Monday, October 26, 2015

On The Air: Supergirl (2015)

The three most successful DC Comics adaptations for television have all featured Superman. Producer Greg Berlanti (Arrow, Blindspot, The Flash, The Mysteries of Laura) is hoping Supergirl can follow that hallowed tradition.

But first, a history lesson is in order. Supergirl's origin has been altered a few times since her debut in the Silver Age. Berlanti has chosen the 2004 revision, which has Kara Zor-El meant to accompany her cousin, Kal-El, albeit in a separate rocket, to Earth as his guardian. However, she winds up on an asteroid somewhere, delaying her arrival by a few years. For the television audience, Kara (Melissa Benoist, ex-Glee) explains in her narrative that she was diverted to the Phantom Zone due to the after-effect of Krypton's explosion.

On Earth, she is adopted by the Danvers family, and retains her birth name of Kara. In the comics, she adopted the identity of Linda Danvers. And instead of being an only child in the books, Kara now has a step-sister, if you will, Alexandra (Chyler Leigh), who's also a government agent, working for the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO) under Hank Henshaw (David Harewood, Homeland). Alexandra was created, I think, for television, but Henshaw is known to comics readers as the first Cyborg Superman, introduced in 1994.

In the comics, Linda had a number of jobs, including an actress and a teacher's aide. Kara is a glorified go-fer for Catherine "Cat" Grant (Callista Flockhart, ex-Brothers & Sisters, Ally McBeal), CEO of CatCo, which owns the National City newspaper, The Tribune. Grant was introduced to comics readers in the late 80's following DC's epic Crisis on Infinite Earths, but was originally a gossip columnist, later a social activist. Berlanti has rebooted Grant as a cross between Anna Wintour and Perry White. Of course, to continue the homages to Superman, Kara is wearing glasses, just like her cousin did.

And, then, there's Jimmy Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), Superman's pal, who's relocated to National City, and, as Kara finds out in the opener, it seems cousin Superman sent Jimmy there to keep an eye on her. While I don't have a problem with Olsen (and for that matter, Henshaw) being rebooted as an African-American, I can explain this away pretty easily. You see, this version of Jimmy is more of an amalgam of the Jimmy we all know and African-American reporter Ron Troupe, like Cat Grant, a product of the post-Crisis 80's. I think Berlanti decided to use Jimmy because Olsen had a crush on Supergirl in one of her earliest incarnations in the 60's.

If you look quick, you'll see the first screen Supergirl, Helen Slater, playing Kara's adoptive mom, alongside Dean Cain, who played Superman in the 90's. Of course, the name "National City" is a homage in and of itself, referencing DC's former identity as National Periodical Publications.

Let's take a look at a trailer:

The only quibble I have is that Berlanti had wanted Superman all along, couldn't use him, and opted instead to use his vision with Supergirl. Will we see Superman on this show, with a new movie a few months away? I cannot say for sure, though it wouldn't hurt. Will there be a crossover with Berlanti's CW entries? Supposedly, no, although CW is a step-sister network and there was a commercial for The Flash during the show tonight. I wouldn't put it past Berlanti and his crew.

Rating: A-.

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