You go, ‘Supergirl': CBS turns second-string story into empowerment tale

25 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Supergirl’ breaks superhero adaptation glass ceiling.

Not everyone in National City agrees; they live in a fictional world where Superman exists and is seen to be sufficient. That’s the vibe in the dark, cave-like Department of Extra-Normal Operations, where a weakened Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) pushes back when her alter ego’s adoptive sister, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), tells her to get some rest in an upcoming episode of the latest DC Comics TV series, Supergirl (CBS, Monday, 8:30 p.m.

After keeping her powers a secret on Earth, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) embraces her superhuman abilities in CBS’s “Supergirl,” which premieres Monday night. (CBS) Like any self-respecting millenial, Kara Danvers knows she’s destined for great things.“The second that I saw in my email inbox the title ‘Supergirl,’ I knew it was something important, and it was something exciting and rare that I wanted to be a part of.” Before the show has even premiered, Supergirl has become part of the zeitgeist: GOP hopeful Jeb Bush said last week that he thinks “she’s pretty hot” and plans to watch the program. ET/PT). “We don’t have time for you to big-sister me,” Supergirl says, inserting a bit of sibling tension into a battle with aliens that could decide the fate of their home, National City.

Difference: Born Kara Zor-El on the planet Krypton, she actually is. “Supergirl,” CBS’s buoyant if belated entry into the superhero sweepstakes, makes a strong case for a comic book character long considered second-string. And since superheroes aren’t exactly hard to find these days, creator Greg Berlanti – who also handles “The Flash” and “Arrow” over at the CW – designed Benoist’s Supergirl to take a different flight path from her predecessors. “I didn’t read the comic as a kid,” she says. “But I’ve immersed myself in the mythology now, so I know she’s a very different character than she is in the comic. As the sisters leave the DEO, an ultra-secret organization that monitors and fights supervillains who hail from Krypton and beyond, Supergirl shifts from the heroic — saving the world with the power of flight, amazing strength and X-ray vision — to the routine, assuming her cover identity as Kara Danvers, an under-appreciated assistant to self-absorbed media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart).

With a star-making turn by Melissa Benoist (“Glee”), who has the same shining sincerity and quiet fortitude as the young Christopher Reeve, “Supergirl” is an all-ages romp with an omnipresent grrrl power vibe, albeit one that comes a tad close to pandering at times. Supergirl will feature plenty of DC Comics characters, including Reactron, Livewire and Red Tornado, and it mixes genres, says executive producer Ali Adler. “It’s very much an action-adventure series.

Perhaps it’s because the show comes from Greg Berlanti, who has proven with CW’s The Flash and Arrow that he knows a secret to making these kind of series that has yet to be revealed to the folks behind Heroes Reborn or Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Or perhaps it’s simply that Supergirl’s mix of optimism and adventure — laced with messages of self-discovery and female empowerment and held together by a completely winning performance from Melissa Benoist — is simply a nearly irresistible combination. With the collapse of Krypton imminent, Kara’s parents planned to send the 13-year-old girl to Earth with the baby Kal-El as his protector — the first of several girl power notes struck throughout the first hour — but the destruction of the planet knocked her into the Phantom Zone for 24 years, where time doesn’t pass. And, it’s an amazing visual-effects spectacular.” During a break on the DEO set — a blend of technological future and geological past that features computer banks, stalactites and the spaceship that transported Kara Zor-El, as she was known on Krypton — Benoist says she’s playing two characters in very different environments. “You see Kara kicking ass as Supergirl.

By the time she arrives on Earth, Kal-El had revealed himself to be Superman, and he fosters the still-teenaged Kara with his own mentors the Danvers (“Lois & Clark” star Dean Cain and Helen Slater, the original pop culture Supergirl) and their teenaged daughter Alex (played as an adult by Chyler Leigh). It’s heavily laced with humor, abetted by Kara’s Earth sister Alex (Chyler Leigh), and it also builds to a girl-power version of “Rocky,” in which Cat gives an impassioned speech asking who in blazes decided a woman can’t be the same kind of superhero as a man. And, naturally, to fight, because some very bad guys can’t believe a mere girl could stop their nefarious schemes and thus instigate extended hand-to-hand battles.

So she tries to fit in, working for Cat Grant while ignoring the romantic longings of her friend Winn (Jeremy Jordan), and possibly crushing herself on her boss’s latest hire, famous photographer James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks). Costume designer Colleen Atwood did a “great” job there, Benoist says, losing the glossy bright red and blue of the comic for more muted colors that let a girl move. Yet she’s always felt the need to help people, and when her sister (Chyler Leigh) faces disaster, Kara seizes her chance to be who she was meant to be.

With her adoptive parents, there’s (been) comparison.” Alex has been acting as Kara’s protector, tamping down her younger sister’s desire to use her powers to let her live a normal life and keep her off the radar of potential enemies. Sister Alex, who knows her secret (and has one of her own), tells her it’s not safe to reveal herself, but Kara is thrilled: “I didn’t travel 2,000 light years to be an assistant.” Cue self-actualization (a k a costume montage), aided by her cute pal and co-worker Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan), whom she quickly let in on her big secret. (Winn’s name may be familiar to “Super” fans, but I won’t spoil his identity here. But much of the show plays out like a rom-com with Kara trying to discover who she is, having flirtations at work, while battling her boss, an amalgam of Devil Wear’s Prada editrix types that have dominated the genre. There are some heavy messages entangled there, but the pilot treads lightly and moves swiftly, quickly establishing the evil force Kara will have to fight and the team she’ll have by her side.

