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FALL TV PREVIEW | `HEROES'

To reach tomorrow

September 17, 2006|Martin Miller | Times Staff Writer

YOU need only watch the evening news to realize the world is in danger. But to find anyone who can save it, you may have to turn to "Heroes," NBC's latest leap into serialized storytelling.

The show, which premieres at 9 p.m. Sept. 25, chronicles a small group of seemingly ordinary teens and twentysomethings, scattered around the globe, who discover they possess astonishing traits. Some can fly, others can move back and forth in time, or are indestructible.

"I think everybody has the feeling now that the world is becoming a place that is overly complicated and difficult to figure out -- global warming, diminishing resources and terrorism," said Tim Kring, the show's creator and executive producer. "The show's basic premise is that nature is providing the next evolutionary rung by populating the planet with people who are discovering their new abilities."

The hourlong pilot introduces a stable of angst-ridden characters alternately troubled and excited by their still well-cloaked powers. And it makes a tacit promise that they will somehow meet someday.

Making a character fly, say, or spontaneously regenerate a mangled hand requires a fair amount of special effects. So does creating the illusion that parts of the show were shot in Tokyo, New York and London, though all the filming was in Los Angeles. But don't expect the show to be a weekly special-effects fest. "We can't compete with a $200-million feature film," Kring said. "We're going to use them sparingly."

"Heroes" has been compared to "X-Men," which centers on genetic mutants who develop superhuman powers shortly after puberty, but Kring said the show was actually inspired by Pixar's "The Incredibles" and Charlie Kaufman's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." "I'm not a comic book guy," said Kring, who also worked on "Chicago Hope," "Providence" and "Crossing Jordan." "I was disappointed that I had veered so closely to the [X-Men] idea, but at some point I had to own my own version of who those characters are."

At the show's heart, he explained, is answering the question everyone faces. "I really liked the idea of taking these Kafkaesque hyper-anonymous characters and infusing them with special abilities and have them deal with the existential meaning of their lives -- to figure out what is their purpose. It's something all people can tap into."

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