We’re continuing our look at the new fall offerings, network by network. This time, it’s the CW. They only have four new series on the docket, which is not really surprising given that they’re the network that fills the least amount of airtime (two hours a night, five nights a week) and they almost never have half-hour shows. So that means they really only have, at most, ten shows on their network at any given time. Still, one of their new shows is about the Flash and one of us has strong opinions on this particular topic.
EJ: I feel like I need to explain where I’m coming from here. Regular readers probably have picked up on the fact that I like superheroes. A lot. And Flash is one of my favorites. I have every Flash comic published from 1993 through 2011, which makes him second only to Batman in my level of devotion. I love the Flash. And I liked the short-lived 1990 TV series, even with its technical limitations. So please understand that I’m not some crank who just likes complaining about things. A TV show about Flash, in theory, makes me so happy. I am saying this as a man who owns a Flash ring that pops open to reveal his hyper-compressed costume, OK? But I hate this trailer so much.
Despite my rampant nerd status, I think Arrow is generally fairly cruddy. So “from the producers of Arrow” is more of a warning. And I gave it a chance – I came back and watched the Arrow episodes that introduced Barry Allen. They were not good. So I kind of accepted that Flash wouldn’t be to my tastes, but I could at least feel happy that one of my favorite characters has an increased profile. Then I watched this trailer.
The Barry Allen they present, to the extent there’s any character in the trailer at all, is unrecognizable. Barry as weirdo loner is not a characterization that he’s had in sixty or so years. (Also, I prefer the Wally West Flash, but that’s not him either.) Look, the CW’s track record with superheroes is not great. As I said, I really don’t care for Arrow, and Smallville ran for ten seasons, which was basically a war crime. And one of the main problems with both of those shows is that the lead character bears no resemblance to an established version of the character. I’m fine with reinterpreting, but CW Clark Kent and Oliver Queen bear so little resemblance to the ones who’ve been around for decades that it’s only the name (and in the case of Arrow, the costume) that links them to what they’re trying to invoke.
The dialogue is leaden – clumsy references to not being fast enough and that weird stretch near the end where they keep assuring us that the theme of this superhero show is heroism. This trailer shows off the worst tendencies of executive producer Geoff Johns, a writer who can be really good but seems to be more popular when he throws subtlety out the window entirely. Opening the trailer with Barry bemoaning the fact that he wasn’t fast enough sends a pretty clear signal as to which version of Johns we’re getting. There’s nothing clever or charming throughout, and if you can’t predict every second line of dialogue, I have to assume that your TV is broken and has been since the early 1980s.
And just on a nerd level (as opposed to everything prior to this), there are some baffling tweaks here. For one thing, the idea that young Barry Allen’s mother was killed by a time-traveling villain is a recent retcon. Like, suddenly in 2010 they decided that was the defining event of his life. Which is odd, because when I was a kid, Barry’s parents came to visit him all the time. It was weird when they made this defining moment that never happened the most important event of his life in the comics (and helps explain why that Flash collection of mine isn’t still going), and having that be the opening scene of the trailer sets a bad precedent. And the implication that the accident that gives Barry his powers also creates a horde of villains is a little too Smallville for me. One of my favorite things about Flash is that his villains are mostly blue collar guys who just have access to one amazing invention that they will use to rob a jewelry store. They’re the opposite of the homicidal Batman villains – Flash’s enemies just want to use a freeze gun to get money so they can buy stuff. Tying them all into one big extradimensional event takes away one of the things that makes the Flash’s world interesting.
At this point, there’s going to be superhero stuff that doesn’t appeal to me. That’s fine. I can skip a Spider-Man movie. So I tend not to get wound up about superhero TV or movies that I don’t enjoy. But I have to say, this is really a bummer. See, Batman and Superman could weather a crummy TV show. Spider-Man is going to be OK after a terrible movie or two. Because those guys are so well-established that we know who they are. This is going to be how people know the Flash, and if it’s any kind of hit, the comic version will just change to match the TV version, and then it’s even less likely that there are going to be Flash comics that I want to read. In a way, this trailer feels like the Flash is saying good-bye to me.
(Note: There’s also the weird fact that Warner Bros. plans to use Flash in upcoming movies, only it won’t be the TV version. It seems like maybe they wouldn’t want to create franchise confusion, but they seem determined to go crashing off that cliff. There’s nothing I can do to save them anymore.)
