‘Supergirl’ has playfulness and action

24 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Supergirl’ has playfulness and action.

“Supergirl” is a very good, polished pilot, which, in TV terms, might be one of the least interesting questions hovering around this latest DC Comics adaptation from producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg. The one-hour superhero show premiering on CBS Monday at 8:30 p.m. (it moves into its regular Monday 9 p.m. time slot next week) adapts the popular DC Comics character with some “Frozen” style tweaks to her origin, Easter eggs galore for longtime comics readers, loving nods to the great Christopher Reeve “Superman” films and astounding visual effects.The younger hero, a Krypton native who resisted her super powers growing up, embraces them as a 24-year-old who protects her earthly home, National City, from an intergalactic criminal onslaught in CBS’ Supergirl (Monday, 8:30 p.m.

Early next week CBS debuts the latest superhero series, and despite its superfluous nature given the raft of superhero programs on TV, available via streaming services and at the movies, “Supergirl” (8:30-9:30 p.m.The 43-year-old writer and producer has cameras rolling on six series, more than the industry’s most prolific creators, including Shonda Rhimes (“Scandal”) and Dick Wolf (“Law & Order: SVU”), both with four dramas in production this season. The introductory hour hews closely to that pair’s formula for “The Flash,” from elevating an adorable “Glee” alum (there Grant Gustin, here Melissa Benoist) to costumed-icon status, to the it-takes-a-village approach to raising a superhero, with plenty of people in on the character’s secret virtually from the get-go. All that, however, belies the main issue: Can such fare fly on CBS? “The Flash,” of course, has been a major hit by CW’s less-demanding standards, which perhaps emboldened its older half-sibling to take a flyer (heh heh) on its own bold comics-to-TV leap.

The series moves to its regular time period, 8-9 p.m., on Monday, Nov. 2. (Darren Michaels/CBS) CLEVELAND, Ohio – CBS is suffering from a severe case of superhero envy. She’s just happy to use her powers at all,” says Melissa Benoist, who plays TV’s newest superhero and her alter ego, Kara Danvers, a mild-mannered assistant for a great, metropolitan multimedia empire. “I like to think of this season as a crash course in how to be a superhero,” she says. “It’s about someone learning and understanding who they are and how to harness their strength and use it to be the best possible person they can be.” “Every time I’m flying, I’m having a blast,” Benoist says on set, clad in her Colleen Atwood-designed outfit, complete with knee-high boots, short skirt and leather cape, all in red, contrasted by a textured blue jersey sporting the iconic red “S.” The fun of entering the DC Comics canon can’t be underestimated, says Chyler Leigh (Grey’s Anatomy), who plays Alex Danvers, Kara/Supergirl’s adoptive sister and a top scientist and operative at a secret agency. “Everybody’s inner nerd loves the comics and that whole life,” says Leigh, decked out in an all-black agency ensemble complete with a utility belt that might make Batman envious.

A female hero,” notes a citizen of National City after Supergirl reveals herself to the world. “Nice for my daughter to have someone like that to look up to.” Executive produced by Greg Berlanti, who’s also behind The CW’s “The Flash” and “Arrow,” and written by Mr. Never mind that the Marvel name hasn’t produced major ratings for ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD,” although the brooding “Gotham” did emerge as a solid contender on Fox. Kara sleeps frozen in suspended animation for more than 20 years, until her ship finally reaches Earth — where she is greeted by a grown Kal, now Superman. Executive producer Greg Berlanti, who’s had success overseeing CW’s DC Comics-inspired Arrow and The Flash, sees a connection between Benoist and Christopher Reeve, who played Superman in Richard Donner’s 1978 film. “Melissa’s very optimistic and hopeful, qualities you see in Kara,” he says. “She exhibits what I think (Reeve) did in terms of that affability and familiarity.

Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg (“The Flash”) and Ali Adler (“The New Normal”), “Supergirl” soars, thanks in large part to its star, actress Melissa Benoist (“Glee”). Her mission derailed, young Kara is taken in by foster parents the Danvers — played in cameos by original “Supergirl” star Helen Slater and “Lois & Clark’s” Superman Dean Cain — and their daughter Alex.

