'Heroes' Expands Universe with 'Origins'

You want more "Heroes"? NBC is going to give you more "Heroes" next season.

The network has hit upon a way to keep the show repeat for nearly the entire season, ordering more episodes of the show and embarking on a quasi-spinoff called "Heroes: Origins." Combined, the shows will account for 30 original episodes next season.

"We've got something I call the 'bulk-up challenge' for next year, which is trying to stay more consistent in our scheduling for the audience," NBC chief Kevin Reilly told reporters Monday at a press conference announcing the network's 2007-08 schedule. "We asked ['Heroes' creator] Tim Kring to come up with an idea, and what I love is not only did we bulk up with 30 hours next season, but also a whole new idea which I think is going to take the show to the next level."

The "Origins" series will consist of six stand-alone episodes, with each one introducing a new character and telling his or her back story. They'll take place within the "Heroes" universe but won't be tied into the main arc of the series, although one or two regular characters may pop up.

It will also carry an interactive element: After all six "Origins" episodes air, viewers will be able to vote on which character joins the main show the following season.

The idea for "Origins" springs from positive fan reaction to several side characters introduced this season -- Reilly cites Charlie (Jayma Mays), the waitress with the perfect memory, as an example -- and a desire to avoid momentum-draining breaks like the one the show took earlier this spring.

"I don't think the audience minds taking a week off, particularly during the holidays," Reilly says. "It's just the long hiatuses or weeks worth of repeats where we get in trouble."

Just how the "Origins" episodes will be scheduled along with the main "Heroes" storyline has yet to be worked out. The most likely scenario, Reilly says, will be to have "Heroes" start its second season in the fall and run more or less straight through its 24 episodes, with perhaps a short break during the holidays. "Origins" would then follow at the end of the season. Another option would be to run "Origins" "as a chunk" in the spring, before the concluding episodes of "Heroes."

"I'll tell you one thing you won't see is 'Origins' peppered throughout," he says. "I think that would be difficult for the audience to navigate."