DC Supers Shows – Just OK Enough To Not Be Terrible

I’ve started watching a handful of the DC superheroes shows, and while I’m not blown away by any of them, they do, for the most part, feel ‘adequate’. They are dumb, kinda cutesy, feel good dreck you can enjoy with the entire family. I just wish it went beyond that into something genuinely enjoyable.

I watched most of the first season of Supergirl, and yeah, it has a quirky charm to it. The biggest issue I have is with Jimmy Olsen; no, it’s not that they made Jimmy Olsen black, it’s that they’ve made Jimmy Olsen a heart-throb that all the women swoon over. There should be nothing cool about Jimmy Olsen other than that he’s Superman’s pal, otherwise it just feels wrong.

One of the best parts of Supergirl is that it fairly explicity exists in a verse where Clark and Kara are the only supers. This resolves the biggest problem that the DC Universe has that while there’s always some cataclysmic crisis on the horizon, there should theoretically be a glut of superheroes to take care of it.

I’ve started watching The Flash, as well; again it’s a kind of quirky, harmless, “oh, we’re a lovable bunch of goofs working to save the world” show. I wouldn’t say I like it more or less than Supergirl; it’s different. While the megaplot of Flash is more interesting than Supergirl’s, the day-to-day is more tiresome. It’s frustrating to watch Flash hopelessly moon over Iris who is a pretty garbage love interest.

Strangely, the setting premise of the Flash reminds me more of Static Shock than any Flash stuff I was particularly familiar with (which admittedly isn’t much).

While it’s certainly a different generation of show from the current crop, Smallville, which I’ve started on with my girlfriend, shows that things really haven’t changed that much. It’s clearly a template for what I’ve seen of the other series so far. I’m not sure how much of it I can take; everything I suspected about this show that I used to justify not watching it first run is pretty correct-BS teen highschool drama with supervillains thrown in. The only interesting hook is pinpointing when and why Lex Luthor becomes a villain – imagine how many lives could’ve been saved if Jonathan Kent weren’t just constantly a dick to him!

The supervillain of the week grind in these shows is frankly pretty boring. None of the villains are particularly developed or interesting, and the shows’ structure seems to exist in part to distract from how uninteresting the interactions between most of the characters are. It’s like, they want to come across as shows with heart, but they really don’t have any.

Somehow, Lois and Clark managed to pull of what these shows try with fewer special effects and next to no supervillains. Somehow the characters just felt more real and more warm than the current crop of DC shows. I can’t put my finger on it, and to just write it off as “well, Lois and Clark was a rom com with some action and the new ones are actually superhero shows” seems to not quite hit the nail on the head, even if it’s partial true.

Unless something changes, the current DC supers shows are never going to have good enough special effects for the superhero aspect to carry them, and I really feel like they don’t have good enough character actors and writers to bring the levels of charm necessary to come close to the old Lois and Clark’s tier of entertainment. Frankly, the main thing these shows have going for them are being recognizable superhero properties that people are hungry for and being family friendly enough that folks can watch them with the kids.

Of the current crop of DC shows, iZombie is far and away the best, and it’s not a supers show, and it’s barely a comic-book show, because the first thing they did was throw out nearly everything from the comic but the name. But it’s got good writers and better character actors than the other CW DC shows, and is just an all-around better watch. It’s really in a class of its own.

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6 responses to “DC Supers Shows – Just OK Enough To Not Be Terrible

  1. “One of the best parts of Supergirl is that it fairly explicity exists in a verse where Clark and Kara are the only supers. This resolves the biggest problem that the DC Universe has that while there’s always some cataclysmic crisis on the horizon, there should theoretically be a glut of superheroes to take care of it.”

    Hah…tangential comment, but this is why I’ve been enjoying the One Punch Man anime. It deals with a world in which this actually happens. It’s full of parody and semi-serious criticism of a world filled with super heroes and villains.

    Anyway yeah, I’ve had a difficult time getting into any of the DC stuff of recent years, films included. I kind of checked out after the last Christian Bale Batman movie (which I also thought was rather “meh”).

    Also I never watched Lois and Clark, but Dean Cain woot!

    • You need to watch Lois and Clark’s first season at least.
      It’s better than any other TV or film version of Superman (and that even includes the otherwise stellar DCAU).

      Everyone in the show has genuine chemistry and it feels like watching the characters interact in real life.

      Rather than rely on dumb super-hero fights that would look really bad in live action, the show relies more on the angle of Superman fighting real-world crime and terrorism and how that affects his job as a reporter. It also means that (for season 1) there’s much more character development relied on in the chess game between Supes and Luthor.

      It’s one of the few shows that really portrays Superman as that good guy that you really just want to be friends with, who loves his friends and family, and just wants to do the right thing and make his mom and dad proud. Dean Cain’s Superman is, by far, the most relatable and likable Superman I’ve ever seen.

      He’s what I call a “pre-Kill Bill” interpretation. Bill’s big villain speech about Clark Kent being the mask and Superman looking down on us may have sounded cool, but fundamentally missed the mark on what makes the character great. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of people have wanted to go with the angry alien god angle rather than the mid-west american boy who loves his mom & pop.

    • Y’know, I really liked Watchmen when I first saw it, in part because I was wowed by the fact that it was made in the first place, but it really didn’t stand up to subsequent viewings – so-so actors couldn’t make a lot of the (admittedly bad) dialogue that had been lifted straight from the comic work a lot of the time. It wasn’t quite Starship Troopers bad, but at times it felt close.

  2. I have tried watching the DC superhero shows too and came away disappointed. Too much high school drama in it for me. There have been aspects I liked about them, but it was always overshadowed by the cheesy romance stuff. I did really enjoy the first season of Gotham, but only caught a few episodes here and there after that. Seems like to dropped of the gritty cop aspect and went more goofy comic booky after season one (from what I could tell).

    • The cheesy romance works but it has to be done right with character actors who can make it work – none of the current DC superhero shows can pull this off, but the iZombie crew are able to make it work.

      I really wanted to like Gotham because I’m a huge Batman fan, but I was immediately turned off by Gordon without the mustache. It could’ve worked if they’d stuck to a a grim gritty cop drama, yeah, but I don’t think they even managed to pull that off in the first few episodes I saw. From the trailers, it looked like it kept getting further and further off the reservation, which kinda blows up the Post-Crisis leitmotif of Batman, where the supercriminals emerge in response to Batman having created power vacuums by taking down conventional street and organized crime.

      I saw an episode of The Thundermans for the first time ever yesterday – somehow that show managed to do superhero better than DC.

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