Marc Alan Fishman: Not So Super, Girl
As we are assuredly living in the golden age of superhero TV, it was a clean jab to the jaw to watch the trailer for the forthcoming CBS Supergirl show. In only six and one-half minutes, my optimism – once high and mighty – was sucker-punched and left waning in the gutter.
Flash and Arrow are running at a breakneck pace, unyielding in showcasing how comic book shows can be both inspiring and hopeful, as well as dark and gritty whilst still being network-appropriate. Gotham, while no means as good as its CW counterparts, had flashes of brilliance in between the scenery chewing and trope-filled set-pieces. Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter both delivered period-appropriate ass-kickery, and more than one jaw-dropping moment. And while I’m not much on the whole zombie thing, iZombie and Walking Dead have both popped up in my Facebook feed as being well-produced and good fun for the fans. While nary a single one of these shows appeared to be as brilliant as they actually turned out to be, there was always enough there to see the greatness to come.
In contrast, Supergirl not only showed me nothing to be excited about, it made me worry for what will make it to screen, come the fall.
After a decent setup on Krypton, we’re whisked away to Metropolis by way of Devil Wears Prada. The prototypical rom-com workplace is our setting du jour. Really? Cat Grant, once a dirt-digging reporter and gossip columnist is now a low-rent she-devil running her own tabloid. While I might dig the girl-power aspect of giving Grant the power of the rich and famous, her screen time is given only to insult her employees and undercut women by celebrating girls. And she also calls herself hot, which I think must be a given – as her face looks to be comprised mostly of space-age polymers. But I digress.
Our titular Kryptonian is shown as a dichotomously dipsy dolt one minute, and a boy-golly-gosh-gee-howdy hero the next. It’s Super then it’s it’s Syewpah. Kara’s rocket ride through the cosmos apparently crash landed her on the set of Leave It To Beaver, and frankly it’s a shame. In the wake of Arrow and Flash, we’ve seen how our silver age heroes can exist in the modern era without being overtly cheesy. As presented, our heroine only seems to act appropriately when there’s actual trouble afoot.
And what of that trouble? By the trailer’s end, we’re introduced to the super serious black guy who informs us that all sorts of bad guys are just pilfering and plundering all over the planet. Luckily, I guess, Kara is here now to fight one each week.
It’s not that I don’t understand and accept the procedural portions of our pulpy wares when translated to serialized television. It’s just that based on what it set to tease us for the coming season, we’ll be whisked away to a doppelgänger universe where morts-of-the-week will be presented for super-punching. Given how closely Arrow and Flash run their shows – with home bases chock full of wonderful technology, and happy-to-help friends with no personal lives – it’s hard to find excitement in another retread of the same ground. Even if it’s on another network. And even if our protagonist wears a skirt.
But let me clear: I still hold out hope for the better. The half a dozen episodes of Birds of Prey I once watched prove my mettle. In between the quirky-peppy-girl-next-doorness of Supergirl, there were hints of something better. While my eyes are already set to roll every time we get this close to seeing He Who Shall Not Get A Credit, I will celebrate the fact that this show shouldn’t need him if it can match wits with the scarlet speedster and liberal archery master. And while it would be too much to hope they would eventually share the same universe, no doubt those counting the ad buy-ins would sooner spin-off something else to create a multiverse of superhero television empires.
Ultimately, Supergirl must be far more than the sum of the parts put together for the up-fronts. When the fans clamor for heroines that need not always be saved by the boys, Kara may be only a tiara behind Wonder Woman in terms of being the most widely recognized lady of comics. With the world ablaze in Avengers fever, and TV viewers DVR’ing anything that even sounds vaguely metahuman, Supergirl has the potential to be that bridge-gap nay-sayers need to come join the rank-and-file of the nerdy.
But if instead of a leading lady who shows that heroism is gender neutral, we get a dork who only gets hot when she’s showing off some CGI super powers… I’ll gladly continue to hold my breath for Agent Carter‘s second season instead.