Will the SUPERHERO world ever have a television show with the quality of The Sopranos,The Wire, Battlestar Gallactica????
After years of watching mediocre television, i'm ready for the studios to put some real effort in to the superheroes we read about all the time!! what about you?
Before I go any further I want to make it completely clear that I am a massive Superman fan and stayed with Smallville right until the end, as I did with Heroes, I’ve also been watching Arrow since it started and I’ve had the miserable pleasure of witnessing the catastrophe that was Blade (TV show). At various points while watching these programs, one thought kept popping in to my head, will the superhero world ever have a television series it can be truly proud of? A television show it can look back on with excitement and say “I have to watch that again”. A television show that can be placed along-side The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead , Battlestar Galactica and A Game of Thrones. A character that can be fully fleshed out over the course of a season (preferably no more than ten/twelve episodes) and rank alongside Tony Soprano, Walter White, Rick Grimes, William Adama or Eddard Stark. Will we ever see the kind of over-whelming critical acclaim usually reserved for these characters aimed in the direction of a small screen version of a Batman, a Green Lantern, an X-Man or a Daredevil?
The biggest critique I can give to shows like Smallville, Heroes and most recently Arrow is that they consistently seem to hideously mutate in to something slightly better than your average daytime soap opera. The writers will lazily rehash old, worn to the bone moments while the rest of the crew stand around a crowded computer trying to decide which pop rock melody precisely conveys the so called emotionality of the, by now stale, moment. It’s also all too common-place for these television shows to take the easy way out while writing these episodes; Lana Lang has a stalker…again! The cheerleader who can’t be hurt is in danger…again! Where’s the originality? Has anyone within this creative process mentioned that they may possibly have a responsibility to the reputation of the characters to break new ground, to try something different, after all isn’t that something that we all, in some way, love to see in comics. We love to pick up a “new” story of our favourite familiar character and see his/her own personal battles being shown in a new light, even if that new light differs from the old by only a few shades. It’s for that same reason that we continue to go out and buy origin story after origin story of the same character, to see what’s been re-shaped and re-moulded this time. But at the very least, the producers of these shows should strive to create a body of work that can stand the test of time and be remembered fondly for its sheer entertainment value. Unfortunately, I think the easy way out is taken all too often and we are left with far too many mediocre episodes. Studios seem to be much more concerned with twenty-four long drawn out filler episodes as opposed to twelve tight, well-written and addictive episodes of accomplished story-telling.
Like most people I’ve spent a lot of time over the last ten years watching quality, hard-hitting television such as The Sopranos, The Wire and Deadwood. I’ve seen what stations like HBO can offer when the right resources are coupled with the right talent. While watching the closing credits on episodes of The Sopranos I couldn’t wait for the next instalment, I would be salivating at the thought of all the insane possibilities that the next chapter could hold, it was a true pleasure to watch. You could never predict what would happen next but whatever it was, you were rarely disappointed. But I don’t ever remember getting that excited at the prospect of an episode of Blade, Arrow or Smallville and more often than not you were disappointed by the time the inevitable pop-rock soap opera reared its ugly head. Trying to bridge the gap between these television shows and true quality television is like trying to jump across the Atlantic Ocean on a pogo stick, pointless and ultimately disappointing.
Which brings me on to my next point, if The Dark Knight proved anything, it proved that a superhero comic book character could be more than just a couple of hours of escapism. It showed that these characters could translate to the screen in a meaningful, thought provoking and contemporary way. It showed that if you aimed higher, if you tried to do things with a little more imagination and guile then you could show these characters as more than childish cartoon figures, more than simply good versus evil, more than what came before. The show creators could use that success as a template. The opportunity is there now more than ever to add more depth to these types of shows and to combine a complex storyline with well-rounded characters that thrill and excite the viewer. Genuine talent needs to be sought out in order to facilitate the success of this under-taking and the producers need to go a little deeper than simply saying there show will be grittier and more realistic than its predecessors (e.g. Arrow). Simply saying it isn’t enough anymore, not when the viewer’s expectations are so high and the quality so low.
To summarise, going forward I think we all still have high hopes for projects like S.H.I.E.L.D, the rumoured new Hulk show and whatever else Disney or the W.B decides to throw our way but rather than saturating our TV screens with shows that could realistically become about as memorable as an amnesiacs recollection of his accident, why not strive for something more. Instead of creating a whole new brand of superhero television show, Justice League/ Law and Order or The Avengers/C.S.I, mindlessly making episode to episode just so there’s an episode to air, why not create a whole new quality of superhero television show. I genuinely believe the TV-watching world is crying out for it.
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