While it seems likely that there is going to be a fourth season of NBC's superheroic drama Heroes, fans will get somewhere between five and seven fewer episodes. NBC plans to cut back on the number of episodes for the upcoming season, according to a report in TV Guide.

By all account, there are several reasons for the delay. First off, there is the fact that the show, while still showing respectable rating numbers, has lost a number of viewers since it's debut season in 2006. Additionally, there is the fact that NBC will have five fewer primetime hours to find programming for in the 2009-10 season, due to the program featuring Jay Leno that will be on at 10:00 p.m. weeknights. NBC also isn't alone in experimenting with shortened seasons - CBS's Harper's Island follows a 13-episode format, and ABC's Lost has had between 16 and 17 episodes per season for the past several.

The writers and producers on the show have already begun work on Heroes' fifth volume, which will involve a seres of mysterious deaths among those with abilities. The question, of course, is are the deaths natural? Or are they murders?

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Heroes is an epic drama that chronicles the lives of ordinary people who discover they possess extraordinary abilities. The show airs Monday nights on NBC.