And while some of the pilot’s accessories seem designed to address those concerns – most notably Calista Flockhart as the central character’s imperious media-mogul boss, Cat Grant, giving the show a “Devil Wears Prada” vibe – ultimately, the network is hoping there’s a wider audience, relatively speaking, than tuned in for its version of “The Flash” a quarter century ago. Even her domineering boss, the media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), criticizes her meek-mannered nature at the office. “If you can’t take credit when you do something well,” Cat says, “you’re going to be at the bottom of the pile forever.” Fortunately, in her second job, Kara can fly. Cut to the present, where a spectacled Kara (Melissa Benoist, “Glee”) works in National City (a shoutout to DC Comics’ earlier incarnation) for media tycoon Cat Grant (a hilariously campy Calista Flockhart, “Ally McBeal,” channeling “The Devil Wears Prada” boss-from-hell Miranda Priestly). On the plus side, Benoist nails the title role – a name, incidentally, that is quickly explained away, seeking to deflect any charges of sexism about the “girl” designation. Being browbeaten on a regular basis is not fulfilling for Kara, who dreams of doing something meaningful with her powers, like her cousin in Metropolis.

With TV audiences dissipating and the number of productions surging, demand has grown for producers with consistent track records who can deliver attention-grabbing shows. In a rapid-fire origin story, it’s explained that Kara was the older cousin of Kal-El/Superman, who exists (mostly for legal/DC continuity reasons) in an unseen part of this show’s world. But superheroes have been in short supply at CBS since the 1970s and the glory days of Lynda Carter’s “Wonder Woman” and Bill Bixby’s “The Incredible Hulk.” This has left CBS programmers green with envy — green as deadly kryptonite, green as the Arrow’s costume, green as the Joker’s hair. And the workplace comedy component is different, too. “The fact that we’re able to do a little bit of that screwball comedy (Superman was) able to do so successfully makes it a little different.” In a field long dominated by men, Supergirl provides a superhero role model for girls and young women, but she symbolizes values anyone could admire, Benoist says.

TV studios and networks are ordering up an unprecedented number of adaptations, sequels and reboots of old shows, following the example of film companies who have long relied on familiar franchises to fill seats. On her way to Earth, however, Kara got sidetracked and spent 24 years in the Phantom Zone, which explains why she’s younger than her better-known relative.

It’s a superhero story whose motto could be “Up, up and lean in!” Like her supercousin (whom we see in brief glimpses) Kara is express-mailed as a child from an about-to-explode Krypton. Emboldened by her first act, Kara disregards Alex’s warnings and dons — after a fashion faux pas or two — the familiar red-and-blue suit, thanks to her office BFF Winn (Jeremy Jordan, “Smash”).

Naturally, events force Kara to show off what she can do, and she does so spectacularly, in a plane rescue that vaguely echoes the original Christopher Reeve “Superman.” As in that movie, there’s a sense of exultation in the early scenes in which Kara explores her powers, after spending so many years trying to blend in and be “normal.” Taking a page from “The Flash” and “Smallville” before it, the series also seeks to establish via Kara’s origin tale both a deeper mythology and an excuse for Earth to be populated by various super-beings, giving her someone to pick on, as it were, who’s at least close to her size, power-wise. Put in care of a human family, she grows up and moves to National City (like Metropolis, but with palm trees) with her foster sister Alex (Chyler Leigh), who encourages her to keep a low profile. But she draws the fire — literally — of both a shadowy organization trying to control metahumans and an ex-Phantom Zone criminal named Vartox, who wields an atomic ax. “Supergirl’s” dazzling special effects are matched by its heartfelt sisterly bonds. It’s a high-stakes test of a formula that has spawned two successful adaptations—“Arrow” and “The Flash”—on a younger broadcaster, the CW. Between that and establishing her network of friends, that’s a whole lot of business to cram into an hour, raising the age-old question of how the series will fare on an episodic basis, once it lacks the kind of budget that would make most independent films the color of Kryptonite with envy.

