Pretty much on most network television channels (and some streaming) we have a superhero show. ABC Television has Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and previously had Agent Carter, shows tied into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Netflix has been churning out shows (and will continue ever six months going forward) like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders. Syfy is developing a superman spin-off titled Krypton. Freeform is developing a Cloak and Dagger show which will also be affiliated with the MCU. Hulu Prime is developing Runaways after the famous Marvel series. Of course, The CW has a superhero show on almost every night of the week with Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. Last but not least, Fox has Gotham based on characters from Batman and features many DC Comics characters.
Which is why it’s such a surprise that the showrunner of Gotham, Bruno Heller said that “Superheroes don’t work on TV.” At the Edinburgh Television Festival spoke about Gotham and how it differs from other television shows.
“I don’t think superheroes work very well on TV, probably because of the costume thing. … TV is about real people and faces, and not so much about magic and the supernatural things.”
Heller talks about Gotham toeing a fine line between real and unreal. Heller prefers having a show that has comic book roots but tries to stay grounded in “the real world” as much as possible. He would prefer the show be “real and unreal” at the same time.
“The comic book constituency has become so large and visible with the whole Comic-Con thing that it is very easy to assume that the audience is purely comic book enthusiasts. But I operate the show on the basis that it is a mistake to just go there. … What we are trying to do is always give little Easter eggs, little gifts every episode to the real cognoscenti, but you don’t need to know more than the basic Batman myth.”
There are some who feel we are slowly going through “superhero fatigue” who will probably get his point. But for the most part, most of the shows listed above are a ratings gold mine for that very reason because they are faithful adaptations of comic books and they embrace the “super” in superheroes. They have great character-driven stories even though they are part of the “unreal” and they work exceptionally well. This can cause a little bit of concern for Gotham fans who hope one day young Bruce Wayne will don the cape on the show. Since that’s a long ways away, we’ll have to follow the show through Jim Gordon’s eyes.