False start for NBC's 'Heroes: Origins'

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Fears of a writers strike may have already contributed to a decision NBC made Wednesday to pull the highly anticipated spinoff miniseries of its hit "Heroes" from a midseason launch.

NBC declined comment, but "Heroes: Origins" is not going to get its six-episode run, which was expected to start as early as late April. While the network hasn't officially canceled the spinoff, producers of the series have been given no indication of when it might get a spot on the schedule.

Sources indicated "Origins" may be just the first of many projects lined up at the broadcast networks in 2008 that will get downgraded as a result of the potential strike, which could severely affect the TV industry. Budget allocations made months ago for a range of scripted programs, many of which will not be feasible without sidelined writers, will likely be reconsidered and potentially shifted to strike-proof material like reality and news programs.

"Origins" had been highly touted as a midseason addition since NBC's upfront in May, when then-entertainment president Kevin Reilly envisioned spelling "Heroes" when it took a late-season hiatus. The network had been promoting "Origins" well in advance of its premiere, noting the enlistment of such top directors as Kevin Smith and Eli Roth to write and direct select episodes.

However, it is also possible that NBC, now under the creative direction of Ben Silverman, may have seen its enthusiasm diminish for an expansion of the "Heroes" franchise given a pronounced ratings drop-off in recent weeks for the flagship series.

It is unclear at what stage "Origins" was in the preproduction process, though it is unlikely scripts had been completed.

In other NBC news, unscripted series "The Singing Bee" has been yanked from the schedule for the upcoming November sweeps period in favor of expanded two-hour installments of "The Biggest Loser."
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