The Great Comics/Sci-Fi Invasion of the Fall 2014 TV Season

Grant Gustin IS The Flash!

Grant Gustin stares down the competition as the Flash, who hopefully won’t spend ten seasons moping and being called “The Red and Yellow Blur”.

With Community, Revolution, and Almost Human cancelled, I’m finding myself with extra holes in my schedule for the fall 2014 TV season. Mind you, I’m not interested in watching three hours’ worth every night. Even two-hour TV time blocks make me a little edgy and take time away from other activities (e.g., MCC, sleeping). Apparently I’m in luck — four of the five broadcast networks are launching new fantasy/sci-fi series geared for anyone who’s not interested in crime-drama franchises. (The fifth network, CBS, boasts a lineup whose star rookies will be their third NCIS and their fourth CSI. Yes, really. Not making these up. At most, both should handily restock the internet’s dwindling supply of CBS punchlines.)

But what’s a guy like me to watch? Oh, decisions, decisions. The networks released previews this week for the following newcomers, a few of which are based on comic books from my collection:

* The Flash (The CW). DC Comics allowed super-speedster Barry Allen to visit our homes once before in 1990, but poor, amiable John Wesley Shipp was no match for Bill Cosby and constant schedule-shifting. In the new version, Grant Gustin (Glee) is a much younger Barry, whose origin is basically the same except they’ve included his mother’s murder, an unpleasant addition to the comics mythos from just a few years ago.

First impression: a few of the running scenes look as awkward as ever, but the Fastest Man Alive scores points in my book simply for being a lot cheerier than anyone on Smallville, the last CW series I ever watched. Hopefully I won’t have to know much about Arrow or DC’s New 52 to understand what’s going on.

* Constantine (NBC). Despite the sad misfire of a film version that Americanized the character for Keanu Reeves’ sake, British antihero/mage/gadfly/rake/manipulator John Constantine has been a renowned figure in DC’s darker recesses for nearly thirty years — co-created by legendary writer Alan Moore and featured in stories by some of the medium’s most celebrated writers (Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, et al). And now he’s coming to NBC, embodied by actor Matt Ryan in ripped-from-the-pages sartorial style.

First impressions: they’ve distilled his various skill sets down to one: Action Exorcist! Harold Perrineau is an interesting choice for an angry angel. They’re clearly keeping the horrifying Newcastle incident as part of his backstory. I’m hoping the driver of that taxi will be his longtime sidekick Chas (bearing zero resemblance to the dreadful teen Shia LaBeouf version). But the demons seem like works in progress, and I hope exorcism isn’t all he does. To be honest, I expect this one to be canceled more quickly that anything else on this list. If I do check it out, it’s likely to be on my very tiny list of shows I watch without talking about them.

* Gotham (Fox). Ben McKenzie from Southland and The OC is the youngest James Gordon we’ve ever seen onscreen, a Gotham City cop faced with a trending new breed of criminal and a well-known billionaire orphan who’ll grow up to make a difference.

First impression: still wrapping my head around the notion that some of Batman’s most infamous nemeses will have been playing the game for years before he returns to America and begins his Year One. On the plus side, it’ll be on Mondays at 8 p.m. EST, right before Sleepy Hollow (a recap favorite here at MCC), so it’s a pretty convenient time slot for me. Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock should work fine, and…oh, hey, there’s John Doman, a.k.a. Captain Rawls from The Wire! Sold.

* Forever (ABC): Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards from the previous iteration of Fantastic Four) is a sort of detective who keeps returning from death and knows an awful lot about other people’s deaths. Also includes TV’s Judd Hirsch and Joel David Moore from Avatar.

First impression: a sappy, cutesy, Immortal Sherlock. Tuesdays at 10 p.m. seems like a burial ground even he might have trouble escaping.

* The Whispers (ABC): Killer imaginary friends ruin lives, creep around the edges, enable precocious child actors to act loopy and distant.

First impression: the trailer wants me to guess the central trope, which reminds me of The Event and is a major turnoff. However, further investigation shows that ABC’s own marketing material says they’re aliens using kids to conquer the earth. It’s from executive producer Steven Spielberg, but “executive producer” is impressing me less and less as a title these days. (See also: JJ Abrams, executive producer of the almost-dead Revolution, and Joss Whedon, executive producer of the frequently disappointing Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) The only cast member I recognize offhand is someone from Heroes, which I actively avoided. I’ll be surprised if I remember to tune in.

A few other possible shows have yet to release trailers:

* iZOMBIE (The CW). Based on the DC/Vertigo series that was canceled two years ago, about a cute teen zombie who’s moderately more sociable than others of her kind and works around dead bodies so her eating habits can go unnoticed. Also, her meals let her absorb the memories of the deceased, especially murder victims, so she’s a crime-solver on the side. Showrunner Rob Thomas did great things with the first two seasons of Veronica Mars; the faint echoes of the still-lamented Pushing Daisies aren’t unwelcome; and it stars Tinker Bell from Once Upon a Time. They might or might not be on to something.

* Marvel’s Agent Carter (ABC). I hope it’s a given that Hayley Atwell will reprise her Captain America: the First Avenger role for this spinoff. Beyond that we know nothing. I’d like to think anything with the Marvel label is worth a shot, but then I remember Punisher War Zone, Elektra, and that episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where Peter MacNicol played the least interesting Asgardian in the universe.

* Gracepoint (Fox). Sure, it’s neither fantasy nor sci-fi, but any excuse to have more David Tennant on TV is fine by me, even if it’s an unnecessary remake of a British series. The original Broadchurch was an A-plus self-contained eight-episode mystery in its own right (and Tennant is preparing to shoot season two over the summer), but I’m dying to know why someone thought this was a good idea and exactly how they got Tennant on their side. These two questions are giving me serious fits of curiosity, and I hope the answer to both is anything but “money”.

Which to try? Which to shun? And do I dare replace Revolution in my recap rotation?

To be continued! Later this year, I mean, once these start hitting the airwaves…

3 responses

    • Yeah, the running closeups were clunky, and I’m still preferring John Wesley Shipp’s old Batman-movie-inspired costume to this updated New-52 version. And hopefully they don’t use up their entire effects budget in the first two episodes and then take away his powers for the next 10 episodes just to save money. We’ll see!

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