But when Kara finds herself the only one able to stop a passenger jet from crashing, she accepts her powers and discovers that she likes the family business. Good casting (including Mehcad Brooks as Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen – now hunky, African-American, and going by the grown-up moniker James) and Benoist’s deft handling of her dual role create hope for the show going forward. Like Clark Kent, though, Kara still has a day job to hold down, and colleagues to guard her secret from, including Jimmy — sorry, James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), recently hired from The Daily Planet. “Supergirl” comes amid a mini-renaissance of TV superheroines — ABC’s “Agent Carter,” Netflix’s coming “Jessica Jones” — but Hollywood’s spotty record still looms. Instead, Kara is smitten by James (not “Jimmy”) Olsen (Mehcad Brooks, “Necessary Roughness”), the company’s new art director. (What he’s art directing in the Catco portfolio isn’t clear: The Tribune newspaper? So does the manner in which the producers and Warner Bros. have generally sustained the level of special effects and action on “The Flash.” Once again, there are also nice homages to the past, such as Dean Cain and Helen Slater as Kara’s adoptive parents.

A recent attempt to reboot “Wonder Woman” for TV fizzled, and tent-pole movies have tended to marginalize what few superheroines they have. (Last season, “Saturday Night Live” scathingly imagined Marvel casting Black Widow of “The Avengers” in a sappy rom-com.) Kara’s unveiling in “Supergirl” plays as a meta-comment on these potential pitfalls. There’s nothing genuinely super about “Supergirl,” which fields an uneven series opener that’s a ragged mix of fun possibilities and annoying drawbacks. And she’s chagrined with the diminutive name that Cat uses to christen National City’s new saviour in the media. “I’m a girl,” Cat shoots back. “And your boss and powerful and rich and hot and smart. The answer hinges on the deep bench of producers, writers, directors and editors he has surrounded himself with since his first TV job in 1998, as a writer on the teen drama “Dawson’s Creek.” As Mr.

Thanks to those strengths, if the producers can sustain the playfulness and action without going overboard on Flockhart’s character, there’s reason to believe this “girl” can fly. So if you perceive ‘Supergirl’ as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?” The defensiveness is blatant, but it’s a genius provocation to give the argument to Flockhart, who on “Ally McBeal” in the ’90s weathered criticism that her lawyer character — with her miniskirts and visions of dancing babies — was a bad feminist. Berlanti shepherded hits of his own (“Everwood”) and plenty of failures (“Eli Stone”), he learned to balance the creative core of his job—shaping stories—with the unremitting pressure to manage time, money and egos. Judging from the first episode, the “girl” in “Supergirl” doesn’t diminish the character so much as define the story, a coming-of-age tale of someone embracing her nature, which happens to involve a cape and heat vision. Fans raised on “Superman” stories, take note: Although he’s mentioned in the “Supergirl” pilot and viewers get a glimpse of his cape, he won’t appear on screen in “Supergirl.” “He will be a factor in her life, but you won’t see him exactly on screen,” said executive producer Geoff Johns at an August CBS press conference. “He’s gonna be more in the background.

His track record, however, is thanks to his focus on the emotional lives of the characters in his shows, whether a cop on the street or a bulletproof woman from the planet Krypton. But he does play a part in her evolution of becoming a superhero.” “It was important for us, especially to have a weekly TV show, to put her in situations where she isn’t all powerful, so that you can root for her,” Mr.

Benoist gives her character’s coming out an infectious joy reminiscent of a recent Netflix comedy: She’s Unbreakable Kara Zor-El. “Supergirl” is an average action show thus far, but its star is engaging. Kara’s first mission, saving the burning jet about to crash, is the pilot’s visual showpiece, but the most striking image is the glimpse you get of Benoist’s face as she hangs upside down bringing the plane to safety.

