A temporary home and repository for television and film critic Daniel Fienberg, formerly of HitFix.com and Zap2it.com and one half of The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast.
Thursday, July 09, 2015
Take Me To The Pilots '15: CBS' 'Supergirl'
[You know the drill, and I will continue to mention it in each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews may be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: "Supergirl" (CBS)
The Pitch: "Get your superhero drama right here! Get it while it's fresh! Recognizable superhero drama unassociated with any lead actor for nearly three decades... STEP RIGHT UP!"
Quick Response: The sense that this isn't a CBS show is pretty much impossible to shake. It's a CW show with a CBS budget, or maybe an ABC show, but from the side of the comic book empire that isn't ABC's corporate sibling. But whose business is it if "Supergirl" isn't on-brand for CBS? It's CBS' business and not mine. Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg's take on the character is on the sunny, frothy side of superhero coin, with more smiles and toss-off jokes than 13 episodes of deceased DC stablemate "Constantine" and possibly more than three seasons of "Arrow," excluding Felicity scenes. The unassuming-nerd-finds-voice-in-heroism vibe is very close to that of "Flash" with two key differences: "Flash" always had a core of sadness courtesy of the death of Barry's mom, while "Supergirl" has less gravity despite the backdrop of an entire eradicated planet. And second, this IS NOT an origin story, at least not entirely. Kara Zor-El was raised knowing she had powers, but opted to hide her light under a bushel. So there's minimal dilly-dallying with, "Oh, I have powers? I can do THAT?!?" It's mostly, "I've had powers, but perhaps I need practice to fulfill my potential" which makes for a different and welcome dynamic. Melissa Benoist, who was winsomely effective in "Whiplash" and kept me watching "Glee" at least two episodes longer than I should have, is an appropriate lead for the low-intensity fun here. She doesn't wow you, but I think she makes Kara relatable and human in a way that might be more important than wowing. She's got solid chemistry with the very appealing Mehcad Brooks, the fairly funny Calista Flockhart and also with Chyler Leigh, who mostly survives the responsibility of dumping a massive amount of exposition here. I was less convinced by Jeremy Jordan as Kara's Cisco and could have done without the pandering Helen Slater/Dean Cain cameos, but pandering is a not-insignificant part of what "Supergirl" thinks it has to do. I liked the blending of soft-sell and hard-sell empowerment messages, thought the special effects were on the upper edge of expectations and got some decently earned emotions courtesy of the score. "Supergirl" has a good mixture of blatantly comic book tone with shades of grounding, without ever getting too dark or brooding. It's a daytime, outdoor superhero show, at least in the pilot. Perhaps budget necessities will force them onto stages and into the forgiving darkness of night eventually. Oh and while the initial "Supergirl" trailer had the misfortune of coming fast on the heels of the "SNL" "Black Widow" spoof, it was mostly awful trailer soundtrack choices that led people to make that overly facile comparison. The music choices in the actual series is much less a hacky Katherine Heigl rom-com and much more "Devil Wears Prada" if Anne Hathaway had superpowers, a different thing entirely. The "Supergirl" team should already resent the CBS marketing team for that blunder.
Desire To Watch Again: I'll happily watch additional episodes of "Supergirl." There's some predictable pilot clunkiness and excessive underlining of theme and whatnot, but by pilot standards, it quickly settles into a tone and a style and I reckon those are reproducible. I don't quite know what the week-to-week series is and that may be where the CBS-ness of it becomes a worry, but Berlanti and Kreisberg know how to do superheros and Adler's background on "Chuck" really ought to be a perfect training ground for what "Supergirl" ought to be moving forward. So really, maybe we should be comparing "Supergirl" to "Chuck" instead of "The Flash"? Either one is optimistic.
All of my 2014 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2013 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
Posted by Daniel Fienberg at 10:46 AM
Labels: Supergirl, Take Me To The Pilots
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I'd like to be the first to comment on your new blog. I send a yearly email out to my friends to inform them of what fall TV to start watching and your TM2TP has been very useful to me for years.
It's a good thing it will continue here.
