22 October 2009: Superheroes on TV

I've
already blogged about supernatural conspiracy series, among other recent shows.
I'm still enjoying Heroes, despite
its declining ratings and sophomore slump. Many critics and fans were turned
off by the inconsistent plotting ("Who's evil this week?") and
convoluted continuity (a hazard when a few characters can travel through time).
Although the ensemble effort doesn't excite me as it initially did, I think the
scripts have improved lately.

Heroes has suffered in comparison
with
other shows involving large casts and supernatural conspiracies, such as Lost and Flash Forward. All require a significant suspension of disbelief,
despite being set in our world — unlike most high fantasy or space operas. As
a longtime fan of comic book superheroes, I still enjoy seeing ordinary people
gaining extraordinary abilities and trying to figure out what to do with them.

Smallville has continued chugging along, pleasing fans of the DC
universe
with more cameos by costumed vigilantes but still teasing us by not
having young Clark Kent don Superman's tights and cape. I like the acting on
this metahuman melodrama more than the sometimes shaky writing. If I'm feeling
nostalgic or purist, at least I can turn to the Superman and Batman
serials
of the 1940s or the Timm/Dini animated versions of the 1990s.

I've
argued that superheroes are more easily adapted from comics to cartoons than to
live action, as the latest wave of four-color shows demonstrates. I've mostly
dropped Iron Man: Armored Adventures
and Fantastic Four to make time for
other shows, such as Wolverine and the
X-Men
and Marvel's Super Hero Squad
Show
, which has grown on me despite its lowbrow humor and low-budget
animation.

Batman and the Brave and the
Bold
's
much-ballyhooed musical episode is this week, following the tradition of Hercules/Xena, Buffy: the Vampire Slayer,
and Dr. Horrible (and let us hope not
Cop Rock). Speaking of Silver Age
campiness, I need to catch up on Spectacular
Spider-Man
because I've missed a few episodes.

Most
of the shows I've just mentioned are adaptations of Marvel superheroes, with DC
Comics sticking with direct-to-video releases for older audiences. I'm looking
forward to Justice League: Crisis on Two
Earths
,
Superman/Batman 2, and
switching back to Marvel for a moment, a hopefully good Avengers team TV series.

There
are several characters I'd like to see on television that wouldn't require lots
expensive effects. If the writing was good, I'd happily tune into a show
focusing on Green Arrow, Daredevil, or the Shadow (but don't get me started
about SyFy's upcoming bastardization of the Phantom).
Which superheroes do you like, and who would you want to see in live-action or
animated TV shows?

Coming soon: Space opera on TV

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