Around the same time NBC announced that Jay Leno, instead of decamping to do late-night comedy for ABC, would remain at NBC and move to a 10p.m., Monday-through-Friday slot, the creator of the network’s fading hit series Heroes took a public swan dive into hard concrete.
Speaking at a screenwriter expo in Los Angeles, Tim Kring struggled to defend his sci-fi-tinged show, which has endured two seasons of faltering ratings. Heroes is presented in a serialized format, meaning that stories “arc” over the course of an entire season rather than conclude at the end of each episode, as in a sitcom, or a police procedural such as CSI or Law & Order. The serialized format is “a very flawed way of telling stories on network television right now,” a blogger quoted Kring as saying, “because of the advent of the DVR and online streaming. The engine that drove [serialized TV] was, you had to be in front of the TV [when it aired]. Now you can watch it when you want, where you want, how you want to watch it, and almost all of those ways are superior to watching it on-air.”
Then, in a fit of pique for which he is still apologizing, he said: “So on-air is [relegated] to the saps and the dipshits who can’t figure out how to watch it in a superior way.”
Kring later claimed that his quote had been “slightly mangled,” but the damage was done. He was blasted by fans and critics (“Try, you know, not sucking,” Time’s television blogger, James Poniewozik, bloggishly advised him), and certainly there was something gloriously self-destructive about a 50-something show creator, at the apex of his career after decades of slogging through hack work, publicly attacking the very people who are keeping him in business. But his profane evisceration of his own viewers is of a piece with NBC’s decision to sully the sanctum sanctorum of prime time with a talk show: both are signs of an old television order dying and a new one starting to come into focus.