Ah yes, the extras. No skimping here. Making Of, Special Effects, and The Stunts are fairly self-explanatory featurettes, and none of them should be watched until you've already seen every episode. At least 50 deleted scenes are at your disposal, and sci-fi fans should especially watch for the one where Parkman describes the gist of a classic Twilight Zone episode to Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere), the indestructible cheerleader. The Score shows the creative process of composers Wendy and Lisa (of Prince and the Revolution fame) in action alongside audio engineer Michael Perfitt. Wendy is dead-on when she says the music is "like another actor in the show." She also correctly points out that each main Heroes character has a theme that serves as their alter ego. The show itself has no central musical theme, as executive producer Allan Arkush notes during his commentary for Episode 18 - except perhaps the signature ascendant wail that fills the surround channels whenever the title of the show blots the screen (at a time, incidentally, that's never the same from episode to episode).
A word or two (or more) about the sound. I just wish the surrounds were used more often throughout the season. Sure, you get good use of them in scenes like Niki's Las Vegas encounter with ambitious, high-flying politician Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar) in Episode 4, Parkman's internal audio freakout in the convenience store in Episode 5, the mighty drum corps in Episode 9, and the channel-shifting of Peter Petrelli's ultimately fatal accusations directed toward Isaac Mendez at the end of Episode 16. And absolute silence is used to stunning effect when Parkman tries to read the mind of The Haitian (Jimmy Jean-Louis) in a bar and comes up empty in Episode 3. But a more regular, thorough 5.1 presence would have made the literal grand scheme of things all that much more sweet.
Okay now, let's talk commentaries. We get them on 13 out of 23 episodes - not a bad ratio. Some of them appeared initially at nbc.com - in filmed PIP form, in fact - when the episodes were first posted for Web viewing. These were somewhat looser affairs where commentators sometimes came and went during each act if they got called to the set. But what they show is the level of camaraderie and ease the cast members have with each other. Grunberg is the most gregarious of the bunch, the first to exclaim "Come on!" with unbridled enthusiasm whenever a particularly exciting or revealing sequence appears. His back-and-forth with Panettiere during the first half of "The Fix" (Episode 13) is a treat. Creator Tim Kring is at the bookends, covering both the season premiere and the finale, and he's a fount of information - and an exception to the usual rule that lone talkers can't carry commentaries (a rule that's not the case when it comes to showrunners, who are usually the best sources of intel and detail about their "babies"). Executive producer Arkush, who's also directed a few episodes, shows himself to be a master commentator on a number of installments - particularly on "Parasite" (Episode 18) - by sharing a level of insight into how certain scenes and shots got cut together, thanks to his having broken into the business as an editor.
Arkush is at his best when discussing "Company Man" (Episode 17) - one of my favorite hours of episodic TV ever. Here he's joined by Jack "HRG" Coleman and writer Bryan Fuller (creator of one of this fall's most anticipated shows, Pushing Daisies). Arkush reveals the amount of research that he did to shoot the script properly (you'll find tips of the directorial hat to Desperate Hours, Out of the Past, T-Men, Raw Deal, and Dog Day Afternoon, among others), while Coleman admits one of his key acting choices stemmed from Robert Blake's work in Of Mice and Men. It's one of those episodes that can be watched again and again, with another layer revealing itself each time.
And that's Heroes for you: a deeply layered show embedded with many gratifying rewards. Long may it reign. Now excuse me, I think I'll go exercise one of my powers and watch it all again. [NR] English, Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish, Dolby Digital stereo; letterboxed (1.78:1) and anamorphic widescreen; seven dual-layer discs.
Addendum: Don't worry, high-def fans - we'll be getting into all the nitty-gritties and nuances of the Heroes HD DVD back in the near future.
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