Monday, October 26, 2015
This Is A Job For Supergirl (and Not For Her Cousin, God)
I watched the Supergirl series premier on CBS tonight with rest of the family here in the Fortress of Ineptitude. There was a lot riding on this latest television venture from DC Comics and not just successfully leveraging a comic book character to another medium. The fact that this is the first TV series to star a female super hero since Wonder Woman in the 1970's is something that has affixed itself to this project. There's more at stake than just creating a TV show that will draw enough eyes to please the advertisers. No, there is the added weight of Supergirl providing a role model for girls and young women, something that has been in short supply in film and TV super hero adaptions.
So does Supergirl have what it takes to succeed at either of these objectives?
On the front of producing an entertaining hour of televison, Supergirl has the right pieces in place. The problem with pilot episodes is that there is a LOT of exposition and people introducing themselves. So as a stand alone episode of a TV series, this debut of Supergirl comes up a bit short. But what is presented here, as cumbersome as a pilot may be, is done so with wit and charm. It's pretty fast paced; a lot gets done with in a hour (less commercials). And the special effects are pretty good quality for TV. The sequence where Kara saves the crashing plane is amazing. It maybe disconcerting to see the lovely, winsome Supergirl getting the crap beat out of her by a super powered opponent but it feels like a battle with a super powered opponent.
And let's give it up for Melissa Benoist who just hits her marks and more as Kara Danvers, the put upon assistant to a multi-media mogul, and Supergirl. This is a character in both her guises is called up to be strong or uncertain by various turns or often at the same time. Kara knows what she wants to do but she is out of practice in the use of her powers and unprepared to deal with the consequences of her debut as Supergirl. But she faces up to her responsibilities with determination even as she takes joy in the act of flying. Melissa Benoist has set a fairly strong baseline to develop both sides of her character.
With so much going on, the supporting cast doesn't get a lot of time to develop. The stand out here is Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant who channels The Devil Wears Prada. It's a bit over the top but there are nuances there, like when Cat foists on Kara the job of writing termination notices to the staff of a newspaper she's shutting down. Is she doing it because she can't be bothered or is it that she can't bear to pull this trigger? There's a bit of ambivalence on her motives.
As for the rest of the cast, there's a lot of work to be done to make us care but hopefully the series will give them time to breathe going forward.
There is one element of the Supergirl pilot that becomes hard to ignore: the avoidance of referring to Superman as Superman. "Superman" gets named checked in Kara's opening narration but after that, he gets referred to as "cousin" a lot. Also disconcertingly frequent are the times Superman is referred to simple as "him". What, is Superman...God?
And lo, the prophet James the Olsen delivered unto Kara the Danvers a gift from Him, He who dwells in the sky. Kara looked upon the gift, a cloak of crimson, red as the sun from which He had been sent forth to guide and protect us. Kara took the gift with humility and gratitude so that she might please Him who gaveth the cloak so that she might serve the children of Earth as He does in His image.
Yeah, it was a bit like that.
Anyway, the family here at the Fortress are willing to give this series a shot.
And what about the other burden that rests of Supergirl's shoulders, of being a role model? That may be more than we should ask of any entertainment program. But if girls and young women are seeking a role model among the super powered set, I don't think they can do much better than Supergirl.
Everyone, be good to one another.
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