4 Ways The CW Is Overplaying Its Superhero Hand

Superheroes to the right! Comic book adaptations to the left! And here we are, stuck in the middle with:

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by Nick Cannata-Bowman

Over the last decade, we’ve seen comic book movies go from passing trends to a full-blown epidemic, acting as the tentpoles for just about every major studio. Both Warner/DC and Marvel have their next five years of films planned out, featuring just about every superhero you grew up with. That soon spilled over into the TV universe, with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and DC’s Arrow and Flash netting millions of viewers on a weekly basis.

Now though, DC’s pipeline of shows on The CW may be coming to a head. It all started when Arrow became one of the network’s most-watched shows in just a single season. Then they spun-off The Flash, and continued to see massive success. Naturally, their first reaction to this was to double-down, as all networks and studios do when presented with a well-liked superhero franchise. Plans are in motion now for yet another spin-off show featuring a gigantic superhero team-up starring upwards of seven heros from the Flash and Arrow universe. So when will enough be enough? We’re thinking that time is now for a number of reasons.

1. Eventually the well will dry up

So far, all The CW has seen is success, so naturally they’re not going to quit while they’re ahead. But at some point, they’re going to come up empty and topple the whole pyramid. Slyly introducing Barry Allen pre-Flash felt clever and well-done, and his spin-off felt earned. But introducing yet another spin-off featuring a smattering of various heroes and villains from both shows feels like an attempt to grow for the sake of growth. The Flash felt like a natural progression from a sister show in Arrow that had room to spread its wings elsewhere. Eventually though the bubble will burst and people will start feeling overwhelmed by the assault on their comic book sensibilities.

2. The seams are already starting to burst

Already we can feel the beginning of the end, with Arrow starting to feel more than a little crowded. The show started out as one man’s mission. Now, it features “Team Arrow,” with Oliver Queen’s collection of Arsenal, Black Canary (the second of her name since Caty Loitz’s character was killed off), John Diggle, and the effervescent Felicity Smoak. Brandon Routh’s Atom was also thrown into the equation this season, and now things are starting to feel more forced than organic. This of course is one of the driving forces behind spilling that over into the team-up series that will feature Arrow’s Atom, The Flash‘s Captain Cold, Firestorm, and Heat Wave, and new characters Hawk Girl, Rip Hunter, and an unspecified role played by Caty Loitz (since she’s supposed to be dead in the Arrow-verse).

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TV Review: The Daredevil is in the Details

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by Robin Reed

In Marvel Studios/Disney’s ongoing efforts to take over the media universe, they have now reached Netflix, where the original series Daredevil recently debuted. Thirteen episodes fell all at once into our binge-watching lives, and I have taken in six of them in the last three days.

I am a long-time Marvel comics reader, though I faded away from constant comics consumption in the late eighties when I realized that the characters would never really change, that by the nature of the industry they couldn’t change. I craved endings, and superheroes never end as long as their books, movies and TV shows sell. Even death isn’t the end, they come back whenever there is another chance to profit from them. Sometimes they snap back to their beginnings and devoted readers such as myself are left with years of stories in our heads that have been rendered nonexistent.

Daredevil was created when someone at Marvel said, “How about a blind superhero?” How this was possible was explained half by the old saw that blind people compensate with sharper hearing, smell, and touch; and half by a mysterious chemical that spilled over young Matt Murdock in an accident. At least it wasn’t radiation, the other favored bit of handwavium in the Marvel universe.

Daredevil was in the doldrums, sales-wise, until Frank Miller took it over and introduced DD’s mentor and trainer Stick (parodied as Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who also used a chemical, called a Mutagen, to explain the origin of the turtles.) Miller also created Elektra and made the Kingpin, normally a Spider-Man villain, into DD’s nemesis.

Netflix has brought Daredevil into the twenty first century, yet also left some classic elements back in the last century. It treats the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen as if it was still a lower class, crime-ridden area. However, with the prices in Manhattan, the area is gentrifying and is called Clinton or Mid-Town West by the real estate sales people these days.

Tying into the events of the first Avengers movie, Hell’s Kitchen is being rebuilt after all the destruction of the Chitauri invasion. One of the forces behind the rebuilding is a new crime boss, so scary that no one will say his name. His name is of course Wilson Fisk, though he is not yet called The Kingpin. Vincent D’Onofrio is very good in the part, though he can’t manage the sheer size that Michael Clark Duncan did in the Ben Affleck DD movie.

