TV Review - Supergirl (2015)

The problem with this series is the same problem that a lot of TV shows have that are pure genre fare. It doesn't feel like it's its own thing. It doesn't feel like it's offering anything different from what we've had or currently have. There are now a handful of TV shows that are of this genre being action and adventure, and adaptations of comic books or simply stories of people with special if not supernatural powers. As you watch the first episode of this show, you are reminded of each of those handful of shows. So much so, it makes you wonder as to why bother with this. Given that 2015 has had the hot-button issue of gender equality in the news and in politics all year long, as well as the push for more and better female representation in media, this show blatantly puts that forward and champions feminism on its face.

However, this year has been a real turning point in that regard as to make this show's female empowerment themes almost outdated. Thankfully, a scene about half-way through the first episode takes the piss out of it and revels in the fun of the performances of its lead and top supporting actress. What saves the show is that of Melissa Benoist (Glee and Whiplash) whose bright and bubbly personality buoys much of the hackneyed work here.

Written by Ali Adler whose penned scripts for such super hero TV shows as No Ordinary Family and Chuck, and directed by Glen Winter whose been the man behind the camera for such super hero TV shows as Smallville and Arrow, the show looks very bright and bubbly too. You always think that you're either in a confectionery or the Apple Store whenever you're in the main sets during the daytime and even during the night scenes.

Benoist effervescently stars as Kara Danvers, the personal assistant to Cat Grant, played by Calista Flockhart. Flockhart might be well known as the star of Ally McBeal, a show that better explored issues of feminism, empowerment and even sexuality. However, recently Flockhart was the star of the ABC series Brothers & Sisters, which was created by the same guy who created this series, Greg Berlanti.

Cat Grant is the head of CatCo Media, a company probably not unlike News Corp., although I wouldn't compare Cat to Rupert Murdoch. Flockhart invokes some of her Ally McBeal ticks here, but her Cat Grant is more a mix of Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada and J.K. Simmons' character in Spider-Man. CatCo recently acquired the Tribune, which is the newspaper of record in the fictional National City in which this series is set. Cat had to downsize the paper, as it's in danger of folding unless she can get something to boost sales or readership.

Kara might be that something, as she's secretly the cousin of Superman, the human-like alien from the planet Krypton who can fly, has super-strength, super-hearing, super-vision, invincibility and even laser eyes. Kara has all those same powers, but, before Krypton was destroyed, Kara's mother sent criminals to the Phantom Zone. Kara's spaceship passed through the Phantom Zone and accidentally released all the criminals who were all able to make it to Earth too. These criminals form the basis of the villains that Kara now has to fight in order to protect the Earth.

The arrival of the villains at the same time as the hero is the same tactic that was utilized in the series Smallville. It's a similar tactic utilized in Berlanti's other super hero series The Flash. Linking the origins of the heroes with the origins of the villains seems to be common. Also similar to Smallville is this show's stunt casting. Smallville was about a teenage Superman, and that show cast actors who had been in Superman shows in decades past. This show is no different.

Kara's parents are in fact the actress who starred in 1984's Supergirl and the actor who starred in the series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Helen Slater and Dean Cain respectively only appear briefly in the first episode and have no lines of dialogue. It will be interesting to see how they're used in future episodes. Hopefully, it will be to equal effect as in Smallville. Cain in fact also starred in Berlanti's directorial debut The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (2000).

Much like The Flash, this show doesn't waste any time establishing the character and setting her up for super-powered battles. The show makes a lot of jumps in this first episode. Familiarity with the Superman comics or films perhaps help because the show-makers take that familiarity for granted. The Flash, however, had Arrow the year prior to help set-up the characters, so that we weren't so much thrust into a new world. Here, we don't have that buffer. We're thrust into everything dizzingly and just have to accept it.

It doesn't help that the relationships between the characters don't feel as strong as those in The Flash. Kara has an adopted sister named Alex Danvers, played by Chyler Leigh. That relationship is supposed to be central here. It's in many ways the emotional core of this first episode. It's very much appreciated, but it just doesn't feel as strong or compelling as the relationship between Grant Gustin who also came from Glee and Jesse L. Martin who plays his adopted father in The Flash.

The fight choreography wasn't as great as that in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. The action and the intrigue certainly isn't as interesting as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or even Agent Carter. I also don't see much potential in Kara's so-called Scooby gang. Mehcad Brooks (True Blood) who plays Jimmy Olsen, the art director at CatCo Media and Jeremy Jordon (Smash) who plays Winn Schott don't really get anything to do in the first episode. Hopefully, more can done with them because currently they're boring.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG-V.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 8PM on CBS.


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