Heroic ending for 'Origins'

NBC shelves spinoff as strike looms

Fears of a writers strike might have 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 NBC Entertainment co-chair Ben Silverman 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. Universal Media Studios was set to produce.

Sources indicated that "Origins" might 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 spinning off "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 directors as Kevin Smith and Eli Roth to write and direct select episodes.

However, it also is possible that NBC, now under the creative direction of Silverman, might 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.

"Origins" isn't the Peacock's first midseason rethink. The half-hour comedy "The IT Crowd" was shelved several months ago. Another NBC spinoff said to be in the works, derived from "The Office," has not been crossed off the list.

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