Many villains are given a human side, but Fisk’s more gentle side is the first we see of him, as he goes on a somewhat awkward date with an art gallery owner named Vanessa. It isn’t too long, though, before he decapitates a fellow gangster with a car door.

The show is very dark, a shot of daylight is rare. Even when Matt is arguing in a courtroom there is nothing but blackness behind him. Every punch lands with a thud that sounds like doom. In fact, I was aware of the foley effects more than in most movies or TV shows because they are so exaggerated.

Besides his enhanced senses, Daredevil is able to take a lot of physical abuse. He gets cut and bleeds a lot, but doesn’t need weeks in a hospital to recover. This is explained only as a trait inherited from his father, a boxer whose main tactic was to let his opponent hit him until the opponent got tired. This isn’t really a super power, just another bit of “there’s no story if he can’t do this.”

I grew up when the Comics Code Authority was in full force, so I was a little surprised by language that they never would have allowed, but it is the twenty first century on a platform that has no restrictions, so I got used to it quickly. Another thing the CCA would have banned is the portrayal of rampant police corruption. A year ago I might have thought it was over the top, but since then we have had the real New York police department throw a hissy fit because the Mayor said something that everyone knows is true.

Charlie Cox is good as Matt/Daredevil. Elden Henson is his law partner Foggy Nelson, who plays a lot bigger role than I remember Foggy playing in the comics. Deborah Ann Woll is Karen Page and Rosario Dawson is a woman who gets involved when she finds DD in a dumpster, and tries to keep him from going over the edge. All of these people have lives outside of Daredevil’s story and aren’t just sidekicks and love interests.

One aspect of the Ben Affleck DD movie that I liked was that he slept in a sensory deprivation chamber because every sound even from blocks away was loud enough to keep him awake. This DD doesn’t do that, and he never did in the comics, but I thought it was a neat idea.

Now if you will excuse me, I have seven more episodes to watch.

Herbie J Pilato Sees NASHVILLE & SWITCHED AT BIRTH

Late to the Party: What Makes “Nashville” and “Switched at Birth” Great Television
by Herbie J Pilato

ABC-Nashville-PosterKudos to ABC and ABC Family for doing TV right!

From the fall of 1989 to the spring of 1993, ABC aired the TV show titled, LIFE GOES ON, about a family who just so happened to have a son with Down syndrome (played by the amazing Chris Burke) became the first series, family-geared or otherwise, to feature a weekly character with a disability. Chad Lowe later joined the series in his Emmy-winning role as Jesse McKenna (who was diagnosed with HIV-virus, which developed into full-blown AIDS), and the already-ground-breaking series made further historic strides.

Further back in 1975, Robert Altman directed the Oscar-winning (for Best Song) critically-acclaimed feature film, NASHVILLE, which interlocked the country and gospel musical lives of those living in the Tennessee country musical capitol.

In 2012, ABC-TV premiered NASHVILLE, the TV show, which is similar to the 1975 in name and general premise.

In 2011, ABC’s sister network ABC Family debuted SWITCHED AT BIRTH, which features several characters who happened to be hearing-impaired. Just like Chris Burke’s Corky Thacher on LIFE GOES ON, the hearing-challenged characters on Switched at Birth are not solely defined by their disabilities. Switched at Birth features actors who are hearing-impaired in real life, and those who are not – each one performed with sensitivity.

NASHVILLE features actors who can sing and play music, and vocalists and musicians who can act – each performed with credibility.Switched-At-Birth-HD-Wallpapers7

There is an unmistakable air of authenticity on both NASHVILLE and SWITCHED AT BIRTH, in creative aspect, be it acting, writing and directing You believe what the characters on both shows are feeling and saying, how they’re saying it and why. The dialogue, delivered with mostly Southern accents on Nashville, and in genius, periodic sign-language on Switched at Birth, is nothing less than realistic.

While NASHVILLE is geared toward a more adult audience, and SWITCHED AT BIRTH is oriented toward the youth and family sector, both programs deliver the goods with dignity; they glorify the human spirit, instead of vulgarity and violence, and yet remain contemporary and significantly edgy (the media buzz word of today).

A “Grade A+” to these two excellent shows.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Editor’s Note:   If you love Herbie J’s writing – and who doesn’t? – why not support his new book (and reading more about LIFE GOES ON – HERE?

Herbie J Pilato is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about him HERE.

THE FLASH and ARROW: TV Writing at Its Worth?

