Brooding vs. Blithe: DC Comic’s fall television preview

Connor White

Autumn is without a doubt TV’s best season. The cooling weather drives hordes of potential viewers back inside and on to their couches, and production companies unleash a slew of new shows vying for the almighty ratings and advertising dollars. Among all the sitcoms, dramas and cheap reality offerings are two new shows based off of DC Comics properties, “Gotham” and “The Flash”.

While the smaller screen superhero fare has been relatively successful in the live-action ring with shows like “Smallville” and “Arrow” (both also DC), “Gotham” and “The Flash” have received significant praise for their first few episodes and show no signs of slowing down (shameless Flash joke).

Gotham: I am without a doubt an enormous self-described Bat-fan. I grew up watching the animated series, I’ve played all the games, and I’m currently wearing a pair of Bat-boxers. I won’t accept anything less than the best for our dear Dark Knight, so needless to say I had high expectations for the show. This new foray into the Batman mythos centers around a young, idealistic, pre-Commisioner Jim Gordon, just after the murder of Bruce’s parents. While only three episodes have been released so far, and despite their flaws, they’ve each been a ton of fun. Gone is Nolan’s hyperrealism, the show demands its stylish and baroque backdrop be considered a character of its own, with sweeping vistas of the city and other meticulously crafted set pieces that encourage viewers to see and remember as much as they can. The characters are similarly exaggerated, with Gordon’s goodness and the bad guys’ badness drilled into every other line of dialogue, which does occasionally warrant a groan. However, all these larger-than-life personalities are culminating in some very strong performances, particularly from Robin Lord Taylor’s psychotic portrayal of Oswald Cobblepot, better known as the Penguin.

The shows two biggest weaknesses are, unfortunately, the plot and writing itself. FOX seems a little too eager to introduce as many future villains as they can with frustrating cameos that don’t go anywhere (and likely never will, considering their arch-nemesis Batman hasn’t even gone through puberty yet), and some characters compulsively commit unspeakable acts every time they’re on screen because the audience is apparently incapable of remembering what side they’re on. Of course, new shows always stumble a little in the beginning, so there’s plenty of room to improve and for “Gotham” to really catch its stride. Regardless, each episode has been exciting to watch, and despite my doubts of the success of a Batman show without Batman, I’m ready for more.

The Flash: Barry Allen is no Batman. The fastest man in DC lacks the huge audience Batman possesses, and since it’s being developed by the CW instead of FOX, lacks the budget as well. Despite only two episodes released so far, I was impressed with what they’ve managed to accomplish with the character. Perhaps separate from every other live-action comic book adaptation, “The Flash” acknowledges its roots as a kid-friendly comic book and promises its audience that it won’t take itself too seriously. In a way, this gives everyone watching a chance to relax and just soak it in the fun of it all, without the brooding and foreshadowing. They’ve captured Barry’s character as a light-hearted, earnest hero, and they’re not afraid to be a little silly if it works within the format of the show (which it does). Suspension of disbelief acts as the cost of admission, but I’d argue that’s a small price to pay for the pure entertainment viewers are rewarded with.

The writing and dialogue seem to be a little stronger than what “Gotham” is offering (smaller production means less executive involvement), but it’s still too early to give a final word since it’s only one episode in. The CW knew exactly what they had in their hands from the very beginning, which is a huge sign of respect to comic book fans, and I’m definitely looking forward to see how future episodes further cement “The Flash” as exciting and worthy superhero television.