The announcement that DC/Warner Bros. would produce a “Gotham” TV series, about the fabled comic book city pre-Batman that would focus on not-yet-Commissioner James Gordon, has prompted a lot of talk online.
There was some excitement and some concern. We’ve seen this kind of thing – a TV series that exists in the shadows of comic book superheroes – before. (Entertainment Weekly called it “superhero adjacent,” which was pretty nifty.)
As a matter of fact, we’re seeing it right now. Marvel’s “Agents of SHIELD” debuted to good ratings two nights ago and would appear to be on its way to being a hit if the Joss Whedon-created series can sustain interest in a show about the spies who corral and help out superhumans.
But “Gotham” – which might take a few cues from comic books like “Batman: Year One” and “Gotham Central” – looks likely to focus on Gordon and the cops in the grittiest Gotham City precincts … and, as the producers said, the origins of Batman’s rogues gallery of super villains. So we might see early versions of the Riddler, Mr. Freeze … even the Joker?
A couple of thoughts come to mind:
And it was certainly interesting that the series is for Fox instead of the CW, where “Arrow” lives now and “The Flash” is coming.
Warners must have been under substantial pressure to get another DC-inspired TV series on the air. Especially one that looks like “SHIELD.”
It’s cheaper to do a series about the humans who must deal with superheroes than to do a series about superheroes. But – as online commentators pointed out in recent weeks – it might just frustrate viewers if you made a practice of saying, “Iron Man just flew off” or “Batman was just here.” So it’s good idea to set it in the days before Batman arrives.
But … by making a prequel, you eliminate all suspense that integral characters like Gordon will be killed off, ala “The Walking Dead.” The producers of “Gotham” can never realistically have Jim Gordon in personal mortal jeopardy. I blame George Lucas for this prequel stuff.
A decade ago, “Birds of Prey” gave us Batman-adjacent characters and a Bruce Wayne who was, at least once, on the other end of the phone line with Alfred. “Gotham” will have to tread a fine line between hinting at Batman and teasing us with Batman.
Don’t make “Smallville’s” mistakes. Having said, “No tights, no flights,” the producers of the Clark Kent series did a slightly better than average job depicting the run-up to Superman. But they should have paid off 10 seasons of viewers’ patience in the final episode with full-on Superman instead of a coy peek-a-boo.
There’s great potential for great Big Bads and great storylines. Even if “Gotham” runs multiple years, it could fill every season with psychopaths and sociopaths and stalwart defenders of Gotham and those who want to pillage it. Arkham Asylum stories alone could come into play every few weeks. Not to mention the satisfaction of watching Jim Gordon grow into the character we’ve seen in the comics, TV shows and Chris Nolan movies.
If “Gotham” can pull this off, we might not miss Batman in the series. We might even be happy if his arrival takes years and years.