Tired of hearing all the praise being heaped on the CW’s THE FLASH and ARROW shows? Looking for someone willing to say that the emperor is naked after all? Well, then, pard, you’ve come to the right place. Settle in and enjoy the road less taken…without having to take it at all:

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by Vamien McKalin

Episode 17 of The Flash aired on March 31, and it was a blast from start to finish. This episode proves without a doubt that The Flash is the best superhero show on TV right now, and it is going to take something special to give it the boot.

The episode kicked off with Future Flash and the Reverse Flash breaking the time barrier to return 15 years prior to when Barry got his powers. This is the night the Reverse Flash stabbed Barry’s mother with a knife in an effort to kill the young Mr. Allen.

Future Flash managed to get out of the house, carrying his young self with him. What’s strange is how future Barry chose to bring his young self outside and then leaves him behind, knowing that the Reverse Flash is still in the house. When the Reverse Flash finally exits the building, how could he fail to see the unprotected young Barry outside, the same person he came to kill?

This error in the script reminds us of last week’s episode of Arrow, where Oliver left his prodigy behind despite knowing full well he was injured and unconscious on the ground.

We have to wonder if the folks who read the script before it is distributed completely failed to come across these errors because clearly, they do not make a single ounce of sense.

The writers and producers of these shows, to us, appear as though they only care about the big set pieces and not the small yet significant details. We’ve seen similar errors several times before in previous episodes, but now it is getting out of hand. Someone needs to look these guys in the eyes and ask them if they believe viewers are stupid, and if, just because we are watching a comic book show, we should just accept everything we see.

It is safe to say that the DC comic shows have been the best so far, but Marvel is not too far behind. Since season 2 of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD began, the writing has been great, and we can say the same about Agent Carter as well. You don’t find huge mistakes along the lines of what we’ve seen in Arrow and The Flash.

Let’s be honest — Oliver leaving his sidekick behind and Barry leaving his young self behind are huge mistakes.

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MARC ALAN FISHMAN: GOTHAM GETS BETTER

Remember when the GOTHAM TV series was first announced? Comic book fans were all “Oh wow!” about seeing the U.S.’s most crime-riddled city (pre-Batman) on the home screen. The joy turned to angst – a common development when it comes to moving comics from their home turf – and then the bad feelings kind of leveled off. If, like us, you’ve been wondering where GOTHAM stands now, here’s one comics pro’s take:

by Marc Alan Fishman

Gotham-penguinBack in November I lamented that Gotham was a train-wreck with glimmers of hope peaking out amongst the smoldering boxcars abandoned near Arkham Asylum. Well, here we are, a large smattering of episodes later, and I’m starting to change my outlook on Fox’s proto-Batman dramedy. Hear me out, skeptics.

My turn of opinion first peeked its tepid head out into the light when I came to the realization that the show was not, nor would it ever be, Gotham Central by way of Ed Brubaker. The fact is I’ve circled my wagons around the ideology that business and the boardroom will always help dictate the creative endeavors of the Big Two™’s creations. That means that as critically acclaimed a graphic novel may be, at the end of the day all Warner Bros is going to care about is ratings and the potential syndication of Gotham. Hence, the fact that producers are making a show that by-and-large is built to appeal to the widest audience possible by way of brazen continuity-shattering canon-damning characterizations was bound to happen. Or in lesser terms, we were never ever ever going to not get interpretations of Batman’s rogue gallery. So I got over it.

And when I did, the sky opened up, and the show instantly became more entertaining to me. Jim Gordon – the John Wayne of Gotham – and his trusty drunkish sidekick Harvey Bullock are the lone moral compass amidst a sea of corruption. Hell, Bullock up until the 8th or 9th time Gordon saved his ass was as much a part of the problem as anyone. But as the show settled into itself, there was a slight shift in the dynamic duo’s camaraderie.

After sticking his neck out on the line enough times, Bullock and the police chief both turned from broken records (“You’ll never beat this city, Jim!) into begrudging do-gooders. And it did the series a hell of a favor. Instead of one man against a city, there was a subtle cracking of a window, piercing the muck and mire with rays of hope.

Hope. It’s the biggest concept the show misplaced at the onset. But over time, the cases of the week gave way to those notions that yes, in fact, some people did want to fight against the rampant corruption. And to a degree even those who existed on the other side of the law started to show depth of character. Make no bones about it: Carmine Falcone is an evil and bad man. But he bleeds the same blood as we do, and through the plot line of Fish Moody’s planted girlfriend, we saw shades of grey in what was an otherwise black and white caricature of any gangster we’ve seen a million places elsewhere. OK, and let me not give too much credit here. The shtick of an Italian-American loving his mother is not exactly original storytelling. Again, lowest-common-denominator here. Take the small victories as big ones.

