My So Called CW Life

In response to an online forum topic a few weeks ago, namely, what TV shows are you currently watching; I dutifully listed the shows that I had been following.  Much to my surprise, about 80% of my current TV show viewing was on The CW.  Considering its reputation for teen dramas, that seemed surprising.  On the other hand, with so many of those teen dramas as either science fiction or superhero genre related, it makes a kind of sense.  The CW seems to go by one rule:  Hot young people making out.  Now; with superpowers.

The New

Valor: A military drama seems an unlikely addition to a schedule of teen superhero soap operas, however the IMDB description puts everything in context.  “The boundaries between military discipline and human desire are tested on a U.S. Army base that houses an elite unit of helicopter pilots trained to perform clandestine international and domestic missions.“  Ha!  I couldn’t have written that better if I were a CW publicist!   So the hot young person making out rule is still applicable, in the unlikely scenario of special operations.  Although it’s too early yet to make a definitive ruling on the show, I’ll have to give props to the military technical advisors.  As a veteran, it’s sometimes agonizing watching most television shows depicting the military, as they manage to get it wrong on the simplest things; particularly uniform wear and military customs and courtesy. This show does a great job at working on getting that right.  Or…at least acknowledging when they are getting it wrong.

Returning Shows

Riverdale:  This show, returning for its second season, was one of my more surprising picks.  My curiosity was initially peaked by the idea of a gang of Saturday morning cartoon characters getting a live action make over.  What I didn’t expect was what the CW would actually do with the opportunity.  I’m not sure what I expected, but I don’t think it was the Twin Peaks meets Dawson’s Creek that Riverdale turned in to.  And they started the show turned up to eleven. One of a set of high school twins is murdered which started off the first season mystery.  Frankly, I didn’t care who the murderer was, and by the time I found out in the season finale, it hardly mattered.  The re-imagined characters was the thing.  Miss Grundy as young music teacher; preying on innocent Archie Andrews?  Hilarious!  Jughead as the hamburger chomping noir narrator? Inspired!  And with the spinoff of Sabrina in the works, I expect less magic teenage hijinks and more grim evil spirits (Goth style not included).

Supergirl: In the realm of the CW superhero shows, they almost always include a heavy brood factor, with the fill-in-the-blank hero on the ledge of some building in the dark of night, brooding about some responsibility that’s his or hers alone.  Supergirl has always seemed the least broody of the CW Superheroes, Supergirl being played as an earnest millennial rather than tortured hero-with-a-past.  But the returning season premiere has Supergirl, brooding over the guilt that’s hers alone.  Welcome to the club Kara Danvers.  Whether she continues to try to out brood the other CW Super Friends remains to be seen, but the charm of this show was she often was just as she appeared to be, a mid-20’s go getter, single gal in the big city… who could fly.

The Flash: In the season premiere, Barry Allen returns to Central City from the Speed Force to find himself being out brooded by his girlfriend, Iris West. With the Flash being trapped in the Speed Force for 6 months, Iris picked up the brooding slack and provided the heavy brooding needed by Team Flash. I assume that with the Flash back, he will be back to full brood mode soon.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow continues to be the most off the wall of the CW superhero shows.  Their motto seems to be, “no rules.”  Even when they obey rules, it’s just barely.  A particular moment from last season is classic. When seeking the “Spear of Destiny” the gang is told that it requires the blood of Christ to activate it.  So Sara Lance is like, sure, why not?  Judea  and the Crucifixion, here we come!  Rip Hunter freaks out at the idea but it struck me that time travel shows just don’t “go there” in terms of potentially theologically sensitive moments.  Legends actually brought that up, which tells you that no moment in history is safe from their meddling.  This season, Hunter and the Legends are on opposite sides as they grow bored with their 2017 lives and decide to start time traveling again.

Supernatural, entering its 13th season, amazingly still has more stories to tell.  It’s hard to recall the last time a non-animated show went on this many seasons and still had some juice left.  Frankly, I thought that after thwarting the Apocalypse in season 4, it would be difficult to top, but in season 11 they managed save the entire universe, meet God, and get God and his sister together in a divine family reunion.  After that, dealing with Lucifer’s son and getting their mom back from an alternate universe should be child’s play.