Kreisberg said “Supergirl” came together more fully formed sooner than expected, which he said was similar to his experience on “The Flash.” But he knows a superhero show has to demand attention because there are currently so many superhero stories available. “At any given moment, there are feature films on — ‘Avengers’ or ‘Dark Knight’ or ‘Man of Steel’ or ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Thor’ — and you can get your kick from this stuff anywhere,” he said in a teleconference with reporters earlier this week. “We have to bring something singular and special every week.” Sinclair Broadcast Group will launch another digital subchannel on its stations nationally. COMET, a co-venture with MGM, launches Oct. 31 with a mix of fantasy, sci-fi and adventure programming, including the TV series “Dead Like Me,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Stargate Atlantis.” Trade reports this week suggest Netflix is developing four 90-minute “Gilmore Girls” reunion movies to be written by the show’s creator. … Broadway fans, take note: PBS debuts “Billy Elliot the Musical Live” (9 tonight, WQED-TV). … FXX airs a marathon of 25 “Treehouse of Horror” episodes of “The Simpsons” in consecutive order starting at noon on Halloween and airing through 12:30 a.m.

Nov. 1. … Michelle Veintimilla, a 2014 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, debuted Monday on Fox’s “Gotham” as Bridgit Pike/Firefly, and she’ll appear again in Monday’s episode (8 p.m., WPGH). Late last week, he started work at his Berlanti Productions office, meeting with President Sarah Schechter, who consulted a three-inch-thick binder and briefed him on their projects. Superheroes are all about helping others, of course; as James says of Supergirl and her kind, “Saving people is what they’re born to do.” But we’ve seen that a million times.

Veintimilla’s also had roles in filmed-in-Pittsburgh productions “Not Cool,” “Those Who Kill” and the upcoming movie “Love the Coopers.” … The 16th annual “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” sweater drive kicks off at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh with an appearance by Mr. But at this time of the season, when existing shows are still finding their legs, he spends most of his time in an office building at the nearby Burbank Studios. It all leads to a new direction, a new costume, the inevitable showdown with a supervillain and the revelation of a must-have evil genius determined to destroy Supergirl. Nov. 6. … On Wednesday, YouTube will launch a $9.99 monthly ad-free subscription service, YouTube Red, featuring original programs, including scripted series and reality shows featuring YouTube stars. … This weekend Amazon will sneak its original series “The Man in the High Castle,” offering free viewing of the show’s first two episodes at www.amazon.com/maninthehighcastle.

This week’s Tuned In Journal includes posts on “Hellevator,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “The Simpsons.” Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv. Spectacle.” He hammered home the first rule as he pinballed among rooms, talking to writers about episodes as they moved through roughly three stages: brainstorming broad plot points, “breaking” the story into its five- or six-act plot structure, and refining as writers work in pairs on the script.

This week’s podcast includes conversation about “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “American Horror Story: Hotel” and new shows we wish we could keep watching but don’t have time to see. Instead, he urged the team to dig deeper into the personal frustrations facing Flash, aka Barry Allen. “As much as he runs, his life is still in the same place,” Mr. Berlanti wasn’t frustrated by having to redirect the writers’ thinking. “The only way to defend an episode through the whole process, with the studio and network and actors [weighing in], is to know in your bones that this is the moment we’re writing toward.” Such moments can be fleeting, as when Supergirl describes herself as “coming out” as a heroine with otherworldly powers. Growing up, he recalls, “I was falling in love with superheroes at probably the same time I was realizing I was gay.” The process of writing and editing overlaps on multiple episodes, giving the visual-effects team an early jump on scripts.

Rough drafts of the visual-effects sequences provide directors a blueprint for shooting scenes, which has been key to boosting the spectacle of superhero shows. His genuine passion for these stories is infectious.” Such conviction is essential when the waning clout of TV networks has even very successful producers questioning the business’s future. “Some days it feels like we’re riding a dinosaur on the Titanic,” Mr. Berlanti moved to Los Angeles and landed his writing job on “Dawson’s Creek” when a college friend gave a movie script of his to series creator Kevin Williamson. Berlanti says today’s TV producers don’t rake it in like their predecessors, especially ones whose shows leapt into syndicated reruns. “I’ve done probably twice as much TV as some guys and women 10 years older than me, but I’m not experiencing the same kind of retire-tomorrow windfall that those people used to off one show. He isn’t as hands-on with “Blindspot” or the crime drama “The Mysteries of Laura” because those shows’ creators, Martin Gero and Jeff Rake, run their own writers rooms.

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