Glad to be keeping the tradition going!Delete
Also glad that I figured out how to adjust my comments template so that I could reply to individual comments.
i've been a fan of yours for so long that I'd actually forgotten how I first became familiar with your writing, but seeing this here on your old blog brought it all back to me. It was Take Me to the Pilots, a long, long time ago before Hitfix even existed. I feel like we've come full circle, and I'm pleased that you're going to keep up the annual tradition.ReplyDelete
A) Yay! I've definitely been doing these for a while. One of these days, I'm gonna usurp Elton John when it comes to search strength.Delete
B) I need to think about what it means to come full circle and be back here again. I'm going to use it as an excuse to sing Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game" to myself...
First, so glad to still have your voice in this new/old space. You're the best resource not only for news/analysis and reviews but also for jokes about Emily's Reason's Why Not and Deadline's hard-on for Breaking In. Always get a laugh from me.Delete
Second, I think you're right about the music choices being better in the pilot than the trailer, but "Bad Mamajama" got an eyeroll from me. Hope they swap that out for something a little less on-the-nose. Otherwise I think you're spot-on here.
Do you know how Supergirl (and even The Flash and Arrow) are supposed to relate to the upcoming WB movies? Are they totally separate, or are they going for a Marvel approach of everything being interconnected?
Thanks, and I can't wait to see what you end up doing next.
I think the answer is "not at all." They've already cast a new Flash, after all. They could, of course, back down on that, theoretically. But when Superman is discussed in "Supergirl," I don't think we're supposed to expect that if he DOES show up that he'll be Henry Cavill.Delete
This is the one show coming up this fall that I'm really genuinely looking forward to. It just looks like fun, and while I don't *mind* grimdark, I generally like my comics to be *fun*.ReplyDelete
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Did my comment make it? If not, I'll try again. Are there any SuperGirl comics to speak of or are they just making up the story? I'm not much a comics person, so I come to things fresh. I adore the Flash, so I'll give this a try.ReplyDelete
This one duplicated, but I deleted the extra!Delete
And... I assume there are SuperGirl comics? But I'll definitely let somebody with more expertise weigh in...
There are Supergirl comics and then there are Supergirl comics. The pre-Crisis version is what this show seems to be based off. Supergirl is Superman's cousin and many of her adventures involve her having a crush on every one (including her horse...not joking) and basically being Superman Lite (for girls).Delete
The post-crisis version involved Supergirl being "...a protoplasmic blob from a “pocket universe” ". Needless to say this isn't exactly a friendly storyline for new readers (or old readers because the Pocket Universe never actually existed).
After the Infinite Crisis, Kara comes back as Superman's cousin, kinda and it's complicated, and ends up having wacky cosmic adventures.
So, yes there are Supergirl comics. I doubt that the show will be relying on any of them. And I doubt anyone who likes the show would want to read them.
Obvious this show wants to alienate male viewers with it's male-hating scenes like you wrote "On my planet, females bow before males" and she replies "This is not your planet," it's both a girl power call to arms,"..but i guess who ever wrote this drivel was OK when men would bow to Queens or the fact society says men should hold open the door for women, to sink on a ship for women..you know the whole "Ladies First"..anyway why can't women make a show that isn't about putting down men..i haven't seen a female based show that is not about feminism.ReplyDelete
You're confused by many things. But the lines "On my planet, females bow before males" "This is not your planet" isn't about putting down men. It's about putting down male dominance. Literally. She doesn't say, "Well on this planet, men bow to women." This is still a world in which there is a Superman who is a hero. There's no inference about denigrated men or even male power, just about taking down female subservience.ReplyDelete
And when people bow to queens, they're bowing to the position, not the gender of the position and the British crown has been held more frequently by men than women, so that's meaningless.
And men should sink on ships for women? Good God, man. Is there a rash of this that I haven't heard about?
There are dozens of male-driven superhero projects out there on the big and small screen. Watch those. Don't freak out about the ONE that isn't that.
That is really nice to hear. thank you for the update and good luck. best 3d printersReplyDelete