Directed by David Semel et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 1009 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
Release Date: August 28, 2007
Review Date: August 27, 2007
Bursting onto the television scene in September 2006, Heroes quickly established itself as a cult series. By the end of the season, it was the highest rated new series on broadcast television, and an enthusiastic NBC quickly renewed it for a second season. Undoubtedly the most talked about new drama series of the past year, Heroes featured a graphic novel come to life look and a cast of new characters unlike any ever seen on American television. Its amazing success was something of a surprise to many but a totally deserved one.
One of the most appealing aspects of the show is that the audience is never talked down to. Dozens of characters were introduced during the season, first in what appeared to be separate story arcs unconnected to the others but later slowly but surely merging into a connection that was altogether astounding to behold. And as the stories became more tightly interconnected and some favorite characters began dying, we became more drawn than ever into the show’s overall doomsday scenario. By the end of the season, the tension was truly unbearable, and the conclusion, while satisfying, contained the inevitable cliffhangers that all successful shows now end their seasons with.
The premise is rather simple on paper. A number of people from around the world become aware slowly that they possess abilities that make them different from the rest of the world. There is Hiro who can span space and time with his mind, political candidate Nathan who can fly and his brother Peter who can assume the abilities of those around him, teenaged Claire who is impervious to injury, Niki who has a deadly alter-ego, Matt who has telepathic powers, Isaac who can paint the future, Claude who can disappear at will, D.L. who can pass through solid structures, and a handful of others who come into and out of the story during the season. There are both an organization and individuals on the trails of these unusual people to either study, exploit, or consume them. What’s more, a season-long story arc involves New York City being destroyed by an exploding man and the frantic search for the man and a way to save the city (and the world) from immolation.
If the show has weaknesses, they are in some time-wasting subplots (Hiro and his friend Ando involved with a Las Vegas showgirl, Mohinder’s trip back to India) and in the uneven level of performance through its very profuse number of cast members. Masi Oka (Hiro), Adrian Pasdar (Nathan), Milo Ventimiglia (Peter), Greg Grunberg (Matt), Jack Coleman (Claire’s father), and Hayden Panettiere (Claire) do wonderfully expressive things with their characters infusing them with a humanity and believability that’s often striking. With the difficult role of Niki/Jessica, Ali Larter is less successful showing a more limited gallery of creative expression especially as Niki. Sendhil Ramamurthy as Mohinder, the narrator for many of the episodes as well as the geneticist trying to track down the “heroes” to warn them about the deadly Sylar, is also more strident than necessary. But as the shadowy Sylar, Zachary Quinto does exemplary work in making someone who’s very slight of build exude absolute power and evil.
Heroes is not known for celebrity stunt casting, but during the course of the season, such stars as Christopher Eccleston, George Takei, Eric Roberts, and Malcolm McDowell appeared to terrific effect imbuing their characters with the quirky kinds of surprises that have become the hallmark of this imaginative and addictive series. The fanciful direction and the towering special effects (simply remarkable on a TV-sized budget) are constantly amazing.
Here is the episode line-up for the shows of the first season across the seven discs with the number of bonus scenes available for the episode in italics. Episodes 12-23 all contain an accompanying commentary.
