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Ok, enough with the Superhero shows…

SuperHeroShowsI remember a few years ago when Tobey Maguire Spider-man movies were coming out and Marvel had just started Phase 1 of their Avengers film series, Howard Stern made a comment that ALL movies and TV shows should have superheroes in them. He said it didn’t matter what it was… you’ve got a police procedural going on, it would suddenly be better if all of a sudden Spider-man was there. He was joking, of course. But then I remember in 2011, when Smallville got cancelled at the same time as Human Target and NBC opted out of Wonder Woman and Fox out of Locke & Key, geeks were making a big deal that for the first time since 1987, there was no television series based on a comic book on US television. Of course, there were like eight comic book movies released in theaters in 2011, so really, no one seemed to notice a lack of media geekiness, but it was still an interesting thing to happen.

Anyway, American television quickly realized it’s mistake, so Arrow premiered in 2012. It’s now two years later and we have Arrow, SHIELD, Gotham, and we’re about to have Flash, Constantine and Peggy Carter (and Powers on the Sony Playstation network) on the air this year. Next year we also get Supergirl, Preacher, iZombie, and if you count Netflix (and why not), we’re getting Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Iron Fist and Defenders. And there have been pilots ordered for Lucifer and Teen Titans.

Seriously… it’s enough. Please stop.

Here’s my thing. I’m a huge comic book fan. I have been my entire life. And there was a time when it was like “Oh My God!!! The Hulk is on TV! Holy Shit!!!!” and it was awesome. In fact, it was super awesome, because the Incredible Hulk was actually a good TV series. And later there were shows like Lois & Clark and Swamp Thing and even Sabrina the Teenaged Witch, which maybe weren’t my thing, but they had their audience and the shows catered to them.

I don’t think the new shows are really catering to anyone. Now I’ll grant that Flash and Constantine haven’t appeared on TV yet, so I really can’t judge them. I’ll certainly give them a shot. I love Agents of SHIELD. It takes some crap, but honestly, it’s a very decent television spy show. In fact, it’s a really good spy show. It moves slow and methodically. There are lots of characters. You never know what’s going on. It doesn’t try to tie in too closely to superhero nonsense, because that’s not what it’s really about. And for the comic book fan, there are occasional nods to other stuff. Most of the complaints about it are “hey, this isn’t like the bug budget superhero movies at all. Where are the superpowers?” and it’s not. That’s the point. I don’t need everyone to have superpowers. I want quality storytelling. Remember when Heroes started and it was awesome? There was a mystery. There was intrigue. There was VERY OCCASIONAL action. It was all about “oh my god, who is Sylar and what’s the real with the cheerleader?” And then it started sucking because it became about a world where EVERYONE had superpowers and it seemed unsocial? That’s why SHIELD needs to stay how it is. (Of course, they’re bringing back Heroes too… so there’s that)

I also love Arrow. It is NOT a good show. It’s not supposed to be. It’s on the fucking CW. It’s Gossip Girl with vigilantes. You’re supposed to turn off your brain and go “oh, people fighting crime. Aren’t they pretty? Oh my god!!! Stephen Amell just took off his shit. SO HAWT!!!!” that’s the show. That’s all it is. And it does that perfectly. And it can exist in the tiny little niche of CW land and be fine.

Gotham… ok, really… too much. Gotham is everything that SHIELD isn’t. And it’s cumbersome and annoying. When they first announced it, I thought it would be a nice little police procedural set in the DC Universe. It could have been Law & Order: GCP. It could have been Homicide, Life on the Street, staring Jim Gordon and Harvey Fucking Bullock. And it would have been awesome. Instead, they’ve gone too far trying to shove comic book nonsense down our throats. Don’t get me wrong. I love comic book nonsense. That’s WHY I READ COMIC BOOKS. TV shows are different. It’s a different medium with different rules. An episode comes out every week. Take your time. The pilot of Gotham saw at least 4 or 5 different origin stories. Everything is being connected too closely to the Batman story. And with Bruce Wayne being a central characters, at 12 years old, we know that nothing can really “happen” because he’s got years before he can become Batman. That’s the real problem with it. In the comics, Batman and Gotham are linked. Batman exists be Gotham City needs a Batman. But here, in the TV series, we either need to have Gotham needing Jim Gordon and therefore the Batman connection needs to be overlooked OR Jim Gordon must be ineffectual and we have to wait through 6-10 seasons of nonsense so that Bruce Wayne can grow up. Moreover, its hard to take it seriously because too much of the show is in comic book land instead of police procedural land… like last night’s “balloonman” killer. Ugh. It’s not too late. I’m really hoping they can real it back in (episode 2 was way better than episode 1 or 3), but I don’t have much hope for it surviving past a season or two.