Arrow: Oliver Queen, the King of brooding CW heroes, is back with hopefully fewer flashbacks and more Parkour, this time as a single dad. Juggling fatherhood, being mayor, and being a crime fighting vigilante will fill up a desk calendar.  Because of the over the top brooding I almost bailed out of season 6, but the dropping of the flashbacks is a good sign that has made the show more watchable, and with the upcoming crossover, Crisis on Earth-X, I cannot even think of bailing until we get through that.  This really hits home for me.  As a kid, I read the original Justice League comic which actually introduced “Earth-X,” the world in which the Nazi’s won World War II.  I would never have imagined as a kid that there would actually be a series of TV episodes that would actually adapt that very story.

In some ways, the future turned out to be better than I could have ever dreamed.

And none of this even covers the mid-season replacements!  More to come on that I suppose…

 

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Man of Steel Leaps to a Justice League Movie?

Although I was a fan of Superman comics since childhood, I had no great love for Richard Donner’s Superman movies.  It was not a fan boy disdain for a movie that wasn’t an exact copy of the comics, but that the 1978 Superman The Movie just didn’t live up to the hype.  Mario Puzo, writer of The Godfather, wrote the story for both Superman and Superman II, so for me, the expectations were pretty high.  Instead, I got a story in which at the end of the film, Superman goes back in time and fixes everything.  That’s functionally no different than the character waking up to discover it was all a dream.  To me, that has to be one of the worst endings for a major motion picture.  No matter  what they paid Mario Puzo for that, it was too much.

Title sequence from show opening; containing f...

Title sequence from show opening; containing from left to right, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Flash and Hawkgirl. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I didn’t have exceptionally high expectations for Man of Steel. I suppose that’s the best way to go into a movie since I ended up enjoying it without bringing my Mario Puzo baggage into the theater.  It was Superman recast as more of a Science Fiction movie.  Superman who grew up not knowing his origins and who he was, and a Superman who (spoiler alert –bail now if you haven’t seen the movie) actually goes too far and kills his nemesis, General Zod.

Although Man of Steel was no Avengers or Star Trek, it was on a tier just below that; a good retelling of the origin and a good possible springboard for future movies involving superheroes from the DC Universe including a Justice League movie.  Warner would love to capture the magic that The Avengers has brought.  I just don’t think it’s possible to replicate that with the DC Universe.  There are too many differences that would prevent that.

For one thing, the known characters are lame.  With the exception of Batman, most of the DC characters that Warner has to pull from their grab bag just would not be interesting on film.  Wonder Woman is a character that has been attempted for movie and film for years, including a series developed for this fall, and one planned for last fall and they just couldn’t make it work.  It’s hard to take a character inspired from Greek mythology and fit it into the same Science Fiction Universe that Man of Steel has created.  The Martian Manhunter is so powerful as to be almost god-like, and would look ridiculous outside of an animated treatment.  Green Lantern, although it didn’t exactly bomb, failed to generate any excitement and it would be hard to argue that character deserved another shot (although The Hulk got exactly that kind of makeover for Avengers).  It’s possible though.  There are multiple Green Lanterns to choose from.  If Hal Jordan doesn’t work, there is also John Stewart, Guy Gardiner, and Kyle Rayner.   One of them is bound to work.

And then there is Aquaman.  Less said about him the better.

Although it’s just in the rumor stage, it’s possible that Warner may try to pull a reverse Avengers and do a Justice League movie first then spin out stand alone movies from there.  That would be an exceedingly bad idea in my opinion.  None of the Marvel characters used in the Avengers were really that well known (with the exception of the Hulk).  They had name recognition, but no knowledge of the characters and no reason for the movie going public to have an interest in them until that interest was created by the stand alone movies.  Those stand alone movies made the appearance of characters like Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man appearing in a single movie an event.

Marvel walked before it ran, and that’s what DC needs to do.

How, you may ask?  If it were up to me, I would make the Man of Steel sequel a Superman/Batman movie.  Since Batman has to be recreated and reimagined anyway, why not make the next movie one in which the Batman character is introduced as living in the same movie Universe as Superman?  Given the popularity of Batman, if you can’t draw fantastic box office numbers with a movie that has both Superman and Batman, there is no point doing a Justice League movie.