Modern-day superhero costumes are typically cumbersome suits of armour (think any Batman film) that lend gravitas to the hero but make it difficult to emote. Growing up, “Alex is the star of the family, but when Kara comes into the picture, because she’s so extraordinary, Alex felt an intense need to train harder, fight harder and study harder so she could feel as special as Kara already was.” Alex teams up with DEO chief Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) to battle a cluster of intergalactic criminals from Krypton’s Fort Rozz who are starting to arise and attack.

Only the first episode was available for review, but the writing and direction is assured enough that easy to see where this show headed: an uplifting thrill ride that isn’t a heavy lift like so many dark superhero dramas — although if that’s your bag, there’s always “Jessica Jones” on Netflix next month. The current outfit is truer to the original comic book depiction and hearkens back to 1950s George Reeves and his Spandex suit. “I was relieved to be honest. It was like I knew what was coming and what I would have to do in terms of fighting and flying,” said Benoist. “But it still feels strong, secure and solid.

But obviously, the show could not work if the blend of joy, shyness and hesitant self-assertion Benoist brings to her role did not seem just about perfect. Her clumsy early efforts to fight the villains makes his work more difficult. “He is initially suspicious of Supergirl’s arrival because it complicates his own mission, which is to bring humankind and alien-kind to some kind of peace. Find NJ.com/Entertainment on Facebook, and check out TV Hangover, the podcast from Vicki and co-host Erin Medley on iTunes, Stitcher or listen here: NJ.com TV critic Vicki Hyman and super fan Erin Medley talk top TV news, ratings winners and losers, and discuss the new anthology “Wicked City.” Don’t forget to play along to “Name the Show” based on quirky TV dialogue. That shyness, being a wallflower, not knowing who you are quite yet and trying to live up to your potential.” Superhero shows are chock-a-block on airwaves currently.

— RR Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) and Olivia (Kerry Washington) are presented with a plan that might just make all of their troubles go away, and Mellie (Bellamy Young) is put through the ringer when confronted about her troubled marriage. Co-hosts Michael Strahan (left, as Lando Calrissian of the “Star Wars” franchise) and Kelly Ripa (as Princess Leia) are going all out for Halloween, dressing up as characters from the hit show “Empire” and the film “Magic Mike XXL.” With Strahan’s penchant for drag (remember the year he came as Oprah?), we can only assume he’s going to wear one of Cookie’s animal- print outfits. Like the Flash, Supergirl indulges a younger viewer, and young women (and fans of Glee) will likely find Benoist’s lovable dork act highly relatable. “In life, I think everyone will be able to understand her journey,” says Benoist. “She’s not the only one going through it; everyone is trying to figure out who they are.” Producer Berlanti told TV critics that Benoist was the first to audition for the role. The FBI trainees leave campus for the first time while on an undercover assignment, and Alex (Priyanka Chopra) and Ryan (Jake McLaughlin) become closer.

There was hope that this Joss Whedon vehicle would push the envelope, but it seemed Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) was too busy directing Avengers movies while the script seemed aimed at tweens and selling Disney bobbleheads. Detectives Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto) and new partner Paco Contreras (Gabriel Luna) are assigned to track down a killer who preys on women seeking fame in LA. The show seems back on track with a cast that is far more cohesive. was one of the first contemporary superhero TV shows to truly capture the imagination.

Their perp, unbeknownst to them, is Kent Grainger (Ed Westwick), a twisted soul who craves attention and goes on a murderous rampage to obtain notoriety. Jack and Paco catch a break when they stumble upon Karen McClaren (Taissa Farmiga), a journalist who may have met the killer at a club and could ID him. We kick off with Helen (Maura Tierney), who gets high and drunk and goes to pick up her kids from a play-date at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, having run straight from the beauty salon with foil papers in her hair. This campy show screens popular films as host Michael Urie and a panel of Hollywood experts dish behind-the-scenes gossip during commercial breaks. “Cocktails & Classics” kicks off its second season with a Halloween-appropriate viewing of 1987’s “The Witches of Eastwick,” based on the John Updike best seller. Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer star as three lonely, vodka-swilling singletons who discover a hidden talent for witchcraft when a devilishly seductive man (Jack Nicholson) arrives in their small town.

Future installments of the series will highlight movies including “Mommie Dearest” (Nov. 8), “All About Eve” (Nov. 15) and “The Poseidon Adventure” (Nov. 22). Before Melissa Benoist donned the cape, Supergirl was a Torontonian. , shot in Vancouver, gave us Laura Vandervoort’s version, a little more glamorous, a little more Amazonian, but it could have used a side order of dork to make her more human. And despite her better known co-stars Faye Dunaway and Peter O’Toole earning Golden Raspberry Award nominations for their roles, Slater actually did a passable job.

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