'Heroes' Showrunner Tim Kring on Why TV Should Be More Like Netflix

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Tim Kring

At Rome’s MIA market, two leading showrunners discussed current challenges facing the TV industry.

Rome’s MIA market gathered 1,500 top industry execs from around the globe to discuss current issues across cinema, TV, documentary and digital. One topic: How can linear TV stay relevant in an increasingly digitized world?

Tim Kring, showrunner of Heroes, Touch and the upcoming Beyondsat down with Italy’s Gina Gardini of Gomorrah and Suburra, a new Netflix production, to discuss how the title of showrunner is different in both industries. While the structure is very different in each country, both Kring and Gardini agreed on the usefulness of network notes in revising a script, the importance of preproduction preparation and why it’s necessary to groom the next generation of showrunners.

For Kring, being a showrunner is not only about convincing a writer’s room to get onboard with your items, but also managing the show’s relationship with the network. “With Heroes, we were always in trouble,” he said. “Every single week I was getting the call that it is going to be canceled. The relationship with the network is often contentious. Confession: You become very comfortable with lying to people, say yes when you mean no, say things are ready when they are not. You are constantly in the state of telling white lies. There’s the hammer of the budget and ratings over your head.”

Kring’s new show Beyond, about a man who wakes up from a 12-year coma to find he has special powers, premieres Jan. 2 on ABC Freeform. “Beyond is a thriller with a bit of a nostalgic feeling because it’s based on a lot of those Amblin Spielberg projects that we all love from the '80s, and it has that kind of feel,” Kring told THR.

Adopting the Netflix model, all 10 episodes of the show will be available for immediate streaming at launch.

I think Netflix is very much on the forefront, or at least took advantage of a trend that was started with serialized dramas like Lost and Heroes. These were shows that were a superior experience when watched one after the other rather than waiting week to week,” said Kring on adopting the binge-watch model. “It allows for a deep, immersive experience into a story that satisfies our addiction to know the answers to what the show is asking us to be interested in.”

Kring says the binge-watch method also has changed how the scripts are written. “We no longer repeat information quite the same way,” he said. “We used to have to use the first part of an episode to kind of explain what had happened in the previous week. Now we don’t have to do that so it allows for a more sophisticated, more subtle way of telling stories.”

Kring is also a fan of Gardini’s Gomorrah, which premiered to strong reviews on Sundance TV in the U.S. He believes it is a format that could bode well as a remake.

What’s interesting is the title, while very specific to Italy as a location, has a double meaning of course to the idea of a city that’s a den of iniquity and sin,” he said. “The title translates beautifully, which I think is really important. And it’s an age-old story. Put all the mafia aside, the idea of power and struggle and family is a story that translates everywhere.”