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Published: Sunday, 1/21/2007

NBC's 'Heroes' to square off against '24'


PASADENA, Calif. - "Are you on the list?" the new Heroes promos ask.

The show is certainly on the Nielsen hit list, helping NBC pull out of a ratings nosedive when the peacock needs a hero most. Here's what viewers can expect to see in the coming months:

•More competition: Heroes returns with new episodes today at 9, facing off for the first time against Fox powerhouse 24.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried that we weren't going to take a little hit from them," said Heroes creator Tim Kring. "It's disappointing for any viewer who feels like they want to watch both shows. They're facing a dilemma."

•More Sylar: Though the villainous, brain-desiring character played by Zach Quinto was intended to appear only in the first season, it sounds like his stay will be extended.

"I've really fallen for Zach Quinto, and I just think the character is so much fun," Kring said. "I just like the idea of him being around for a while. ... The original thinking was he would last the arc of the season and with the finale we'd find a way to defeat him. But great villains run away and live to fight another day. That's a classic motif."

The show's writers are tossing around ideas for how to show Sylar absorbing the heroes' powers, and so far the thinking is that he does eat at least a portion of their brains.

•H.R.G. is fluent in Japanese: Claire's father, also known as Horn Rimmed Glasses (Jack Coleman), has a scene with Hiro's father, played by George Takei (Sulu of Star Trek fame).

"All my scenes are in Japanese and I did a scene with Jack Coleman - you take it from there," Takei said at an NBC party Wednesday night. "He memorized all his lines phonetically."

•An invisible hero: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) joins the cast Monday as the invisible Claude, a tribute to Invisible Man actor Claude Raines.

"His character acts as a sort of mentor for Peter, who is having trouble controlling all of this crazy power he seems to have," Kring said. "Peter runs into this character, literally, and forces him basically to teach him what's going on. It's the first indication for the audience that these powers have been around longer than we've sensed, based on what we've seen so far."

•Less ambiguity than Lost: "We're not going to have the frustration level of having to wait several episodes before things actually happen," Kring promised. An attempt to keep fans happy has also been part of the scheduling: The show ran nonstop through early December, took a break, and returns for a pod of original episodes through February. Then it will break again and return in April to run through May sweeps.

•A May cliffhanger: The 23-episode first season will end in May with a one-hour episode that includes a cliffhanger.

"We will wrap up the story of the prophecy of this apocalyptic event," Kring said. "I don't think it's any shock that we will somehow save the world."

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen, the TV editor for the Post-Gazette, is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Los Angeles.

Contact him at: rowen@post-gazette.com

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