Two weeks ago, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY published a cover story suggesting ways NBC Universal might be able to rescue its flagship drama Heroes from various power-sucking creative woes. Now the company is pursuing some solutions of its own. On Nov. 2, it ousted coexecutive producers Jeph Loeb and Jesse Alexander recruited in season 1 by Heroes creator Tim Kring to help chart the show's direction. Not only were Loeb and Alexander instrumental in making the NBC series an initial success, but both boast fan followings. Loeb is a massively successful comic-book writer (Batman: Hush), while Alexander was a key producer on cult faves Alias and Lost.
Team Heroes declined to comment publicly on the dismissals, but one insider made it clear that the move was intended to facilitate a ''course correction'' for the show. It's the closest NBC Universal will come to expressing frustration with the former phenom, which is suffering from declining ratings (down 22 percent from last season) and bad buzz that began with last year's savagely panned second volume, ''Generations.''
According to insiders, NBC Universal has been asking Kring to make personnel changes for months. So why now? Multiple sources say EW's cover story created an embarrassing situation for the network that required a swift and decisive response. Though showrunners often get the boot in this type of situation, axing Kring was never an option. After all, he has been aggressively branded and promoted as the ''visionary'' behind Heroes. Unfortunately for him, he'll have to prove it anew. At present, there are no plans to replace Loeb and Alexander, so the responsibility of shepherding Heroes once again falls squarely on Kring's shoulders.
Ironically, Loeb and Alexander's fingerprints will remain all over the current season. At the time they were let go, 17 of the year's 25 scripts had been written and approved. The series is about to enter the endgame of its present arc, ''Villains,'' with episodes that are said to set the stage for significant unspecified changes in the season's next volume, ''Fugitives,'' bowing early next year. (Look for an unprecedented two-part opus titled ''The Eclipse,'' airing Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, to launch the repositioning.) Those changes include tweaks to Heroes' format that are designed to address another source of worry the show's super-size budget. If this overhaul works (and we hope it does), fans win, NBC wins, Kring wins. Heck, everyone can celebrate except for the two guys who masterminded the fix. Additional reporting by Lynette Rice