NBC's "Heroes" (9 p.m. Monday, WPXI) has been a bit disappointing this season as it keeps its characters apart for too long and coughs up answers to lingering questions too infrequently, a marked contrast to last season when revelations seemed to happen on a weekly basis.
Monday's episode inched closer to setting things right by telling fans what happened to Matt Parkman's wife (she cheated on him and got pregnant and the baby belongs to the other man) and by bringing a "Heroes" regular, evil Sylar (Greentree's own Zachary Quinto) into the Mexican twins story that had previously dragged down the show (if we don't know them well, we won't care about them).
The prospect of actress Kristen Bell ("Veronica Mars") joining the cast next week for at least 13 episodes offers reason to hope that "Heroes" will soon get back on track. Bell is the rarest of Hollywood commodities: A smart, articulate, charming actor who clearly has her head screwed on straight, as my dad would say.
In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Bell said she's had friendships with "Heroes" cast members going back years, including Hayden Panettiere (cheerleader Claire) and Quinto.
"It is so much fun," she said of her role as evil (?) Elle. "I have been crossing my fingers in hopes of playing someone who, as [series creator] Tim [Kring] says, is 'a little off,' someone who doesn't have the brightest and best of intentions. She's so conflicted and comes across as such a victim. It's so much fun to play."
Elle will be introduced Monday as a super-powered character who's looking for Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia), but it turns out she has ties to Claire and her father. Bell wouldn't disclose the nature of Elle's power, but she did say there's a "very interesting dynamic with Elle and Claire. ... I think there will be a deeper relationship there than people are expecting."
Kring said Elle is tied to the company HRG (Jack Coleman) has worked for to the point that she was raised within the company.
"It's in some ways a cautionary tale," Kring said.
Hmmm, could HRG be Elle's father? Just a guess based on nothing more than Bell's conversation about her friendship with Panetierre.
"We always joked about playing sisters or friends in a project and we may or may not be either of those in this show but we still get to work together," Bell said.
In addition to her friendship with Panettiere, Bell sang the praises of Quinto without any prompting.
"I would most like to interact on and off camera with Zach Quinto because Zach Quinto has been a good friend of mine for almost 10 years now and I've always wanted to work with him," she said. "Besides the fact that he's the coolest thing because he's so unpredictable and [plays] so downright evil, which is the polar opposite of Zach, who is the kindest, gentlest, most giving person. I would love to see him and Elle face off someday. I think it would be unbelievable."
And who knows, maybe Bell will stay around long enough to have that happen. Quinto will disappear at midseason to film the "Star Trek" movie, but maybe when he gets back they can get into a duel. Bell certainly seems agreeable to extending her stay at "Heroes."
"I would be up for that," she said. "This has been a great relationship so far ... and I'll be one of the ones to keep my fingers crossed that I don't get killed."
Bell said she and the producers have agreed to meet after she films her first 13 episodes and discuss whether it makes creative sense for Elle to stick around. Even if she doesn't, fanboys who fell in love with her as Veronica Mars will get more opportunities to swoon over her work. She's in the January movie release "Fanboys," about "Star Wars" fans on a quest. Bell says without hesitation that she's happier to be on a show that "people are wildly obsessed with and watch because they can't not than be on a show that people turn on because it's on prime-time television."
Bell just has one suggestion for some fanboys: If you're going to attend Comic-Con in San Diego dressed in a costume, be willing to pose for a photo.
"I think my geekiest pleasure is getting my picture taken with people who come in full costume to Comic-Con. They fascinate me," she said. "But if I were to come in costume as a Stormtrooper, I'd accept the fact that people will want pictures with me. Most of the time they're like, 'Make it quick.' It's so frustrating for them. I'm like, 'Dude, you're the one in costume, don't get angry at me.'"
More geek stuff: Why are the Associated Press, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter behaving as if George Lucas has made a stunning announcement about making a live-action "Star Wars" TV series? There's absolutely nothing new in these reports.
So why are some media outlets treating this like a revelation?