1 - Genesis (8)
2 - Don’t Look Back (4)
3 - One Giant Leap (2)
4 - Collision (2)
5 - Hiros (3)
6 - Better Halves (0)
7 - Nothing to Hide (8)
8 - Seven Minutes to Midnight (3)
9 - Homecoming (1)
10 - Six Months Ago (2)
11 - Fallout (1)
12 - Godsend (2)
13 - The Fix (1)
14 - Distractions (3)
15 - Run! (3)
16 - Unexpected (0)
17 - Company Man (3)
18 - Parasite (1)
19 - .07% (1)
20 - Five Years Gone (1)
21 - The Hard Part (0)
22 - Landslide (1)
23 - How to Stop an Exploding Man (0)
The series is broadcast on NBC in 1080i, and this down converted 480p transfer does the best it can in dealing with a variety of problems. The series does not possess one particular look. As it spans the globe, so, too, does the look of the image vary from the warm oranges of India to the steely blues of medical labs in Texas. There is sometimes heavy grain, and sometimes the image is silky smooth. Close-ups fare the best with superb sharpness and richly hued flesh tones that are sometimes highly reminiscent of the high definition broadcast. Medium shots and long shots, however, show much less detail, can feature crushed blacks and blooming whites, and can occasionally appear smeared. Pixelization is also present, and there is some occasional edge ringing though neither is a major problem.. Each episode has been divided into 4 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is mainly directed toward the front channels in strong, clear, and rich tone, but also with sporadic good use of the LFE channel. Disappointingly, the rears aren’t used nearly to the extent one would expect in an action oriented series.
Most episodes contain one or more bonus scenes (see episode listing above for the number of unaired scenes per episode). In some cases, the bonus scene involves only a line or two that’s been deleted from the scene as aired. In others, entire scenes or subplots have been discarded.
Beginning with episode 12, there are running commentaries for each of the episodes. Participants vary from episode to episode (sometimes participants change within a commentary as actors are called back to the set), and some are more successful than others in providing commentary. In some cases, the conversation gets so animated that one can’t discern everything that’s said as the speakers constantly talk over one another. The best commentaries don’t involve the actors at all but occur when the episode’s writer and director do the talking. Episode #17 features the best commentary due to the quality of the conversation. Understandably, the actors tend to praise everyone and everything and provide little in the way of a discerning eye about the production. For most of the commentaries, the participants don’t identify themselves until the very end of the track, so unless you have a good ear for recognizing voices, you’ll be guessing sometimes as to who’s sitting in the room talking.
The first disc contains the 73-minute unaired pilot episode of Heroes. It can be viewed either with or without commentary by series creator Tim Kring. The pilot is interesting for what was omitted: a terrorist subplot and the introduction of the Matt Parkman character (which was postponed until episode 2). Kring’s commentary is quite illuminating about the localities of the shoot, the network censorship, and the casting decisions that were made. This is by far the best bonus feature in the set.
Also ranking high among the bonus features is a mind-boggling little game called Matt’s Mind Reader (found on disc #5). By following the simple directions on the screen, the uncanny software can actually seem to read one’s mind as he arrives at a hero’s identity simply by doing some simple arithmetic. I played the game six times, and the software was right every time much to my complete surprise.
The remaining bonus features on disc 7 all cover aspects of the series that were important to its overall effect. All of the features are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.
“Making Of” is a 9-minute featurette that covers the formulation of the series, the casting, and the initial reception to the show, especially when the unaired pilot was first shown at Comic Con.
“Special Effects” spends its 8½ minutes covering how the flying and freeze frame effects are created for the show. As there are far more effects than these throughout the series, this feature could have been expanded quite substantially and really only scratches the surface.
“The Stunts” shows us some preparation on a few of the more breathtaking stunts in some of the early episodes. This runs 10 minutes.
“Profile of Artist Tim Sale” is exactly that: an 11½-minute interview with the man behind the portrait and comic book contributions to the show.
“The Score” interviews the two composers and the audio engineer responsible for giving the show its very unique background music. This feature runs 9 minutes.
The set also includes previews of current or upcoming DVD releases (in either 4:3 or non-anamorphic widescreen): Friday Night Lights, Knocked Up, House, Las Vegas, The Office, 30 Rock, and Miami Vice, among others.
More than any other show currently playing on broadcast television, Heroes most benefits from repeated viewings. The stories are so densely packed with characters and information that it’s nearly impossible to assimilate it all with one viewing. Fans of the series will also relish the generous number of deleted scenes and the bonuses included in this set which should make it a must buy for them. For fans of action and adventure fantasy, Heroes is certainly hard to beat.