Pushing Daisies fans will probably take a hit out on me for saying this, but something good has come out of the comedy’s untimely death: It’s freed up Bryan Fuller to rescue Heroes from the villain known as “What the Frak Have They Done to a Once-Great Show?!” In his first interview since rejoining the series as a consultant, the writer-producer-genius behind such acclaimed season 1 hours as “Company Man” reveals where it all went wrong, what it’ll take to make it right, and who’s gonna have to be sacrificed before that can happen.
AUSIELLO: Where did Heroes go wrong, in your opinion?
BRYAN FULLER: It became too dense and fell into certain sci-fi trappings. For instance, in the “Villains” arc, when you talk about formulas and catalysts, it takes the face off the drama. And I think the goal for everybody is to put a face back on the drama. You have to save something with a face; otherwise you don’t understand what you’re caring about. I thought the “Villains” arc started out very interestingly, and then became sort of muddy and dense and I couldn’t get my hooks into the characters to understand their motivations. I also started to feel confused about what people’s abilities were. One of the great things about the first season is that the metaphor for their abilities was very clear. Those metaphors seem to have gotten complicated in the past two seasons. I share that concern with everybody on the writing staff. It’s not like I’m coming in and saying, “This is what you need to do to fix it!” Everybody knows what needs to be fixed and everybody is sort of rowing in that direction.
Your work starts with episode 19, yes?
Yes. I’m fortunate to be coming into a very exciting story line. [Former co-exec producers] Jeph [Loeb] and Jesse [Alexander], before they left the show, set so many great events in motion with the “Fugitives” arc [kicking off Feb. 2]. It really is a fresh start. All of the characters are back in their real lives. You see Peter as a paramedic. Claire is looking for colleges. We get away from the world of formulas and quasi-magic.
Are the “Fugitives” episodes leading up to 19 solid?
Yes. Episodes 14, 15 and 16 are amazing. The whole “Fugitives” arc starts out very strongly, and then it gets a little dense in the middle in terms of the mythology. So I came in right at the point where everybody was realizing, “Oh, we’re getting too dense here and we need to put faces on stories because there is no face to a formula; there is no face to saving the world.” So it’s turning this big ship back into a character stream, and everyone on the writing staff shares that desire. We need to get back into a character place, because that’s where this story started: Very clean, superhero metaphors to everyday life. That’s the path that we’re taking. But it is a big ship so it’s going to take a little while to turn it.
Any plans to trim the sprawling cast?
People will die. And some will return. Matt’s wife [Janice] comes back. We’ll find out what happens when you have a superbaby. We’re also going to tell fewer stories per episode. We’re going to limit it to three or four with one big one that you can wrap the stories around. We’re altering the structure of the show so that there’s a very clear A story that takes up a larger percentage of the show so that that story gets traction.
Are you looking at Season 4 as a complete reboot of the series?
It’s not necessarily a reboot as much as it is going back to the basic spirit of the show and pulling people back in. I don’t think the issues with the show have been about the serialization as much as about the density of the stories that have been serialized.
Will you be part of the show next season?
That’s the idea.
Will the recent behind-the-scenes changes at NBC impact the show at all?
It’s really hard to imagine Heroes without [Universal Media Studios president] Katherine Pope, because she has been such a proponent of the show. She was so instrumental in [setting] the tone and style of the show in the first season. She is as vital a piece as any of the players on the show at this moment. Her contribution can’t be undervalued. It’ll be very interesting to see how things shake out.
What’s your working relationship with series creator Tim Kring been like since returning?
It’s actually been very positive.
Who gets final say: you or Tim?
Tim. I’m a consultant. My job is to help facilitate the vision of the show, and the vision has been a little inconsistent. But “Fugitives” is such a great sea change. I think people who have been critical of Heroes will come back.
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