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July 26, 2008

Tim Kring screens 'Heroes' third season premiere

Comic-Con -- Tim Kring walks through the labyrinthine San Diego convention center on his way to his "Heroes" panel. He’s a little nervous, and understandably so. The crowd waiting for him is enormous.

For the first time in Comic-Con history, a TV show session is being presented in the cavernous Hall H – the event’s largest ballroom. First up Saturday morning is NBC's "Heroes," then there's ABC "Lost."

The allocation of the extra space is clearly warranted. Fans have camped out overnight to get inside, the line wrapping around the convention center. Kring hopes that the bulk of the fans are waiting for his show instead of just wanting to snag seats for "Lost."

Kring is armed with a DVD of the upcoming third season premiere, which just finished production. He's going to surprise fans by screening the entire episode. He knows the last season disappointed some viewers and he's intent on making the upcoming third season the show's creative comeback. That's why this Comic-Con session is so crucial. A successful screening here could jump-start the show's buzz into the fall as well as any ad campaign. Probably better.

The goal for season three, he says, is to have a more exciting and propulsive story.

"Last time we tried to do a slow build up," he says. "This time we’re going to start the story right away and we’re off to the races."

Kring says the break afforded by the writers strike has benefited the show -- both creatively and in terms of building fan anticipation.

"I think the months we’re off the air might actually help," he says. "We only had a four-day break between season one and two."

Also, unlike last season, any new characters will only be introduced through existing characters’ storylines, rather than trying to launch unfamiliar characters in their own stand-alone stories (such as Maya and Alejandro last fall).

Kring also reveals that a full episode's worth of extra footage that was shot before the strike cut short last season will be included on the season two DVD. The material will never air because it uses an alternate ending for the midseason finale that kicks off an entirely new storyline that was abandoned.

Fans will recall, in last season's finale (episode 11), Peter Petrelli stopped a vial from breaking that contained a deadly virus. But in the original ending the vial broke, which launched the second half of episodes for the season under the book title “Outbreak.” The DVD footage will include the alternate ending, plus the shot footage from unaired episodes 12 and 13.

Once on stage in Hall H, Kring tells the 6,500 fans they will be the first to see the fall premiere episode. The crowd roars -- clearly, the overnight campers were not just waiting for "Lost."

“You will see that ‘Heroes’ is back, and back in a big way,” Kring says.

Once the house lights dim and the screening begins, Kring slips back onto the dark stage to take a seat on the panel so he can watch the audience's reactions. It's a rare opportunity for a television writer, to be able to observe a large live audience watching a show before it airs.

So how did the episode compare to last season?

Mild spoilers after the jump:

The episode is titled "The Second Coming" and penned by Kring, and is the first entry in the show's fall book, which is "Villains."

At least one character without powers will gain a power. And at least one character presumed dead is not (yes, there's still a bit too much of that in this show).

Hiro, in the episode's best-received scene, is given a new quest. The premiere will also introduce a new “speedster," whom Kring describes as Hiro’s nemesis.

Maya is back, looking as if she had a makeover. She's a minor part of the episode.

In a show that's offered a few brain-related gross-out moments, there's a scene in the premiere that out-grosses them all.

Perhaps it's just the enthusiastic Comic-Con audience, but the episode seemed to regain some of the clever wit that marked the show's first season.

Overall: Fan favorite heroes are quickly launched into urgent new storylines. Within about 20 minutes, it's clear the episode is much better than the season two premiere.


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