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With Mark Robichaux

'Heroes' Tackles the Hiatus Conundrum

As fans of NBC's Heroes brace for the May 21 season finale—when they'll find out if Hiro (Masi Oka) and his super friends will indeed save the world—the show's creators are busy trying to figure out how to save the breakout hit from the effects of another midseason hiatus. One possibility: rethinking the rerun.

Although Heroes caught fire this season while other serialized dramas fizzled, the rookie show took a ratings hit when it returned from a six-week spring break to finish the final arc of episodes.

“It's a real conundrum,” says creator Tim Kring. “You have to be off the air at some point. And this kind of show runs best when the episodes run continuously.”

Given Heroes' value as a fall promotional platform, it's unlikely NBC will delay next season's premiere until January, as Fox does with 24.

But Kring says one idea being batted around is to “spice up reruns with new material or something that makes it feel like you aren't just being asked to watch the same thing over again.”

And “Volume Two,” as Kring and Co. prefer to call the next cycle, “in no way needs to be the length of a season,” he says. “It may wrap up in Episode 11 or 6 or 14, and then another volume will start. The idea is to keep lowering the barrier of entry for new viewers.”

The truth is, Kring admits, “it's just very hard to carry a story for 23 episodes. I'm sure the guys at 24 wish like hell they'd called it 9 or 12.”

Say What?

Perhaps Ali Velshi should stick to TV.

That was the consensus among several audience members polled after watching CNN's senior business correspondent moderate an all-star executive panel at the closing session of last week's National Cable & Telecommunications Association conference in Las Vegas (see p. 16).

During a discussion that included Time Warner President/COO Jeff Bewkes, ESPN President George Bodenheimer and Cox Communications President Pat Esser, Velshi left many—including the panelists—wishing he would slow down and stick to the topic at hand: the future of cable.

Velshi—who also hosts The Ali V Podcast, among other CNN podcasts—opened the session with a long disquisition on what he called “the biggest deal in media”: his new customized iPod ear buds.

“Forget Murdoch and Dow Jones and YouTube,” he said, as he described making a cast of his ear (while struggling to don the ear buds on stage).

When he finally got around to asking questions, Velshi jumped around so much that Esser asked him at one point to ease up, saying, “You're throwing so much at us.”

After listening to the buildup to one query, Bodenheimer finally asked Velshi, “What's the question?” to scattered applause.

Even Bewkes, Velshi's corporate boss, had to put on the brakes, asking, “Can we just get back … I just want to wrap up the other question.”

Said one attendee afterward, “That fast banter may work on TV but not on a panel like this. It's too much.”

Bravo's Own Shark Week

Bravo's Top Chef is looking to borrow a little summer mojo from the original warm-weather blockbuster, Steven Spielberg's Jaws.

With Spielberg's blessing, Bravo is launching a national Top Chef promo campaign this week that plays on the film's famous tagline.

TV, print, online and outdoor spots for the third season of the cooking competition, set in Miami, will bear the slogan “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the kitchen.”

Whereas promos for the second season of Top Chef had the contestants seated along the edge of a gargantuan chef's knife, this time, the 15 contestants are knee-deep in the surf off of Miami's South Beach—with the tip of the chef's knife poking through the water like a shark's fin.

So, is Spielberg a Top Chef fan? “He's a fan of the ad,” says Bravo Senior VP of Marketing Jason Klarman. “He thought it was a fun idea.”

As for what fans can expect this season, which begins in earnest June 13 (the new contestants will be introduced during a June 6 Chef special), Klarman allowed only that it will be “spicy.”

What, no shark's fin soup challenge?