Because Gotham was given more than twenty shows to produce within the first season, the writing team has been very sneaky in utilizing slow-burn storytelling in-between the predictable ratings bait. While we’ve been treated to outright terrible iterations of the Scarecrow and the maybe-Joker to-be, we’ve been privy to the ebb and flow of several well-defined debauchees….

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Cara Winter sees Broadchurch & Finds It (OMG!) Wanting

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The Anglo Files #13
by Cara Winter

Maybe it’s because I am currently attempting to write a gasp-worthy, twisty-bendy, shock-ya-shock-ya mystery pilot myself, lately I have spent a lot of time thinking about BROADCHURCH.

Much lauded during it’s first season, I sat down and basically binge-watched the entire first season… and for most of it, I was stunned. It was tremendously well made, well acted and pretty to look at.

And then came the final episode of season 1… and,  NO.  Just, NO.

**MULTIPLE SPOILERS AHEAD**

The show begins with the murder of a young boy, and the local P.D.’s investigation, led by two detectives (Miller, played by Olivia Coleman and Hardy, played by David Tennant), an odd couple if ever there was one, each with their own baggage.

During the investigation (which lasts the entire first season), Miller and Hardy suspect almost every soul in town… including the boy’s father, played masterfully by Andrew Buchan (the depth and power of this actor’s emotional life takes your breath away – he’s one to watch, no doubt about it).

As the investigation unfolds, one by one people are eliminated as suspects, usually by way of something unsettling, foul, or just not what you’d expect from the ‘good folk’ of a small seaside town.  These twists make for compelling viewing, as each suspect transforms from angel, to devil, to ordinary flawed human being in a single episode.

I especially loved the storyline of trailer park matron Susan Wright (played by journeyman actress Pauline Quirke, who’s been doing this longer than I’ve been alive).  At first glance,  Susan was sullen, mean,  sinister even…I, for one, was sure she’d done it.  But scratch the surface, and all we have in this person is another heartbroken (and innocent) soul, looking for peace, and forgiveness, and a clean slate.

But it all came crashing down during the final moments season 1, when ‘he who done it’ was revealed.  The way the killer gives himself up – awful.  The confession, right there on the spot.  Terrible.  A full-on “I just couldn’t take it anymore!” breakdown…  ERGURAAAGG, it made me want to crawl through my TV and strangle somebody.  It just felt cheap, and beneath them, after an entire season of gorgeousness!

As Season 2 was about to premiere on BBC America, I pressed on.  Aaaand, things got worse.  For one, Hardy’s backstory (failing to get a conviction, over in another town, for a different murder) has now become a front-story  (is that even a thing?!)!   Meaning, the characters from this old case… are now here, and inexplicably living in Broadchurch.  WHAT?!

It was bad enough when Hardy was having some sort of life-threatening medical condition in season 1… but now, this?  His past isn’t just going to figuratively haunt him — it’s going to actually haunt him?   I can’t handle it.  It’s too much drama in one man’s life.  And especially for the incredible Tennant, it’s heartbreaking to see such an actor being used so thoughtlessly.

This is not to say BROADCHURCH (or, as I like to call it, DAME-RECTORY) can’t still redeem itself.  But it was informative for me, as a writer, to review when and how they lost me.  It brought me to this realization:  You have to tread very, very carefully, when working in realism.

When you’re writing about a bunch of zombies, or a masked, winged crime-fighter, or Charlie Sheen as someone you’d leave your child with… you have a certain amount of creative license.  You’re already asked the audience to take a huge leap with you, so suspending their disbelief again for maybe a cheaply placed plot point — whatever, it’s BAT-MAN, what’s plausible about that, to begin with?

But with a show steeped in realism, you cannot make a single illogical mistake.  You cannot underestimate your audience’s intelligence; you cannot cheat them, and you cannot trick them.  You cannot haphazardly pick “dramatic” plot points; you must create real, emotional human drama.

And, above all else, you must employ logic.  You have to tap into your inner Spock and ask, “What is the logical thing to do?” and then let that play out, beat by beat, detail by detail, moment by excruciating moment.  Yes, even if the star is David Tennant.

I’ll keep tuning in, for now.  I suppose I’m still curious.  But, sadly, I’m not counting the days and hours until the next episode airs.  And these days, the countdown (hashtag #countdown!) is the whole ballgame.


Cara Winter is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.