Heroes Update Straight From Hiro's Mouth; Mekhi Phifer Plans to Leave ER
In many ways, the heartbeat of the TV Critics Press Tour comes down to this: skillful cocktail party talk.
During the day, of course, TV networks offer sprawling press conferences with all the shiny faces from their newest offerings. But in the evening, when all the talent, producers and executives are crowded into bustling parties with finger food and blaring music, critics work the room with digital recorders in hand -- trying to pry new pieces of information from lips loosened by a little alcohol and a party hearty spirit.
Tuesday night, NBC turned the top of the Beverly Hilton hotel parking garage into just such a party scene, importing an impromptu version of its hit reality show The Singing Bee featuring a game TV critic trying to remember song lyrics competing against actors from Friday Night Lights and the new series Chuck. As dancers in Bee costumes worked the stage, castmembers and producers from shows such as Heroes, ER, Medium and Saturday Night Live mingled with critics and each other, offering a few tantalizing clues about next season's shows. For example:
Heroes star Masi Oka confirmed that his character Hiro's sudden landing in fuedal-era Japan in last season's finale will be a major story arc for the series, lasting 7 or 8 episodes. Classic Star Trek actor George Takei will return as Hiro's dad, and even though they have already filmed three episodes of the show, Oka couldn't say when or exactly how the father character will appear. Since Heroes took off, fueled by reaction to his comic fanboy-turned-supergeek character, Oka described a jet-setting lifestyle including a major part in Steve Carell's upcoming Get Smart remake and publicity trips to Monte Carlo. "Words can't describe the change that's happened in my life," he said, refusing to speculate on the show's chances for snagging an Emmy nomination when the announcement comes Thursday, perhaps for fear of jinxing it all. "We've won the lottery and we're living the dream."
ER co-star Mekhi Phifer says he expects to leave the show this season, amid rumors that NBC may only air one more season, anyway. He expects Danny Glover to return as his father, for a final season delving deeper into his character's personal issues before he heads off the show to resume his film career, preparing to have a child with a new fiancee. "Right now, it seems like it may be our last year, anyway...I think I've run my course and it time to make moves," said Phifer, whose headstrong Dr. Greg Pratt has become a central figure on the series after five seasons. "Seems like my time has run it's course."