Holding out for a 'Heroes' fifth season

Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 2:33pm

When it debuted four years ago on NBC, Heroes was an immediate sensation. A story about ordinary people who discovered they had super capabilities, then were pressed into service using them seemed to resonate with viewers in a manner far different from other new NBC shows.

Heroes was the network's highest rated drama for much of its first two seasons, and the character of Hiro (Masi Oka) achieved breakout status.

Then NBC began experimenting with format and presentation, and their tampering, particularly reducing the air time of some popular ensemble members and killing off others, coupled with their numerous other problems, resulted in a staggering audience loss for the show. It was also hurt by the surging popularity of CBS' comedy block, ABC's Dancing With The Stars, even the midseason strength of Fox's 24.

The show wraps its fourth season Monday night at 8 p.m. on NBC. As of Sunday, no announcement had been made regarding its fate. But creator Tim Kring has inserted a two-minute preview for a fifth season into the finale, hoping that a glimpse of future developments might trigger enough interest and response to get a firm commitment from NBC. More importantly, this episode returns Hiro to the spotlight in a big way.

Those who've waited for a renewal of Hiro's relationship with Charlie (Jayma Mays) will be rewarded, although they may not be totally happy with the results. Another plot development involves a confession made by Noah (Jack Coleman) to Claire (Hayden Panettiere).

Plus Peter (Milo Ventimiglia) and Sylar (Zachary Quinto) make major contributions to the episode. Finally, Samuel (Robert Knepper) decides to relocate his carnival to New York, a decision that certainly has major thematic implications.

NBC is trying to regroup in the wake of the Leno disaster, while awaiting the outcome of regulatory examination regarding its sale to Comcast. They've ordered 16 pilots and are promising to greatly shake things up for the fall season. No one knows what that means for Heroes. Thus, Monday's show could truly be the end of the line or a possible fresh start for what was once unquestionably a network phenomenon.

CSI developments

The dominant show of the 21st century's first decade was CSI. It spawned two spin-off series, became the top-rated scripted program on network television, and elevated the influence of the procedural in dramatic circles.

But there's only so many times you can show a bullet plowing through human tissue or isolate on a lab technician before even the most loyal fan grows weary. So increasingly these shows are trying stunts to spice things up creatively, from celebrity casting to bizarre plots.

Monday night at 9 p.m. CSI:Miami offers arguably its wildest storyline ever. David Caruso and company are investigating a murder in orbit, though they don't actually put on space suits and blast off to the moon. Instead, they go aboard a futuristic passenger spacecraft and end up doing foresenic testing at zero gravity. The change also forces the team to re-learn procedures on the run, while adjusting physically to their surroundings.

Then Wednesday evening at 9 p.m. CSI:NY heads to the race track. When a big time auto racer (Antonio Sabato Jr.) meets his end under suspicious circumstances, the number one suspect is arch-rival Liza Gray, played by no less than Indy Car star (and soon to be a NASCAR Nationwide driver as well) Danica Patrick.

Series lead Gary Sinise has raved about Patrick's performance both in print and television interviews, and the CBS publicity machine has given the show about twice its normal promotion.

With CBS planning not to air original episodes against the Winter Olympics, these two editions of CSI will be the last time fans can see fresh installments until March.