Really, I guess the market is just getting overly saturated. If Gotham were the only superhero show on TV, it would be fine. Same with any of the others. But it’s the same problem I have with the Daredevil movie that everyone always pans. Daredevil was a fine superhero movie. It’s totally on par with Christopher Reeve Superman movies. It’s way better than the Green Lantern movie or the first Wolverine solo movie or Shaquille O’neill as Steel (*shudder*). There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not bad. It’s just not good either. Daredevil’s biggest problem was that it came out at a time when there were so many good superhero movies coming out too, and good movies in general.

That’s where Gotham is right now. We’re in a golden age of television drama. A world of Breaking Bads, Mad Men, and True Detectives. A World with Orange is the New Black, Homeland and House of Cards. Even CSI: Poughkeepsie, IL, or whatever the newest one is, has its place. So if you’re going to sell me on a drama, even as a long time comic fan, you need to give me a reason beyond “hey, this is vaguely connected to Batman” to stay involved with it. Believe it or not, Arrow is there… Amell really does look amazing without his shirt (I swear I’m not gay…  but really, I mean, watch the man on the salmon ladder!!!). SHIELD walks a line because it wants to be taken more seriously than Arrow does, but it has me still. Gotham… you’re quickly losing me.

So what I’m proposing is, can we just put an embargo on pilot production for say two years. Supergirl and everything already in the works. You get a pass. Keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll deal with it. Lucifer and Teen Titans, I’ll even say you’re grandfathered as far as “go ahead and make the pilot and see what happens,” but I’m begging TV Networks, DON’T just sign them because they’re comic book shows. Have some pride. Everyone else…  you have to wait. Let’s say there should be a maximum of five superhero shows in production at any one time. That’s plenty. Ok? Put a lid on it, get in line and wait for some of these to fail. Trust me, it shouldn’t take that long.

By the way, I know I bashed Gotham a lot here. But on a good note, it did have one thing going for it. We got to see Tom and Martha Wayne get shot. That’s always fun. Do you realize Tom and Martha Wayne have probably been killed more than any two people in television and film history? I bet maybe Jesus is probably up there as well. But Gotham was totally worth it, if only because it inspired Vulture.com to put together this super cut of the many death of Tom and Martha Wayne, and it is awesome. It is now my fondest dream to one day kill them myself. By the way, have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?

40 comments for “Ok, enough with the Superhero shows…

  1. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    So I am guessing you aren’t excited for the Supernatural premiere…

  2. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Like for the last paragraph… link to the supercut?

  3. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Vic: I don’t actually watch it, but I don’t have a problem with it. But it wasn’t based on a comic, so it was outside the purview of what I was talking about anyway.

    Jacob: I’m confused. I did link to it. It just doesn’t auto embed on Facebook because it’s not a youtube clip.

  4. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Oh, sorry… I just assumed the link was for your blog–my bad..

  5. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    MOAR SUPERS PLZ

    • avatar
      mav
      October 7, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      And the reason Jameel doesn’t get to program network television is that if he did, Misfits of Science would still be on the air.

  6. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    You god damn right!

  7. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm

  8. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    And I file that under “everyone other than Jameel, Mav and Courtney Cox, if she ever wanders by this post, now has to Google Misfits of Science”

  9. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    I remember watching that show when it was on tv. 🙂

  10. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    AMELIAAAAA

  11. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    At the rate we’re going, there’ll probably be a Misfits of Science reboot soon. I for one will be tuning in to that.

  12. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Also, there are still less superhero shows on tv than there are shows with “housewife” in the title.

  13. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    those aren’t on TV! Those are on Bravo! That’s hardly the same thing!

  14. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    They’re clogging up my DVR because Ashley watches all of them, so they definitely count.

  15. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Are you sure that you want to get married? I mean, equal rights and all are one thing, but sometimes you just have to put your foot down… not as a man, but as a representative of the human race. I remember when Stephanie used to be addicted to LifeTime movies. *shudder*

  16. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Used to be? Did you send her to rehab or something?

  17. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    I think the solution is going to be separate DVRs…

  18. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Good rant but you can tell TV guys have gotten lazy and are picking the low hanging fruit. Just watch modern family and try blackish

  19. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    You can only watch the same Grieco movie so many times. (Also, you can only watch so many Grieco movies.)

  20. avatar
    October 7, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    “Grieco movies” is plural???

  21. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 7:35 am

    “A Night at the Roxbury” counts!

  22. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Nah. She meant lifetime movies starring Grieco. And he was in at least a couple.

