now? Like, if people even still cared about Heroes when the show was still on... they’ve long since stopped caring now.”
We’re not saying that Heroes doesn’t have fans, or a fandom. During its first season, the show was a genuine phenomenon, charming audiences and critics alike. But Heroes fandom is something that NBC spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to cultivate, rather than allowing it to generate organically like the fandoms for shows like Hannibal, Teen Wolf, or pre-Internet hits like Star Trek. Basically, Heroes is a case of network television trying as hard as it can to make fetch happen, even after it became pretty clear that fetch was not actually going to happen.
The show’s launch was marked by viral marketing campaigns and a YouTube tie-in series, alongside a barrage of traditional advertising. The release of the first season DVD box set was publicized by a world tour with the cast and crew. NBC commissioned a ton of official online content including webisodes and an interactive site where fans could vote on the traits and powers of a new character on the show. Superheroes sell, and NBC was sure that if they pumped enough money into Heroes, it could be the biggest thing on television, a show that united comic book nerds with mainstream viewers of shows like Lost.
Unfortunately, the 2007 writers strike happened halfway through Heroes' second season, cutting short several key storylines and leading to a drop in interest from both viewers and critics. The series limped along for another couple of years, but never really regained the effect it achieved in season one.
When Community finally gets canceled, there will be a great deal of screaming and rending of garments among its many fans. More than a decade after Firefly first aired on TV, people are still freaking out over its cancelation. But when it comes to Heroes, the people who seem most excited about a new spinoff series are NBC themselves.
Photo via heroescoronation / Tumblr