It's time to simplify my television superheroes
Posted June 6
Henry David Thoreau, author and philosopher, once offered this sage advice: “Simplify, simplify.” Many have pondered this profound message and tried to determine the best way to apply it to their daily lives. For my part, I’m going to honor Thoreau’s words by cutting down on the number of superhero TV shows I watch next season.
As a self-respecting member of the geek community, I feel a responsibility to watch every filmed comic book adaptation that Hollywood can churn out. But there are just too many of them out there these days, and television demands way too much time. I can’t keep up with the full complement of 24 episodes every year for every caped crusader that comes down the pike, especially where the lead character can’t even be bothered to don the cape and cowl in the first place.
I’m speaking, of course, of “Gotham,” which is the first of the superhero shows that’s on my personal chopping block. It seemed like an interesting idea at the time — a police procedural in Batman’s city before there was a Batman. Except it’s not really a police procedural; it’s a full-on Batman show, only without Batman. Bruce Wayne is still barely a teenager, so you’ve got to wait three more years before the kid can get a license to drive the Batmobile. The tone of the show is unrelentingly bleak, and even the good guys aren’t very good. I stopped watching after future commissioner Jim Gordon decided to execute a bad guy and then cover it up. I won’t be tuning in again when the third season rolls around unless they decide to skip a few years and pick up the narrative after Bruce Wayne’s 21st birthday.
And while it’s true that “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” never promised any capes, it doesn’t have much else to offer, either. It, too, looked like a good idea initially, but when Joss Whedon punted after the first episode, it’s been little more than a thing where everyone talks about all the superheroes who never show up. I lost interest after the first few episodes, but I rejoined the story in progress after the second Captain America movie, when S.H.I.E.L.D collapsed and became a renegade operation. Suddenly, the series felt like it had somewhere to go, so I started paying attention again. In retrospect, that was a mistake. This show means well, but it’s sort of a gormless afterthought in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Its stars have taken to complaining that nobody in the movie division pays any attention to what’s happening on TV. Heck, if the Marvel movie bigwigs can live without this one, then so can I.
I’m still debating whether to give up on “Arrow.” It was note-perfect for its first two seasons, but the show seems to have capsized after that because these last two seasons have been unrelentingly awful. As I watched this year’s finale, in which Oliver Queen stands on top of a car and gives everyone a pep talk while a nuclear missile is about to destroy the city, I had to hold my eyes with my hands to restrain them from rolling too far into the back of my head. I’m hoping they can tone down the stupid for season five, but I’m bailing out if they can’t turn the boat back over in the first episode.
That leaves me with “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” and anything Marvel puts on Netflix. I’m not sure Thoreau would approve, but we simplify where we can.
Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.