Toward the end of its first season, when "Save the cheerleader, save the world" achieved catchphrase status, "Heroes" seemed poised to become the next "Lost," picking up the mantle of serialized sci-fi drama.

Now, with "Lost" going off the air in style, NBC faces a conundrum about whether "Heroes" is even renewable for another season.

Monday's finale was slightly better than the program has been since it flew off the rails a year or two ago, but it also marked a reasonably good place to end the show — (SPOILER ALERT) going back to a scene that occurred in the first season to set up a "Brave New World" (the episode's title) where people with "abilities" might be able to come out of the closet.

The question now — given the program's expense — is whether NBC will let it die there. Some of the cast members have indicated that they expect to be back next season, but if they are, it will owe more to NBC's needs than the program's performance. Preliminary Nielsen results reveal that Monday's installment drew 4.4 million viewers and a 2 rating among adults 18-49, which is a pretty weak number to bring any network show back, even with an anticipated bump from DVR usage.

Mostly, "Heroes" is a cautionary tale about putting the cart before the horse — and planning all kinds of merchandising tie-ins and webisodes while the series itself, despite its top-notch cast, was chasing away viewers. NBC also did the show no favors by moving it to 8 p.m. this fall to accommodate "The Jay Leno Show."

So can "Heroes" (and by extension, the cheerleader) be saved? That probably remains a cliffhanger. The only problem is that relatively few people still genuinely care about the outcome.

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