Please, for the love of Joss Whedon, stop the production of television shows based on superhero comic books. There, I said it. I can honestly say that I never dreamed in my geekiest of dreams that I would ever be making that request. I grew up on Batman reruns, hoping that networks would someday recognize the awesome storytelling that takes place between the covers of my favorite comics. Attempts were made.. some good (The Greatest American Hero, Buffy, The first two season of Heroes) and some not so good (Birds of Prey, The Cape, the other seasons of Heroes). Disregarding quality and reviews, I devoured them all. Every summer I scoured the fall previews hoping for one of my favorite books to show up on the upcoming series list. Now, my daily newsfeed is filled with rumors, schedules and casting news of another comic heading to the small screen. We must stop the insanity before the damage is irreparable.
Let me explain. First, we have a really good thing going right now. The success of comic book adaptations on the big screen has opened the door to television studios being willing to spend some real money on quality small screen projects. This allows us to avoid some of the recent blunders if we play our cards right and remain level-headed. The recent attempt at Wonder Woman back in 2011 is a great example. She's a great character in a comic book who had a brief and successful run on television in the 1970's. But when we try to put a woman in red and blue leather (or armor or spandex) in a modern television setting it just doesn't work. I mean, come on. Wonder Woman has exchanged blows with Superman. She can fly. She's got all kinds of connections to the Gods depending on which version we're using. How do you successfully translate that down to a small screen? Television viewers expectations are different than they were 35 years ago. We've seen things. The success of shows like Smallville, Gotham, and Arrow are due to the fact that they stayed away from the "super" part of superheroes for the most part. Arrow and Gotham are both working without any superpowered heroes. They are regular humans that just happen to be kick-ass tough and have some really messed up histories (in both, money doesn't buy happiness for sure). It is very early with Flash but they have successfully set up a reason for meta-humans to exist in Central City. So you can understand my concern when I hear of shows like Supergirl and Titans. Maybe, I mean a big MAYBE, if Supergirl can follow the Smallville formula in a somewhat original manner it might work. But for Titans, an orange skinned, super sexy alien, the daughter of a demon and a green shape-changer have me terrified. The Titans are supergroup that are dear to my heart and I'm not sure I trust TNT to pull it off. I have moderate hopes for Constantine.I I love the character and I'm hoping with the success of Supernatural this show can make it. I would feel better if it was on the CW, they "get" geeks better than the big networks I think. But, hopefully viewers will give it a chance.
Which brings me to my second concern. Often times, quality of storytelling isn't the issue when shows get cancelled (Firefly....anybody?). It's a numbers game as we all know. And though I'm confident that geeks love their television shows and you'll never find a more devoted audience, there are only so many hours in the day. Sometimes it takes a few episodes for a show to find its legs. I'll admit there were a few episodes during season one of Arrow that left me wanting. And if I had had another show that was an option, I might have completely thrown in the towel before I could become the crazy, avid fan I am today. You might have noticed that I didn't mention Marvel: Agents of SHIELD above. It's because I gave up on it after the third episode. Friends have told me that it is really good right now. These are geeky friends that I trust and value their opinion. But with an entire season of Dr. Who and two episodes of Gotham patiently waiting on my DVR, I'm not sure when I'll get back to it. And even though I love superhero-based television, a guy has to fit in his weekly dose of The Walking Dead (granted a comic adaptation, just not superhero), The Big Bang Theory, Castle, etc. Geeks are well-rounded pop-culture enthusiasts if nothing else.
So I guess I'm not begging the network decision-makers to stop making my favorite comic book characters into television stars. I'm just asking them to stop making them right now. Give us time to digest these new offerings as they develop their stories. I think about when reality TV first become popular, I loved The Real World, The Amazing Race and Survivor. Now I can honestly say that I haven't watched a reality TV show regularly in over a decade. It was too much, too soon. These awesome characters that are being farmed to TV right now will still be there in a few years. Watch and learn as some of this year's shows become successful. Don't jump on the hero bandwagon, just to have a show and have it go the way of The Cape and Birds of Prey. We have slates of movies from DC and Marvel for the next several years, so please let us bask in this wonderful age of geek entertainment and stretch it out, not burn it out.