  23. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I don’t know if the problem is really “too many superhero shows” … or just plain old bad television. I haven’t watched the second episode of Gotham yet, but the first one was just kind of crap. (To be fair, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was pretty crappy until essentially midseason last year.) Crappy television happens in every genre, and I think one could just as easily argue that “Utopia” is a sign of “too many reality shows” and ‘NCIS: New Orleans” is a sign of “too many navy themed cop shows” and “Bad Judge” is a sign of “too many Shonda Rimes rip-offs”, etc. Sturgeon’s Law, you know?

  24. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Michael: Oh sure. This isn’t a problem that is solely superheroes… that’s just the flavor of the month (well, year) Before that it was cop shows, before that doctor shows and before that lawyer shows. And yeah, reality shows are in there somewhere too…

    But that’s always been the case. In 1958, seven of the top ten shows on tv were westerns. In fact, 28% of all primetime shows were westerns back then, and there were only 63 hours worth of prime time TV available across the three networks.

  25. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    You know what though? The Flash is good clean fun. The CW knows how to rock some comic book stories. Geoff Johns has a script credit, so I guess it’s not too surprising…

  26. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    I haven’t watched it yet. Forgot to DVR it last night, so I’m getting the rerun tonight, and I’ll watch it while I work on a paper after I finish this comic

  27. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Flash was really good. I liked the origin story they chose for him. The upcoming story arc could have potential too

  28. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    well, I do like Arrow a lot, like I said.

  29. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    I’d watch a Cosmic Hellcats TV show. Especially on the CW. I’d also watch on Disney XD if the made all the Hellcats into Disney Princesses.

  30. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Have you ever thought that maybe you think that superhero show’s have the lions share of the programming, when essentially they don’t but you only hear about them based on your circles of friends and your interests?

  31. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Philip: Nope. You only know me as a comic book person, but I have a very wide range of interests. Especially when it comes to TV. I don’t even think they have the lions share. There’s actually currently more detective/cop shows on the air right now… to varying degrees of goodness.

    it’s more that the superhero shows stacked up from zero to saturation in a really short time period and it often seems like there’s not much thought being put into them other than “these movies are really successful”

    I also feel the same way about the movies, btw.

  32. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    (Here is where H. Jameel Al Khafiz pimps Fancy Ghosts again)

  33. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    You’d watch it.

  34. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Yeah, not buying it. Show’s only stay on the air if they have the viewership – which is the driving force of all advertisement revenues to the companies .. and in my head I count maybe 5 hours of superhero based programming per week. (if that) .. I think you might be supersaturated with it personally .. but not society.

  35. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    No, society isn’t SUPERsaturated with it. Not yet. I said saturated. And you’re right, shows only stay on the air with viewership. But that’s a complicated formula. SHIELD, for instance needs fewer viewers because the network owns the production company AND it effectively serves as a commercial. Arrow/Flash need fewer because CW’s barrier of return is smaller. Gotham and Constantine need to do better. But so far all of them are decently performing… so far….

    honestly, I’m expecting Gotham’s ratings to dive even further. They started at 8.2M. They’re bleeding a million viewers each week so far. I’m thinking they’ll stabilize around SHIELD numbers (5.5M) which should probably be good enough to make the bubble for Fox and get a season 2. But it puts them in serious jeopardy for season 2.

    But I’m not just talking about viewership. I’m talking about critical relevance. SHIELD is trying to do something unique… it gets a bit of a pass…. a BIT…. and it’s also helped by the fact that it’s doing something different than other stuff on TV. Its basically the only spy show on network right now. So that gets an audience of sorts.

    Arrow and Flash aren’t trying to be “good” they’re happy to be niche shows, like everything else on the CW.

    Constantine we’ll have to see what they do with.

    Gotham on the other hand is basically a police procedural. It just so happens that that kid over there grows up to be Batman. But it’s not a superhero show in the same way as the others. Which means it’s not competing with Arrow or SHIELD, it’s competing with L&OCSINCISVU. And that market IS supersaturated. There are about 4 or 5 new entries every year… and one or two of them get to season 2. So to maintain a REAL audience (meaning an audience outside of the 250,000 comic book fans in this country) it needs to compete on a better level than “yeah, but this one has batman!!! sort of!”

  36. avatar
    October 8, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    H. Jameel Al Khafiz: Yeah, but I’ll watch anything

  37. avatar
    October 9, 2014 at 5:40 am

    to be fair to the dardevil movie a huge section was cut before it was released if you watch the uncut directors edition its a much better movie.

  38. avatar
    October 10, 2014 at 1:21 am

    Michael: Yep, I think he sums up the difference between those two shows pretty well and why I think Arrow succeeds where Gotham fails.

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