Families Flock to Harsh Heroes

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So, how did Tim Kring, creator of NBC’s Heroes, end up on a panel at last week’s Family Friendly Programming Forumin Beverly Hills? “Save the cheerleader, save the world,” the cryptic imperative that drives the series’ titular heroes, does have a wholesome ring to it. But somebody must’ve missed the episode in which the cheerleader mangles her hand in a garbage disposal.

Indeed, despite its often brutal violence—and the fact that its heroes include an Internet porn queen and an artist who shoots dope to paint apocalyptic prophecies—Heroes is a breakout hit with fans of all ages.

The show, which airs at 9 p.m. ET, is the No. 10 primetime network series among kids 2-11, and NBC’s second-highest-rated series in the demo, behind Deal or No Deal. Among kids 12-17, it ranks sixth overall and No. 1 for NBC.

“We were trying to get a hip audience of twentysomethings and college kids, but I have been taken by surprise by how many families watch the show,” Kring confessed at the forum.

The Parents Television Council, which gave the show its dreaded “red light” rating, will be glad to know that Kring and crew are rethinking the show’s violence, given the young audience.

“I feel like we have to back off some of the very graphic stuff,” Kring acknowledged.

Still, he added, the show’s comic-book spirit demands that characters take a beating from time to time: “The genre calls for a certain amount of violence. The cheerleader sticking her hand in a garbage disposal still gets an ‘Ooh!’ in a good way.”

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