Thursday, November 27, 2014

Evaluating DC's TV Series Programming

PART 1: The Dominance of DC Over Marvel in the Small Screen

Through the years, Marvel has not only been taking the lion share in comic book sales most of the time, but they have been also kicking DC’s butt in the market that really matters: the big screen.  To be fair with DC, they do make the better direct-to-video animated movies (I think “Hulk vs. Wolverine” is the only Marvel animated film that I get to really enjoy).  But the money in direct-to-video is incomparable from the money earnings from theatrical blockbusters, which will come from ticket sales to merchandising.  So unless DC ever figure out how to create an engaging and profitable cinematic universe as Marvel’s, Marvel, which has a clear plan already until 2018, will continue to be the winners for a couple more years.    

However, DC has been clearly more productive over Marvel in the small screen.  Not only does DC make more good-quality animated TV series (Marvel had produced great animated TV series, too, but DC has three for every good one Marvel makes; also, for every good Marvel animated series, there are two bad ones) but they also have the most success in producing noteworthy live-action series, both in volume and value. Up until now, Adam West’s campy Batman series from way back in ’66 is still beloved by many.  There was the delightful Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in the 90’s, which Marvel had no answer.  Then, there’s Smallville, which despite its many flaws had its awesome moments as well, which, again, Marvel had no answer.     

In the present, Marvel now has Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which had weak early episodes but eventually improved into a must-watch show.   In fact, despite the lack of a legitimate superhero presence, AoS is as intriguing as DC superhero shows, Arrow or The Flash.  However, though S.H.I.E.L.D. is a concept originally from the comics, AoS is nonetheless more of a spin-off of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) rather than an avenue for Marvel to freely render their comic book universe into the small screen.  Hence, in this case, DC is having more success with Arrow and The Flash in translating their comic book universe into a TV universe. 

In terms of quantity, there are four ongoing DC TV series right now.  Three of which have just premiered this fall of 2014.  Clearly, DC went into “aggressive TV series production” mode, probably to keep a foothold in their dominance of the small screen.  

Sure, several Marvel shows are coming up; there’s the Agent Carter series, and then a couple of Netflix TV series featuring Marvel’s street-level superheroes like Daredevil and Luke Cage (which I presume will also take place in the shared MCU).  However, a lot more DC shows are also rumored in production.  It’s as if that for every one that Marvel plans to make, DC has two.  And I’m quite excited with some of the titles being mentioned.  Maybe not all of them will rock.  But considering the fact that I like 3 out of the 4 DC TV series right now, and my dislike for the 4th one is not because it sucks (I will be discussing this later), it’s presumable, based on historical data, that all will at least be watchable and entertaining enough. 

The advantage that Marvel has here is their TV series will exist in the same universe as their movies.  Again, the potential awesomeness in crossovers alone is worth being excited about.  If it works, Marvel’s approach of expounding one shared universe instead of establishing several universes for their properties will pay big dividends.     

Nonetheless, even if not all of DC shows exist in the same universe, as long as they can be individually enjoyable, or at least adequately fun, it’s still going to be DC’s win due to the sheer volume of their properties that they manage to get on screen.     
PART 2: Pros and Cons of Each Present DC TV Series


→ Matt Ryan nailed John Constantine.  
→ It’s turning out to have the same charm and humor that made Sleepy Hollow a regularly entertaining supernatural/horror/fantasy series to watch.
→ It has been made apparent that this show will feature many of DC’s supernatural characters.  

→ Charles Halford’s Chas doesn’t give the same vibes as the Chas in the comics, who was a great supporting character.  
→ It’s not “R”, hence, Constantine is restrained in bringing into the small screen many of the things that made John Constantine an awesome character and Hellblazer as one of the most well-written comic book series ever.  It feels too tame to give Constantine and Hellblazer justice.       
→ Its primary setting is in the US instead of England.  Ugh.  

The Flash

→ It got me to finally check Arrow out.  
→ Grant Gustin is the greatest Barry Allen version of any medium, including comics, ever.  As I’ve explained in my post after watching the leaked pilot months ago:
The Flash’s Barry Allen is “Peter Parker-esque” – it’s as if there’s a lot of Parker’s trademark geeky charm, strong sense of moral responsibility, and bearing in The Flash’s depiction of Barry Allen – making this version mightily interesting.  If this is sustained through the show, there’s a chance that this Flash could become my favorite speedster.   
→ Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West and Tom Cavanagh as the mysterious Dr. Harrison Wells are consistent in providing the strongest performances in the show.  Because of the magnificent acting from these two, we can always expect compelling scenes whenever their characters are part of the scenes.  
→ Clever premise of how super powers became possible.     
→ It has massive potential.  The fun and intrigue it creates offset the aggravation that any weak writing brings.  It hasn’t been a strong series so far, but it has made itself as something worth being patient about.  

