And here we go, now that the fall season has launched all its shows (or all the shows I care about, get your own column).
So I'll start with the most recent: Supergirl. It's the one that had me the most excited, and unfortunately, it is so far a mild disappointment. "A bit too rom-com" was what I heard from several people, though most critics just seem delighted that we have one superhero show that isn't about a white male hero. Sadly, that really is enough to get us excited - something different for once.
Unfortunately, there's not much that's different about Supergirl except the gender of the main character. It's fluffy and candy-colored, while her film counterpart is unremittingly grim and dull. Surely there's a middle ground, DC? You managed it before, without wedding Smallville to The Devil Wears Prada.
Spoilers ahoy! Ye were warned.
First: Melissa Benoist is doing just fine with the fluffy material she is given. She has an appealing charm that suits Kara, and the problems with the pilot don't lie with her. Best moment: as she's trying to save a crashing plane (We're going to do a callback to Superman Returns? Seriously?) and sees she's heading for a bridge. "Oh come on!" she grumps. Hee.
The backup cast - superhot "James" Olsen and the nerdy best friend are mere placeholders with eventual potential, and yes, we see the love triangle coming all the way from Krypton, so if we must do this thing, make it more Buffy and less Twilight, okay, guys?
But this one's really about the women. We have sister Alex, who has an inexplicable and totally invisible competition with Kara that gets completely resolved in ten minutes. She also works for SHIELD - I mean, um, whatever the secret anti-alien society is with another forgettable character who hates aliens in their role to ... protect us from truth, justice and the American Way? It's hard to tell. Or care.
Calista Flockhart is nicely cast as Prada McBeal - shut up, I can make up character names if I please - a female counterpart to J. Jonah Jameson with an awful proto-feminist "what, I'm a girl!" speech that makes me deliciously hate her. If there's a failing in her casting, it's that she's a better antagonist than the lame Aunt From Hell we get in the last five minutes. Then you add in the Ghost of Alura (Kara's mum) as the super-powerful matriarch looming over Kara (shades of Jor-El, natch) and it's like we're setting up for the battle of the matriarchs.
As EW pointed out, the biggest obstacles in Kara's quest to become a heroine is... other women.
That bugs me, because it shades of "women must fight women," just as we had to manufacture some totally artificial conflict between Kara and her foster sister because women can't work together in TV Land. I suppose it can go somewhere interesting, but right now it just shades of "this is what men think the world would look like if women ran it." With bonus nonsense that women and men can't fight each other, which went out of fashion after Lois Lane decked Ursa in Superman II just so Superman wouldn't be seen smacking a woman. Thank Zod Kara's final battle was with the Alien Meathead, or I'd really be annoyed.
I'd give them bonus points for fan-service stunt casting in Supergirl Helen Slater and Lois and Clark Dean Cain as foster parents Danvers, except they had exactly one line between them and disappeared. Here's hoping for more.
So here's the ticker:
Minus five points for stupid blubbering by Kara when she meets the super-hot "James" Olsen, because male writers always think that's the way women act when they meet a Hot Guy. Seriously, I have never observed a woman act this way in front of the hottest of hot guys, and yet in television and movies, the most intelligent and capable woman becomes a blithering idiot when faced with a guy who stepped out of GQ. Case in point: poor Natalie Portman is practically juggling cereal bowls when Thor stops by her trailer in the first movie, for no apparent reason dropping forty IQ points. Real women might temporarily stop speaking for ten seconds in shock, but they don't turn into total idiots. Not even when Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum inexplicably hits on them.
Minus two points for massive infodump jamming the entire origin story in the prelude. I get that they didn't want the pilot to be her whole backstory, but I think a little more time with the Danverses and Kara's history, a little less time with "hilarious" blind dates from an online service would have done well.
Minus five points and a slap with a copy of the SPJ Code of Ethics for Jimmy Olsen winning the Pulitzer for a POSED fake-candid of Superman.
Plus ten points for the costume mockery. No, Supergirl does not wear hotpants.
Minus three points for sister competitiveness instead of working together because of course women can't work with other women, minus five points for Prada McBeal's "what, I'm a girl!" speech, as detailed before.
Plus three points for actual human emotion at Alura's hologram. It was probably the only moment that felt real to me, and reminded us that unlike Kal-El, Kara has actual memories of her deceased parents, and real pain at losing them. Which also underscores the weirdness that she and Kal-El apparently have no real relationship in this version, despite being the only relatives these two orphans have left.
Minus two points for lame sister-resolution. Have I stated yet that it was a stupid choice? Create totally artificial competitiveness that appears out of nowhere and then resolves itself! Go watch Smallville and get back to me on slow-growth competition.
Plus three points for "we're not calling ourselves (Superfriends)." Ha! (Though maybe keep your voice down about your Big Secret in a newsroom. Seriously, Hollywood people writing journalists - I'm available to consult.)
Which leaves them at a negative six to start. Argh. I'd agree with Kara's final conclusion: The world needs Supergirl, if only to balance out the hideous atrocity that was Man of Steel and that, I fear, will be compounded by Batman vs. Superman. But we can do better. Please, do better. Fly.