MYNDI: Unlike my esteemed colleague, I am not qualified to speak about how this pilot compares to decades of comic book lore. All I can say is that it is squarely “on brand” for the network. The CW tends to do well with superhero-themed shows that likely offend a large segment of comic purists as well as those who like clever, well-written dialogue. Regardless, Grant Gustin (who I had previously only seen on a couple episodes of Glee before I stopped watching it), Danielle Panabaker (whom I enjoyed in Sky High) and the other young people are appealing enough. And for us more mature ladies, you have Tom Cavanaugh (who will forever be “Ed” to me) and Jesse L. Martin, as well as John Wesley Shipp (aka Dawson’s Dad, aka the other guy who played The Flash) as Barry’s dad. So, it’s hard to say how this will do or who exactly will watch, but 8 million YouTube hits on the trailer must mean someone’s interested. My thought is that it is clearly not made for anyone who knows the original story very well, because it will only make you angry.
Jane the Virgin
EJ: Well, that’s the second CW trailer I’ve watched with a character being told to pee in a jar. Stay classy, CW! This comedy about a young woman who was accidentally artificially inseminated is pretty much the definition of a one-joke premise. Will the second season about how she has a child but she’s still a virgin? Because that seem like comedy gold! (NOTE: It actually does not.) It seems like this could work as a movie, but it’s a thin premise for twenty-two episodes. I didn’t see anything here that interests me, and it’s got “quick cancellation” written all over it.
MYNDI: As a woman, this just makes me want to scream. The mere fact that the OB/GYN “accidentally” inseminated her is upsetting on a few levels. So, of course she’s not just a virgin by choice but a devout Catholic. And the result of a teen pregnancy herself. And dating a guy who’s patiently agreed to wait until they’re married for the last two years. Oh, and the potential father is someone who has only one chance to have a biological father (what?) and looks kind of devious in the small snippet we see of him the preview. The whole thing looks like a terrible romcom movie, so that makes it an even worse premise for a weekly show.
EJ: There’s not a lot of information out there, but since it’s based on a DC/Vertigo comic, I have a little to work with. The lead character, Liv (groan), is a zombie who can pass for human as long as she occasionally consumes a brain. On the show, she’s a mortuary worker (in the comic she was a gravedigger), so she has access to the brains of the recently deceased. Eating a brain gives her some memories of the dead, which usually means a crime she has to solve. The comic focused more on the nature of the soul, but the TV show is pretty explicitly a supernatural procedural. I liked the comic a lot, and while I don’t expect the show to cover the same ground, I’m looking forward to it. After all, Rob Thomas is the showrunner. And while he doesn’t hit a home run every time, between Veronica Mars and Party Down, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Plus, comic creators Chris Roberson and Mike Allred are good guys and they deserve a truckload of TV money, so I’d support it just on that basis. That said, I don’t know who the audience is. People who are tired of zombies are going to be put off by the title (a title which makes less sense if you don’t know DC’s penchant for name horror comics I, (insert monster here)), and people who like zombies are probably going to be disappointed that she’s not an actual zombie but is, in fact, Veronica Mars with brain-eating.
MYNDI: I feel like they’ve made movies like this, and True Blood has done it, with the vampires consuming a “blood subsitute” (TruBlood) so as not to feed on humans. Combining that plot point with a procedural seems like yet another twist on a well-worn premise, and it will probably not be great, unless the great Rob Thomas can really work his magic. Which is not out of the realm of possibility, so I will reserve judgement on this one.
EJ: There’s not much to go on here – it’s a sci-fi show about a group of people who die, but then they come back to prevent an upcoming apocalypse. That’s sort of value neutral as a premise. It doesn’t sound terrible, but it’s generic enough that I’ll probably forget it by the end of this paragraph. The stars mostly come from other CW shows, and given that the last CW series I watched regularly was Reaper, there’s no chance that I’ll recognize any of them. I don’t know, right now there’s not enough information to form an opinion but given the network’s recent track record with science fiction, it’s safe to say it’ll be fair to middling and not especially memorable.
MYNDI: Another apocalypse? I swear, watching this network all the time would be like tuning into nothing but 24 news channels…so depressing, with the world constantly falling into a bleak dystopia for one reason or another. I just can’t deal with anymore of it. The Walking Dead is the only apocalypse I want to watch unfold, period.
That’s it for the CW – next week, we’ll be looking at the new FOX lineup. It includes Batman, David Tennant, and Will Forte, so we’re enthused.