I 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?