It’s that time of year again — New TV time!
Here’s a short run-down of some early thoughts about the Fall 2014 TV season based on a few pilots and season openers.
Let me start by saying that I’m a big Batman fan. You might already know this. I should also say that I love the comic series, Gotham Central.
Gotham, however, is is not the TV show I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be a Gotham Central show, where GCPD cops try to keep the peace in an un-governable city cursed with larger-than-life villains and a guardian angel who is more terrifying than most of the villains he fights. But it’s not that show, and it’s not trying to be that show — it seems like it’s trying to be the story of Gotham before Batman and the story of the various villains and how they become who they are when Batman emerges.
Let me say something about my favorite part: Donal Logue is *excellent* as Harvey Bullock. He’s got a meaty character to work with, and he excellently delivers — showing how GCPD business as usual works, addressing the worst crimes but not rocking the boats of the crime families.
But largely, I find the basic premise of Gotham rather uninteresting. It seems like it’s going to be about Gotham before it gets interesting. It’ll be the city getting worse and worse, and then when the catalyst of change appears, the show would all but have to end, especially since the series starts with Bruce Wayne at age 12 or so. Unless the show is going to have some time jumps, I don’t think we’ll ever see Batman in a recognizable form. The pilot does already have young Master Bruce trying to conquer fear, with a really-actually-sounds-working-class Alfred Pennyworth as his reluctant caretaker after the Wayne’s death.
One thing that is notable about the show, if not exciting for me, is that it ties the Bat-mythos together much more tightly from the very beginning than most versions of the Batman origin do. The Waynes are murdered in the second scene of the show, and then freshly-arrived James Gordon and his partner Harvey Bullock are the detectives who catch the Wayne murders. In the first episode alone, we meet no less than four future members of the Rogue’s gallery, and possibly one more. One interesting note is that aside from flip phones used by the GCPD detectives, the show is very intentionally timeless in its look, simultaneously invoking the 30s, 70s, and today.
I admit that I am not the prime audience for this show, as someone with a lot of Batman under my belt and who is most interested in the relationship between Batman and the villains and the impact of Batman on Gotham. I’m going to give the show a few more episodes, as there are some promising elements. Logue for one, as well as Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald “don’t call him Penguin” Cobblepot.
If you’re not as invested in a particular version of the Batman world or Gotham, and love character studies of villains in the making or how police might try to navigate the waters of corruption and institutional inertia, then this may be up your alley. The show’s still finding its tone, but that’s to be expected in a pilot.
Red Band Society
So…this show actually seems like it’s slipstream speculative fiction — against my initial estimation. But more on that later.
Adapted from a Catalan drama created by Albert Espinosa, Red Band Society focuses on a group of teens all living in a pediatric ward, kids who normally would never be friends but fall in together due to proximity and shared circumstance.
Octavia Spencer serves as the big name in the cast, playing hard-love Nurse Jackson, who keeps order in the ward. Two of the kids have cancer, one has an eating disorder, another has massive lung problems, and one is a temporary visitor with a broken arm…mostly. The teen leads are mostly well-drawn, though some of them lean pretty hard into teen drama archetypes (especially the cheerleader with the broken arm).
The narrator of the show is Charlie, a boy in a coma. What makes the show actually sort of slipstream-y is that when one of the other characters goes under for a short time, he sees Charlie in a limbo-esque all-white version of the foyer of the hospital. This device comes back in the second episode, so it’s not just a one-time narrative technique. I don’t think the show will get any more speculative, but it’s enough of an element to be commented on, since this is mostly an SF/F site.
There’s been buzz about this show as a successor to Glee, and I do think that the immediacy granted by focusing on teens with life-threatening conditions resonating with the immediacy of teenage experience in general is quite powerful and likely to give the show a lot of narrative drive. But I am not yet won over by the show.
Next time, I’ll re-visit some of my favorite freshman shows from last year as they enter Season 2!