The once venerable, now barely functional, National Broadcasting Corporation has been making some big moves recently. They're being bought out by cable giant Comcast, and are pledging to stop the race to the bottom in both budgets and quality philosophy that has dominated NBC during the reign of current honcho Jeff Zucker.
The network is hoping to reassert its dominance and hopefully win back some viewers from the cable channels by backing away from cheap quickie reality shows, and spending serious moolah developing new scripted programs.
One of those new scripted programs is a superhero action-adventure series called The Cape. The premise is pretty straightforward, an honest cop in a crooked town finds himself framed, disgraced, and declared dead. He then trains to become a martial artist/vigilante with the help of some circus folk, and goes out to fight bad guys dressed as his son's favorite comic book character.
Now the makers of the show know that they are going to be compared to NBC's last superhero themed show Heroes. If you're like a lot of people and you forgot Heroes after they saved the cheerleader and saved the world, I'll recap what happened for you. The show had a huge first season, was the talk of the town, so to speak, and got renewed for a second season.
That's when the trouble started.
You see the people behind Heroes didn't really have a clue what to do after the first season. They pretty much shot all their creative ammo during that first season, which lead to firing, hiring, and a lot of lame plot-lines pulled out of the collective asses of a writing staff who didn't know where they were going, what they were going to do when they got there, or if someone else was going to have their job next week. That showed in both the quality of the show and the ratings, which got steadily worse even by NBC standards.
The folks behind The Cape say that they're going to avoid that trap by following a more mystery/procedural formula. Basically instead of long involved plots with little clues being dropped every episode, they're going to stick with one and done weekly story-lines for the most part.
Good luck with that.
But I'm not exactly holding out much hope for this show making it to a second season.
1. The superhero has that damn permanent 5 o'clock stubble thing that bugs the living shit out of me. That does not scream righteous justice, that mewls a phony tough guy pose decided by a focus group of dull eyed Burbank dwellers addled with faint memories of Miami Vice. Either shave, or grow the damn beard, that's what Batman would do.
2. The superhero itself. This sounds a lot like one of those things whipped up by committee at some network or studio office:
NBC BOSS: Superheroes are hot at the movies, we need to get some of that on this network that won't suck like Heroes.3. The premise that The Cape is inspired by a kid's favorite comic book character. The average comic book reader is somewhere between 18-45. Kids don't read anything longer than a text message. That sort of shows either a certain lack of knowledge of the nature of comics and comic readers, or they're willfully ignoring it as an excuse to toss in a cute kid.
MINION #1: We could adapt a popular book as a series.
NBC BOSS: Are you high!?! Then we have to deal with the creator, and the publisher and give them a share of the profits. We need to make up our own superhero.
MINION #2: I got one, Super-Man.
NBC BOSS: Hmmm... I like it.
SECRETARY: Warner Bros. on line 1, to tell you that they'll sue if you do Superman.
NBC BOSS: How did they know? Okay, forget Super-man. What makes superheroes special?
MINION #1: Super powers?
NBC BOSS: Super powers mean special effects and those kinds of special effects cost too much.
MINION #2: The wear masks.
NBC BOSS: We'll call him The Mask!
SECRETARY: Dark Horse Entertainment on line 2 to tell you that they're going to sue you.
NBC BOSS: Fine, we'll find something else to call him.
MINION #1: A lot of them wear capes...
NBC BOSS: That's brilliant! He will be The Cape. Make sure he has some manly stubble to make sure viewers don't mistake us for Glee, and we have a hit.
4. I worry about the villains. A superhero is only as good as the villains he faces. They have to be diverse, colorful and interesting all on their own. I have a bad feeling that this show will turn into a 'gangster of the week,' rotating among the various ethnic mobs, to biker gangs, the occasional ill tempered scientist, and back again. One of the chief problem with Heroes that they had one villain that anyone actually remembered, and kept going back to him, over and over.
Are there any positives to this show?
The show has given Summer Glau some work, which is a good thing to me. I enjoy ogling her, but there's a caveat I must add.
I first noticed her on Firefly, one of the unfairly canceled show in recent history. That set a standard for me that has to be met in order to set my geeky fanboy heart aflutter.
Is it possible to make a good superhero show?
I think so. Maybe I'll talk about what makes a good superhero show another day.