Easily the highlight of last season’s onslaught of new programming, Heroes hooked me from the pilot episode and had me in an eternal conflict all season on whether to watch Heroes at 9pm or 24. While 24 ultimately won out because I was more of a die-hard fan of it than Heroes, there’s no doubt that this first season of Heroeseasily eclipsed most other dramas on television last season (the short lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, even in cancellation, is one of my favorite TV dramas from last season).
With Heroes, fans were introduced into a world that reflected that of Bryan Singer’s X-Men films, where the idea of people with superpowers was taken with a more realistic approach in that while there were people flying around and phasing through walls, the characters and environments were still grounded in reality. While the X-Men franchise eventually deteriorated with the third installment, Heroes did nothing like that—throughout the season it only grew stronger and the cast began to come together to cohesively at the end that seeing any of them killed off was like a punch to the gut.
Heroes took the prospect of superheroes and turned it into a drama about a group (no doubt to be much larger by next season) of people who eventually come together in the end to save the world (or at least New York City) from a nuclear attack. Through the course of the series we learn more about our heroes and their eventual relationships with one another (one revelation late into the season made me throw my hands up in the air and yell “Oh come on!”—not in a bad way, it was just wonderful how they were tying all of the plot lines and characters together).
I had a lot of issues with the show early on, with the previews of the next episode promising some great wonderful thing and, while it delivered, we’d end the episode with more questions. The lack of heroes actually meeting up with one another was irksome as well as we saw them referencing each other or barely missing them in cities. On top of that Ali Larter’s Nikki/Jessica storyline was extremely uninteresting for the first handful of episodes and it wasn’t until she got out of prison that things started to pick up in her storyline.
Still, even with the minor issues aside, the other characters were so well fleshed out, even in the early episodes, that it became obvious just how great this show would become. Most of the major character deaths were saved until the final episode, which, while we still don’t know who survived and died exactly, we’re sure to have a couple casualties when the second season comes around. Heroes really is a remarkable show that certainly grabs in a large audience in multiple demographics; while the violence can be irksome to some (the brain freezing thing so early on in the series surprised me when I initially watched the series), there’s little doubt to me that the shows strength lies in the characters, the actors who play them and, of course, the writers. Here’s hoping Heroes return next season is as strong as the first—I hate seeing great shows peter out in their second season outings (Lost, I’m looking at you).
Heroes’s first season is Must See.
Arriving in similar fashion to the DVD and HD-DVD releases, Universal brings out the first season of Heroes on Blu-ray in a reflective foil slipcase, although the embossing from the DVD version is not present this go around. The rest of the case remains largely the same, with the inner slipcase art of the same comic book styling as the previous releases. While I’m used to the slimmer style packaging that I’ve seen other Blu-ray TV sets arrive in, Universal’s lavish treatment of the series by spreading it across five Blu-ray discs and giving each one their own digi-pak tray is certainly admirable, even if it does suck up my shelf space a bit. Oh well, I’m not hurting for Blu-ray storage…yet. The rest of the set is presented nicely enough, with pop-up menus and the Universal U-Control extra in full effect here.
For the Blu-ray side of things, it doesn’t appear that Universal has changed much from the HD-DVD version. While I didn’t own it (or an HD-DVD player), I did see it in action and from what I remember it all looks the same. This time around, however, instead of seeing a demo of it, I was able to not only tinker with the extras but to watch the show in its full VC-1 encoded 1080p glory which…is just astounding. I remember the show looking good, as I was able to watch its later half on HD, but nothing that looked like this. The amount of detail in the image is fantastic, with deep and rich colors that really help the series look amazing. I am truly astonished by the clarity of the picture given here and when you have a DTS-HD Master Audio track backing it up, the whole audio/video experience is a true sight to behold. Without a doubt, if you haven’t seen this series in full 1080p HD, then you really need to.
There isn’t anything new here in terms of extras for the Blu-ray release and this is really pretty much a copy and paste from the HD-DVD edition. Our first big extra on this set is the seventy-three minute original cut of the pilot which, while largely the same, cuts out an abandoned terrorist subplot that introduced Greg Grunberg’s character, Matt Parkman, in the pilot, rather than the second episode like we got in the show. Tim Kring provides commentary over this cut and throws out some cool tidbits on the show, though there isn’t too much that had me exasperated with glee with this extended cut. It’s largely the same as what we got in “Genesis”, but its fun to watch all the same.
