“Heroes” and its ilk storm primetime

HeroesmasicropBeen thinking a lot about why primetime TV is in such a superhero-loving moment. No, it wasn’t brought on by the onset (onslaught) of Comic-Con this week. It was Television Critics Assn. press tour and all the yak yak yak during the past fortnight about the upcoming season’s new shows.

I was struck by the superhero-mania by realizing that that even high-end, Emmy-winning drama types a la writer-producer Kevin Falls and director Alex Graves are working in the genre (sort of) with NBC’s “Journeyman.” Our hero in this show is a San Francisco newspaper reporter who can travel through time and change the course of people’s lives. Falls and Graves during the TCA sesh on the show took pains to stress that they were going for “grounded sci-fi,” and that the show would hinge not on time travel but on relationships.

“It’s a a time-travel show made by people who don’t believe in time travel,” assured Graves, whose pastHeroeshayden_3  credits include “The West Wing,” “Sports Night” and “Ally McBeal.” Still, “Journeyman” has a mandate, one that he doesn’t quite understand, to change people’s lives for the better (and to keep viewers from changing the channel). Sounds superhero-ish to me.

It was NBC’s own “Heroes,” of course, sparked the most recent mania for supernatural storytelling with its breakout sizzle this past season. (BTW, the two pics posted here are from the soph season opener of “Heroes,” tantalizingly titled “Four Months Later,” set to air Sept. 24. Not many clues revealed in them but I figured they were a nice touch for anyone interested in this column’s topic.)

In the coming season we have variations on the superhero theme in not only “Journeyman” but NBC’s “The Bionic Woman,” Fox’s “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” and to a lesser degree (more about people with special powers than save-the-world-itis) in CW’s “Reaper,” ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” from “Heroes” alum Bryan Fuller, and Fox’s “New Amsterdam.”

So why all the interest in characters with power to bend Newton’s laws?