Few programs have generated more initial enthusiasm than “Heroes” did when it premiered in 2006, before proceeding to demonstrate how quickly that heat can fade when the producers begin losing control of such a complicated dramatic enterprise. Enter “Heroes Reborn,” which could easily be titled “Heroes Remade,” a revival of the series that combines characters old and new, replicating the original’s intricately woven template while introducing a new slate of super-powered players strewn across the globe. The two-hour premiere plants plenty of potentially interesting seeds, while offering scant guidance as to how many of them will actually bear fruit.
“Heroes” owed an obvious debt to the “X-Men” franchise, which, when introduced in comic-book form, created an analogy about teenagers feeling different — like outcasts. The relationship between those feelings and gay rights later entered the picture, and that link is even more conspicuous here, as the series opens with “Evos” (basically the show’s term for “mutant”) having come out into the sunlight, while someone brandishes a “God Hates Evos” sign.
The good times, however, can’t last, and an act of terrorism again pushes Evos into the shadows. Investigating what happened is Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman), whose daughter Claire is presumed dead, largely because she’s busy starring in a series on another network. And once again, the show is wrapped in a mysterious conspiracy, where “Save the world” (sorry, not the cheerleader) is the vague mantra.
NBC was wise to introduce the series with two episodes, which provide a tiny bit more clarity than a single hour would have. Among the new characters, the most interesting is Tokyo-based Miko (Kiki Sukezane), whose search for her missing father takes her into a new and fascinating dimension. The show makes less interesting use of Zachary Levi (“Chuck”), who has a motive for harboring a grudge against Evos.
Beyond Coleman, a few original cast members are featured in the pilot, and several more are shown in the “This season on” tease. Yet while that should kindle a sense of excitement among those who enjoyed the show, considering it’s been five years since its demise, and given how the series fell apart in its third and fourth seasons — along with the current assortment of plots that are, literally, all over the map — the most helpful power of all would be the ability to remember the significance of those various connections.
In addition, despite how liberally “Heroes” borrowed from comic books, the show’s tone and style felt relatively novel at the time. Today, with a more ambitious roster of Marvel and DC properties currently available — as well as sci-fi projects like Netflix’s “Sense8” — the freshness label has long since expired.
Given that, “Heroes Reborn” — whose competition includes Thursday-night football until “The Big Bang Theory” returns — faces a formidable challenge. Without possessing quite the same nostalgia factor as “The X-Files,” the show must seek to recapture its early days while establishing new threads to reach beyond that core. All told, the premiere isn’t a bad step in that direction, but it’s unclear whether enough untapped power resides in the premise to ensure that the series can save itself, much less the world.