Following on every disc in the set are deleted scenes (49:29), fifty in all. Most of the scenes are short and some seem oddly familiar to me, which probably means they’re just alternate or extended takes, rather than completely deleted, although there are a few completely obviously deleted ones too. There are a few cool deleted scenes, but nothing that you really wish could have been left in the series—as with most deleted scenes, they’re cut for a reason and that reason is usually for pacing reasons.
All of the commentaries return from the DVD version and like the HD-DVD version, the Blu-ray set shows them off as video commentaries via Picture-in-Picture. Starting with “Godsend”, the final twelve episodes of the series all contain commentaries which are largely made up of cast and some crew interspersed. The majority of the commentaries seem to be recorded according to act breaks and we frequently lose commentators as they leave to shoot scenes. Very rarely do they return by the third act, although I think Grunberg popped up again once or twice. We hear from a slew of cast members, even the elusive Haitian (played by Jimmy Jean-Louis), writers and directors along the way and while some information is repeated (Elizabeth Lackey being pregnant in the show [as Janice Parkman] and in real life was mentioned more times than I can count), the commentaries are great to listen to. Grunberg in particular is the most enthusiastic on the commentaries and isn’t afraid to let out a fanboy like squeal when something cool happens on screen (he explodes frequently on the “Five Years Gone” episode). Having watched these all as audio-only tracks before, you really do get a bit more information just from the facial expressions and body movements, rather than their voices only. While I’m still perfectly content with audio-only commentaries, these are still great looks into the episodes themselves, although their lack of perspective by recording these more after-the-fact is lost.
“Making of” (10:00) is a typical behind-the-scenes montage of how the show came together and who was involved in the creation of it. We see footage from the San Diego Comic Con and some cast and crew interviews and the extra is a satisfying one all around. It’s a bit short, but when combined with the commentaries you really get a nice idea of what it was like to be on the set of the show and just how much the actors all enjoyed working and being a part of such a strong show as Heroes.
“Special Effects” (8:45) and “The Stunts” (10:22) show some of the wirework done on the series, as well as some sword fighting between George Takai and Masi Oka and how Leonard Roberts films the D.L. Hawkin’s phasing portions. There’s a humorous story one of the special effects supervisors tells about a discussion he had with Masi Oka at one point during the filming of a scene at 2 or 3 am in the morning. Oka used to work at ILM writing programs for animators to use and at one point Oka actually asked the special effects supervisor is that is really how he wanted to block out the shot. It’s kind of cool to see Oka going from a background in special effects to being one of the actors involved with them and that he’s able to add more to his performance by knowing exactly how it’s all going to look once the final product hits the screen.
“Profile of artist Tim Sale” (11:26) goes in depth about his work on the series and how he came to be a part of the Heroes crew. There’s a lot of cool close ups of the art from the series seen in this extra (that seems to be what the majority of it was, now that I’m remembering it) and Tim Sale seems to be nothing short of happy to be involved in a series such as Heroes.
“The Score” (8:58) follows the history of the music of the show and who is involved with creating the key sounds of it. As Tim Kring says on the commentary for the uncut pilot episode, the Batman Begins music was set in as a temp track and the composers were to use that for a basis of how the show should sound. While the show got into a more Indian vibe at times with that infamous (more famous than famous [sorry, I just love Three Amigos]) chant that’s so familiar to the fans of the show, there’s no doubt that the inspiration of the organic sounding Begins soundtrack still is hiding underneath the skin of the superb music we got on the show over the twenty-two episode season.
The HD exclusive (as in HD-DVD and Blu-ray exclusive) extras here are all repeated, as before, from the HD-DVD release. This is no way a mark against the set, as the U-Control features that Universal implemented on their HD-DVD discs is carried over here in full glory. I’ve found this U-Control system to be a waste of time usually, but something I had hankered for during the original DVD viewing (and I even noted it in my DVD review), was a better look at the paintings used in the series and the U-Control gives an “Artwork Presentation” option which is exactly what I had hoped for. You can zoom in and look at the pictures and it all works very nice. I’d still like some to use as desktop wallpaper, but, hey, this makes up for it a little bit. Also included is a “Hero Connections” feature that shows how the individual heroes are connected with one another, which is rather cool and looks like it took a lot of time to assemble. The BD-Live content on the first disc has yet to be enabled, so I can’t review that at this time.
All in all, between the episode commentaries and quick behind-the-scenes extras, this box set of Heroes is a shining example of how a show should be released on Blu-ray. I may have said the same thing about DVD, but Universal proves that what they do on DVD they can do even better on the high-definition format. Highly Recommended.
Heroes: Season 1 arrives on Blu-ray on August 26th.