Supergirl

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US TV dramas (especially those on Pay TV in Australia) are flooding us with super-heroes.

A rise in CGI, global threats and a desire for escapism seem to have facilitated an inordinate number of action stars, including several from talented producer Greg Berlanti. The latest is Supergirl, based on the DC Comics character who first appeared in 1959.

In her newest guise, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) borrows the hallmarks that serve her for a modern audience, with new variations. She’s still from Krypton, wears red, yellow and blue, has super-strength and adopts a mild-mannered persona: Kara Danvers.

But instead of existing in Metropolis, she’s at home in a sister-city, National City. She is an assistant to online media CatCo CEO Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). Jimmy Olsen is now a hot African-American James Olsen (True Blood‘s Mehcad Brooks). And she has an Earth half-sister Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh).

Kara has been on Earth since she was 13. In the shadow of her famous cousin, Earth didn’t need another hero, so she has grown up without utilising her powers. That is until her boss Cat is planning to lay off journos due to a lack of front page news (print media takes a bullet here) and her half-sister is aboard a plane that is about to go down. Suddenly she can solve two problems in one, no need to be asked.

National City becomes abuzz with its mysterious “guardian angel” and Kara is torn about revealing her identity. Like Daily Planet editor Perry White, Cat Grant wants the pictures, insisting, “Besides fatty foods there’s nothing people love more than a hero.” Similarly, she has no idea her headline act is right under her nose. But Alex is less enthusiastic about her sister’s new path.

“Everyone will know about you and you can’t take that back,” she tells her.

“I don’t want to,” Kara replies.

“I didn’t travel 2000 miles just to be an assistant.”

What she will come to discover is that there is another body, the Department of Extra-Normal Operations (seriously), who have been trying to thwart equally-powered enemies of National City. I’m not really sure why they didn’t just call Superman, or why they haven’t been apparent to Kara earlier.

One of the things that defines this Supergirl is her liberation. Kara tells Kat she is uncomfortable, for instance, with the hashtag #Supergirl and not #Superwoman. CEO Kat will hear none of it, she is a proud ‘girl’ who can still be “powerful, rich, hot and smart.” The male villain makes a reference to
‘females bowing before males’ and later Kara acknowledges the importance to “always be true to yourself.” Bless. We’ll skip the questions on the uber-mini skirt she’s wearin’…

Melissa Benoist works in the title role, a fitting mix of action star and geeky comedic character. Calista Flockhart tends to hit one note, as bitchy Devil-Wears-Prada boss, while Jeremy Jordan (Smash) as IT expert Winn has a crush on our gal and sort of acts as a surrogate Jimmy Olsen given the “real” one has turned more alpha-male under Mehcad Brooks.

Greg Berlanti has a good handle on what works for his audience: action, relationships and character arcs are nicely juggled even if the script is at times somewhat earnest. There are also cameos by Dean Cain, and Helen Slater from the 1984 film of the same name.

While these franchises can often launch strong before settling for less, this Supergirl is off to a flying start.

Not every day you get to hear TV characters sigh, “I’m kind of tired. I just carried a plane on my back.”

Supergirl premieres 8:30pm Sunday December 6 on FOX8.

10 Comments:

  1. Currently the following shows are screening or are soon to- Agents Of Shield , Agent Carter , The Flash , Arrow , Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. That’s six shows – hardly flooding the airwaves. I guess you could also count Daredevil & Jessica Jones on Netflix but it’s still less than ten shows.
    Compare that to the number of cop, medical or soap/drama shows.
    BTW there have only been three superhero films at the cinema this year- Age of Ultron , Antman and Fantastic Four.
    Personally as a huge comic books fan for over Forty years I’m happy to have some choices. True some are better than others but I would argue Daredevil & Jessica Jones have been two of the best things on tv this year.

    • You forget other ‘wish fulfilment’ series like Heroes, Limitless, Scorpion etc and the repeats of earlier iterations of the genre that currently air, not to mention assorted films like ‘Hunger Games’ etc-there’s more around now than ever before.

      • Well I was talking specifically about Marvel/DC shows.
        If you wanted to group all sci fi and fantasy as wish fulfilment you of course would have a lot more shows.
        Everyone has the choice not to watch these shows. There has never been a time of greater choices and I find it disappointing that some find a need to run down what others enjoy.

    • You forgot about Gotham in the list. And throwmin the new films that are coming out next year and on and at least 3 more tv shows. This genre is shaping up to match the cop, medical shows.

  2. Looking forward to this. I’m unsure why they have a Jimmy Olsen type character who is not Jimmy and different character altogether who is Jimmy, now going by James. I guess the reason may eventually become apparent. The fact that the Supergirl, Jimmy Olsen and Cat Grant charachers are all older than they have been in previos incarnations may have something to do with it. I watched Glee, but i’m still scratching my head over who Melissa played in that. Also Supergirls original alias first name in the comics was Linda. Kara was her Kryptonian name, and at the time, I guess, it wasn’t a real Earth name. Ofcourse now days they are using K’s where there were traditinally C’s.

  3. Secret Squïrrel

    I didn’t watch Glee but Benoist’s brief (in briefs) performance in Homeland was very uninspiring. The fact that she is surrounded in this by stock characters – the pushy boss, the geek with the unrequited crush, the wise and understanding sibling (and what have they done to Jimmy Olsen?) – does nothing to convince me that this will be anything other than the same thin gruel that has been served up for way too long now.

    I’m with JimboJones, I am so over superheroes, especially the movies which are all exactly the same boring story written by a thirteen year-old and stuffed with CGI to hide the lack of drama, tension, or anything else that matters to anyone who is no longer a teenager.

  4. It’s bad enough that these crappy spandex movies are clogging up the cinemas. Now our TVs are going to be infested with superhero spandex and cheesy dialogue. What’s next, Sharknado the TV series?

    Joe “Cineplex Heckler” Queenan wrote a great article for The Guardian a while ago looking at the rise of these movies and TV shows. Basically, they are wish fulfillments for Millenials. You don’t have to work for your super-powers. You just wake up one day and magically get whatever you want. No effort or sweat – everything is handed to you on a platter, just like in real life…

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