Creatively I think it would make for a great movie.  In the comics, Batman was often able to get the upper hand on his super powered buddies by thinking several steps ahead. Superman plays checkers, Batman plays chess.  Naturally enough, a super powered being would tend to rely on those same super powers as a solution to any problem, but in a world of super powered people, how does a normal human compete?

With his mind of course.

Just an idea, and if it doesn’t work, Superman can always go back in time to fix everything.

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If Christopher Nolan Did Green Arrow…

…you might get something very similar to the CW’s new Arrow.  It’s not surprising that the new show should take a similar path.  Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman was hugely successful, both critically, and financially.  Batman, the Frank Miller inspired version; the obsessed, little-bit psychotic vigilante, fighting his own demons as much as bad guys, translated well onto the screen.  So if you were looking for another DC superhero property to give the same treatment to, there probably isn’t a better choice than the Green Arrow.

The show looks good on the screen, although the foyer of the Queen mansion looks suspiciously like the one in Lex Luthor’s transplanted castle in Smallville.  As much as I enjoy the miracle of CGI and its ability to bring anything that you can imagine to the screen, there is nothing like good old fashioned stunts.  The pilot has lead actor Stephen Amell demonstrating some fairly impressive parkour skills and in fact Amell did train in parkour to prepare for this role, although many of the stunts are done by stunt doubles.  It’s a smooth enough transition that I can’t tell the difference though.  I was watching and it looked like Amell did all of the parkour stunts.

As originally portrayed in the comics, Oliver Queen was a millionaire playboy who also dabbled in crime fighting as the Green Arrow.  He was an expert archer, acquiring those skills while stranded on an island.  His stock in trade was trick arrows that could perform assorted functions.  He was Batman, without the compelling reason to be a Batman.  Eventually the comics provided a reason, having Queen lose his fortune and discovering the living is a lot harder without lots of money to fall back on.  Green Arrow becomes a crusader for social justice as well as the old fashioned kind.

In Arrow, the CW takes those basics and tries to re-imagine a much grittier, edgier version; a Green Arrow to match the edgier Dark Knight version of Batman.  As the pilot episode opens, Oliver Queen is rescued from his island prison after being missing and presumed dead for 5 years.  However this Oliver has a specific agenda, that’s partially revealed in flashbacks to the sinking of his yacht and the death of his father.  If you’ve not seen pilot, I won’t spoil it other than to say the death of his father gives him a very specific list of wrongs to be righted.

This Oliver Queen is rather morally ambiguous.  Is he a good guy?  It’s not so clear cut, and it looks like the show intends to draw that out.  The outing he was on when his yacht sank has him bringing along his then current girlfriend’s sister for a little cheat-o-rama. That girlfriend, Laurel Lance, despises him for her sister’s death although their futures may be linked since careful comic book readers will note that Laurel Lance is the future Black Canary, Green Arrow’s long time girlfriend in the comics.  But cheating on a girlfriend isn’t that edgy or gritty; killing a kidnapper who is helpless is.

In most superhero sagas, guns are never used and killing is strictly forbidden.  However for this show, we have a superhero that does kill, not in self defense, but to protect his secrets.  That ups the ante in the gritty and edgy department.  Without the normal limitations of the superhero genre, who knows where this show will go?

Weaved into the plot is more potential “drama” than you can shake a stick at.  His kid sister is using drugs, there is a new stepfather, and mommy dearest isn’t exactly the June Cleaver type; she has secrets of her own.  Not to mention the local police detective is the father of both Laurel Lance and the sister who died when the Queen yacht sank.  Guess who he blames for his daughter’s death?

And for that, I’m enthusiastic about this take on the Green Arrow story.  Yes, I realize there is the potential to go too far; turning this version of Green Arrow from less like an edgy Batman and more like a rich Dexter.  That would be a mistake, and hopefully the producers will put the brakes on any mass murder spree by a DC superhero.

Still, I like what I see so far and am willing to give this show some long rope to see where it goes.

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