Tonight’s ‘Supergirl’ debut: 8 reasons why CBS’s new superhero show is poised …

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Supergirl is no Kryptonian rom com, but it’s full of goofy charm.

Last spring, SNL aired a spoof of Avengers: Age of Ultron that roundly mocked how Marvel — and, by extension, much of Hollywood — might approach stories about female superheroes. Well, there’s The Flash and Arrow over at the CW, Gotham on Fox, Heroes: Reborn on NBC, Marvel’s Agents of Shield on ABC, and Daredevil, Jessica Jones and three other shows in the works on Netflix, so the short answer to your question is: a lot.

So it didn’t help at all when the first trailer for CBS’s Supergirl seemed to indicate that the show would make all the same limiting assumptions about what audiences wanted from the property. It looked like DC Comics meets The Devil Wears Prada, with Supergirl schlepping coffee for her cruel,exceedingly fashionable boss while falling in love with her hot coworker. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (8 p.m., CW) – Despite a childhood fear of hosting parties and a lack of social connections in West Covina, Rebecca plans a housewarming party. Supergirl, which premieres tonight, opens by intentionally checking off each of those “chick-flick” beats in the first 10 minutes — and then proceeds to turn the tropes upside-down. I’ll Have What Phil’s Having (10 p.m., UNC-TV) – Phil travels to Barcelona, where he has a world-class breakfast of foie-gras and eggs, participates in a tapas crawl and visits a vermouth bar.

Supergirl stars Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El, the older cousin of Superman who, in a more modern take on the character, was originally tasked with watching over him moments before Krypton’s destruction. He gives her a foster home with a California couple (played by former Supergirl Helen Slater and former Superman Dean Cain) who have a daughter about the same age named Alex (Chyler Leigh). But after Krypton explodes, her spacecraft is sent careening into the Phantom Zone, where she’s kept in suspended animation for 24 years — just enough time for Kal-El to emerge as the Man of Steel.

When she finally makes it to Earth, stripped of her original purpose, Kara sets out to do what any normal, Midwestern girl from space would do: try to make it in the big city as a personal assistant. Here, in the tradition of other Greg Berlanti superhero shows like Arrow and The Flash, Supergirl tries to have fun with its characters, and above all is invested in making you feel the wonder and amazement they feel when they see a woman fly.

Also the non-powered crush objects, both Jimmy and co-worker Winn (Jeremy Jordan), have little agency in the story, a role usually reserved for sidelined female characters. Then there is the whole sister dynamic between Kara and Alex, who just happens to work for the DEO, the Department of Extra-Normal Operations, which is sort of like the CIA for alien stuff. However, one of the best moments of the pilot is when Kara takes offence at the “girl” in Supergirl, saying it diminishes the character and is anti-feminist.

But this show is silly, so much so that it’s hard not to roll your eyes or groan at the action onscreen. (Some slipshod CG here and there doesn’t help either.) Whether or not that’s a strength or a weakness, however, is something that will be decided by fans. Kara’s boss Cat demonstrates that there is a lot of power in the label “girl” so if anyone has a problem with it, maybe that’s their own issue. For instance, during a montage of Kara developing her costume, the scene shifts to her walking through a hail of bullets to the tune of Carl Carlton’s “She’s a Bad Mama Jama.” It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, and my eyes rolled right out of my head, but I couldn’t help but be swayed by the moment’s hyper-earnest charm. Not every show can sell its campy side so deftly, but Benoist and her supporting cast, all so full of determined smiles and a willingness to chew a little scenery, make it work throughout. Yes, the special effects are top-notch and there are a number of great action sequences that feature Supergirl saving a crashing plane and fighting the first in what is sure to be a long line of extraterrestrial villains.

In one scene that may have fallen flat in the initial trailer, Kara confronts Cat about the name Supergirl, a moniker we learn Cat invented as a way to sell newspapers. “I’m a girl,” Cat says, “and your boss, and powerful, and rich, and hot, and smart. Unlike Gotham, which is taking a bit of a different approach with the “Batman as a kid” angle, most of these shows are stuck in very familiar formats. So if you perceive Supergirl as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?” The scene is more than a little self-referential, and perhaps heavy-handed, but there’s something to be said for how Cat owns it.

Most other shows are about a dark brooding hero who is so tortured he has to help others (Arrow) or a do-gooder just learning about his powers (The Flash). It’s about a young woman trying to figure out her purpose in the world and wanting to do the best, not only for herself, but also for all the people she could be helping. There must be something involving the image rights to the character at play, because they don’t even utter his name and we only see him as a baby and in silhouette. I’m afraid those who watch all those other shows might reach a little bit of fatigue with the genre and I would say skip this one unless you are really a diehard fan.

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