→ There is lack of chemistry between Barry Allen and Iris West.  And, no, It’s not the race difference.  There’s just no “spark” between that makes me care for them as a couple (to be fair, I also feel no interest rising from Oliver Queen’s parings in Arrow).  In fact, the whole Barry-Iris angle feels like a distraction to me.    
→ Aside from Barry, Joe, and Dr. Wells, the other characters are not easily likable.  They might grow on me eventually.  But, as of now, I can’t bring myself to be invested in them. 
→ When Arrow’s Felicity Smoak visited, that was the highest point of the show so far.  And it’s just a bad thing that for The Flash to have its best episode, it has to rely on a character (and the writer/s that probably came with the character) from another show.  There’s no interesting female character in The Flash so far. Moreover, Felicity’s effortless chemistry with Barry also emphasized Barry’s lack of such with Iris.     
→ The Flash suffers from uncreative and dumb writing half of the time.  Most of the episodes have plots that are generic or Smallville-like.  And there are many dialogues that are excruciatingly cheesy.         


→ This is easily the best among the current line-up of DC TV series.  It’s not perfect, but it is engaging and well-plotted most of the time.
→ It nailed what Green Arrow should be, a Batman analogue that happens to work with bow and arrows
→ Since a Batman TV series seems to be impossible at this point, I’ll take Arrow.
→ Oliver’s lateral pull-up/climbing exercise is awesome.  First time I saw such thing.    
→ The charming Felicity Smoak.  Could be the most likable character in the series. 
→ Interesting supporting and recurring characters. 
→ It is bringing as much of the DC Universe as it can possibly can to the small screen, without making it too crowded. Amanda Waller (which I hoped would have the original fat appearance). Suicide Squad.  Deathstroke.  Huntress.   League of Assassins.  Ra’s al Ghul.  Etc.  Just awesome.    
→ Superman as the Atom.  Brandon Routh’s charming portrayal of Ray Palmer is as fantastic as Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity Smoak. 
→ I appreciate the unique narrative style:  flashbacks that reveal the happenings during Oliver Queen’s five year-hiatus from Starling City running alternately with the present narrative.  This definitely enhanced the storytelling, and made the whole show more intriguing.  
→ Great development of the character from vigilante to hero.
→ It spun-off The Flash.  The implication?  The creation of a big DC TV Universe.  I really hope The Flash is not the last spin-off happening from this shared universe.  If many other non-Batman-Superman-Wonder Woman (since these three are likely reserved for the movies) superheroes pop out in Arrow and The Flash, or have their own spin-off shows, and they form a Justice Society of America (since the Justice League of America is likely to be exclusive for the movies), it’s going to be the best thing to happen in TV ever.           

→ It’s not a Batman TV series.  This show’s existence sometimes drives me crazy since that there is no Batman TV series instead.   
→ It kind of annoys me that the promotion for Arrow seems to always involve Stephen Amell being shirtless.  To be fair, the man is pretty.
→ I feel that there is lack of usage and variations of trick arrows.  
→ It’s not always good.  The plot kinds of feel tiresome sometimes.  Only sometimes.  I can’t really explain it much, only that I feel that it’s not fun sometimes.  Again, only sometimes.  Can’t stress “sometimes” enough.     


→ Strong, winning performances from Ben McKenzie as James Gordon, Donald Logue as Harvey Bullock, and Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot.  
→ Beautiful production value.

→ It’s not a Batman TV series. 
→ My dream prologue Batman series is that of young Bruce Wayne traveling around the world as he acquires the skills and trainings that would prepare him as Batman when he returns to Gotham.  The existence of a Gotham TV series means that my fantasy Batman prologue TV series hasn’t happened, and has no chance of happening in the near future. 
→ The fine production value means much effort is exerted in creating a good Gotham setting and mood.  Thus, it frustrates me that such effort is not applied on a straight-up Batman TV series.  Too much Batman allusions are being done anyway, why not make the whole thing centered on Bruce Wayne/Batman then?   
→ Right from the start, I never got sold with the whole premise of the show.  I gave it a chance.   But I gave up on the third episode.  The whole thing just reeks of gimmickry to me – pretending that making it centered on James Gordon is a creative concept, when the reliance of adding too much Batman Easter eggs is very much apparent as gratuitous and having no confidence on establishing something original.      
→ I understand why this show might work on others, but it’s not my cup of tea.
→ I might get into this series in the future, especially if the kind hype is created wherein it’ll make me feel that I’m missing out of something awesome and important.  But with lots of great TV series to choose from each week, I have no problem of not getting into Gotham early.  I don’t think I will be missing out much.

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