I remember growing up watching and loving the show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. It was so great, watching Dean Cain in the blue and red, showing up and saving the day. I remember an episode where he had to vibrate himself through some metal bars (clever), I remember an episode where he melted down Metallo (vicious), and I remember an episode where he flew alongside a car, pretending that he was driving a car as well (hilarious). All of these are fond memories from a show that I really enjoyed as a kid. So how about this new DC live-action stuff, huh? We’ve got four shows going on right now, all with varying degrees of nerdy goodness.
(Warning! Spoiler-ish stuff ahead!)
Let’s start off with Gotham, as it is a stand-alone show. I’m really enjoying this show so far, though that’s not to say it doesn’t have its faults. The strongest thing this show has going for it is that the main characters are excellent. James Gordon is stalwart and frustrated, compassionate yet vicious. He wants to be a good man, but is shoved into the pressure cooker of corruption that is Gotham PD, and he is barely keeping his head above water. Harvey Bullock (my favorite so far) is a weary cop coupled to Gordon and is just trying to keep the dumb do-gooder alive. Bullock knows his way around Gotham and is often comic relief, but at times he shows that he, reluctantly, might be more similar to Gordon than he wants to admit. The rest of the ensemble is also excellent. Penguin is more cunning than he lets on. Fish Mooney, an original character for the show, is fiendish and sexy. Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth are great as the confused orphan and equally lost father-figure. All in-all, I like the cast quite a bit. They’re also not afraid to get campy at times. Villains such as the Spirit of the Goat and Balloonman show up, and there’s already hints of larger things such as a variant of Bane’s venom plaguing the streets. It’s good when comic book shows embrace the absurdity of comics.
Gotham does have its problem spots, however. For instance, the character of Barbara, Gordon’s girlfriend, is inconsistent and oftentimes a little annoying. One day she wants desperately to help Jim, other days she’s so terrified she wants to run and hide, even after grandstanding about staying. Just a little contrived to give Gordon some emotional punishment in addition to his job. Also, it took a little while to get the ball rolling on Bruce and Alfred. It all felt shoehorned in at first, but finally they feel more at home in the show. Also, I’m concerned about Gordon succeeding in his mission to clean up Gotham too quickly. The police force are already coming around to helping him, and if they get properly unified, it’ll be hard for Gordon to really be the underdog anymore. Lastly, I want some Goddamn police blimps. They’re in some of the logos and they’re amazing. Why aren’t they in the show?!
So I like Gotham, I’m looking forward to more episodes.
Next we have Constantine. If you saw the movie Constantine, know that this character is a very different animal. He’s wry, snarky, and sublimely British. He listens to Sex Pistols to drown out demonic voices and sends his friends into harms way. The show is dark and demonic, and still has nods to its comic book origins, which fit into the show like a charm. He fights ghosts and demons (both literal and figurative), and there is a vague underlying story about a rising darkness. Still waiting on more info about that; as an underlying threat/subplot it is pretty weak so far. Additionally, the writers don’t seem to know what to do with Constantine’s supporting cast just yet. Constantine himself is a very strong lead character, but his friends and reluctant allies could still use some work. Though I am enjoying the show quite a bit so far and am excited for more of this cheeky brit.
Then we have Arrow and Flash. Both CW shows, and both are surprisingly good. I say surprisingly because after Smallville, CW superhero series make me wary.
Now, I liked Smallville, watched it until the bitter end, but I wouldn’t want to watch it again. I wouldn’t want to watch a show very much like it again. It’s the reason that I skipped Arrow for season 1 and much of season 2. Arrow looked like it was a muscle-y guy being overdramatic, training his hard body, and putting weird grease on his face. Didn’t watch it, don’t feel the need to go back and watch it.
When I did join the audience halfway through the second season, I wasn’t completely on board at first. It was a lot of whining (especially from Roy) and more then enough drama between Oliver and Sarah. But the cast grew on me, and the action made up for the parts that got on my nerves, and soon I was a fan. I still think that Oliver is a little whiney and Roy’s face is punchable, but the world is exciting and the action is tense, and Ra’s al Ghul just showed up, so let’s keep it going!
And lastly we have the Flash. A spin-off of Arrow, this show centers around Barry Allen, a young forensic scientist who gains superhuman speed from a particle accelerator accident. This show is also still in its infancy, but so far is my favorite of the bunch. Right off the bat, Barry is working at being a superhero. He’s excited about helping people, has a great supporting cast of characters, including the mysterious and damaged Dr. Wells, and the show is not shying away from the ridiculous world that the Flash inhabits. Already featuring Captain Cold, time travel elements, and a certain gorilla, this show is, should you only want to pick one, absolutely the most fun of the bunch. I get excited for every episode and the effects are fantastic, especially for a television show. Now, if only Barry would stop crushing on a girl who is basically his adopted sister, I would be 100% on board. As it stands, I’m at about 99%. Get it together, Allen.
And that’s the DC live-action round-up. There’s no connection to the movies, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Marvel is going that route, and it’s working OK for them, but I think it’s wise for DC to try and do something else. Carving their own path is the way to go. Twice the superheroes means twice the chance for a good story.
Times have changed since Dean Cain wore the blue tights, but save for a few missteps *cough Justice League pilot most of Smallville Birds of Prey cough* DC is crushing the live-action television landscape. I can’t wait for more!