The DC TV Guide, or, My Patented 47-Point System Unveiled

Hey! Did you know that there was a Batman show in the 60s? And a Wonder Woman show in the 70s? And even a short-lived Flash show in the early 90s? So yeah, DC Comics is no stranger to television. But this year they’ve taken the relationship to the next level with a veritable promise ring of new TV offerings.

Three new television shows debuted this fall that are based on DC Comics source material: Gotham on FOX, The Flash on CW and Constantine on NBC. At this rate maybe people will figure out that red with a yellow lightening bolt isn’t Sheldon’s costume.

But it can be a lot to take in, three new television shows in one season, whether you’re a DC Comics fan, a vaguely interested newcomer or a crusty old fella who yells at his grandchildren to explain why TV is so much “gayer” now. But why should you have  to sit through three hour-long television pilots to figure out which, if any, of DC’s new offerings are for you? They have blogs for that shit!

Enter my Patented 47-Point System, a set of variables by which I can identify the right show for you. I put this bad boy together decades ago to help me critique the pilot of Friends for a review I absolutely wrote and that absolutely exists on this very website to this very day. And since that very day I haven’t change a single, solitary point in my Patented 47-Point System. It’s helped me pick out a lot of winners (Game of Thrones, YouTube, Sanford and Son) and avoid a lot of losers (The Olympics, The State of the Union, Mad Men) and now I hand it down to you, so that you might figure out which, if any, of DC Comic’s new TV shows are worth your time.

It’s simple. Browse the list on the left to find what you’re looking for in a TV show and make your way to the right to see which shows have what you’re looking for.

You are so welcome.

 

You're welcome.

You’re welcome.

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Cain Complex, or, Gotham: The Show Not the City

Unrelated - this is the view from my penthouse.

Unrelated – this is the view from my penthouse.

There’s a reason I haven’t written about FOX’s new television series Gotham despite my proclivity for analyzing anything related to Batman to within an inch of its life. Three weeks and as many episodes in and I just don’t feel like there’s much to say about the show, due in large part to the fact that Gotham doesn’t have much to say about itself either.

Love it or hate it, Gotham suffers from crippling insecurity.

So this isn’t so much an analysis or discussion as it is a pep talk.

Like any number of Batman stories Gotham starts off with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of their son Bruce. Where Gotham differs, however, is that rather than flashing forward twenty-some years from Crime Alley the series stays on the streets of Gotham City and follows detectives Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock as they investigate the murder of the cities resident power couple.

But just because Gotham doesn’t immediately fast forward to The Dark Knight doesn’t mean it doesn’t desperately, desperately want to more than anything in the whole wide world.

Gotham has a lot going for it. Shot in New York City and inspired by the aesthetic of the 90s animated Batman series, the titular city feels timeless and alive. Against that stellar backdrop the show’s two leads, Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue are perfect as Gordon and Bullock. A show in this setting with these actors in these roles should be a home run, big brother or not.

Them Gotham Boys is at it again.

Them Gotham Boys is at it again.

But Gotham does have a big brother. Gotham has a lot of big brothers.

The Dark Knight. Arkham City. Year One. The Long Halloween. Mask of the Phantasm. Amongst these titans of Batman mythology Gotham is the de facto scrawny, dweeb of a little brother, always in the shadow of those popular, jacked jocks we all know and love. And now, moving into the high school whose trophy cases are inscribed with its siblings’ names, Gotham chooses to coast on their coattails, constantly referencing and eluding to all the things that were so great about the rest of its family rather than leaning into its own strengths.

Gotham, I know your big brothers. I own them on Blu-ray. Why would I, or anyone else, sit around for an hour every week to listen to you talk about your brothers when I could just call up one of your brothers myself at literally any moment?

We’d all love to be Batman. But none of us are. And that includes Gotham.

So rather than live out the rest of its days sandwiching veiled Joker bread crumbs between Edward Nigma being accused of telling riddles and Selina Kyle proclaiming everyone call her “Cat,” I’m hoping that Gotham somehow finds its way to a hip guidance counselor and learns that being yourself is neato-burrito.

Extended metaphorical pep talk over.

Good luck, kid.

The Politics of Kicking Ass, or, 24 Lives Another Day

Jack is back for Bauer Hour.

RHYME ATTACK

RHYME ATTACK

When 24 was canceled just prior to the end of its eighth season it had been a few years past its prime. The thrill and intrigue of the series’ first five seasons slowly gave way to tired and all too familiar tropes. A long term series’ regular was going to die. An intelligence analyst was going to end up being a mole. A hugely abrasive dick was going to turn out to be an alright dude. And politics would happen. Lots and lots of politics.

But even the soap opera of 24’s final three seasons can’t wash away the glory of its golden years.

24 is a show about counter terrorism that went into production just before, and began airing just after, 9/11. That timing alone makes it a piece of popular culture worth examining. In the years after its first season 24 evolved in reaction to the changing political culture and foreign policy of the War on Terror, with Jack Bauer becoming something of a reluctant middle man between political machinations and public opinion.

Oh and he also kicked a lot of ass.

Classic Jack face

Classic Jack face

Just so much ass.

Remember that time he tortured a guy with a lamp?

So. Much. Ass.

Jack Bauer doesn’t have time to kick ass and take names, because by the time he’s done kicking one ass he’s already kicking another ass.

But sometimes kicking ass is not enough, and when 24 got canceled I couldn’t say I was all that heartbroken over the decision. Likewise, when 24: Live Another Day, a sort of pseudo-ninth season mini-series, was announced I couldn’t say I was all that pumped.

24 was very much a product of a time and a place, and while I would point to it as a quintessential piece of post-9/11 American pop culture, the cultural and political climate of the United States has obviously changed since the mid-00s. Has 24 adapted with it?

Kind of.

The premiere of 24: Live Another Day, the first two hours of the truncated 12-hour season, swaps out radical Islam and the Patriot Act for drones and Wiki-leaks, but outside of a change in buzzwords and setting (now Jack is in London) little else has changed.

There’s a London CIA office full of new characters and anyone whose kept up with 24 over the years has met them all before in one iteration or another. There’s a new president with a new staff, but as of yet the political side of Live Another Day has proven to be little more than an antagonizing load screen between Jack Bauer sequences.

DAMNIT

DAMNIT

Then there’s Chloe, whose depiction here feels entirely out of touch. She’s a hacktivist now, a stab at relevancy that comes off as just plain silly by blatantly turning her into Lisbeth Salander.

But through all of that there’s still Jack Bauer, an impossible badass in the best way. Bauer is no longer a man here. He’s an icon. A superhero who, like Batman or Spider-Man, has become something constant, unstoppable and more than human. Though the characters and settings around him change, Bauer will always put on a scowl like Batman wears a cowl, and sling DAMNITs like Spider-Man slings web.

24 may be something of a legacy act, but amongst all of Live Another Day’s misguided new songs Jack Bauer is very much the deepest, truest cut from our youth that will always warrant an impassioned fist pump.

I wasn’t hooked by the first two hours of Live Another Day, but in fairness it was usually the first four hours of a season of 24 that served as the exciting springboard for the craziness to come. So with any luck in two more episodes I’ll be at the edge of my seat.

But even if the rest of Live Another Day never elevates itself above the premiere’s shortcomings, if nothing else Jack is most definitely back.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1. Would 24 have been as successful as it was had it not debuted in the specific time in American history it did?

2. Have you ever played the 24 DVD Board Game? If so, why and how?

3. Is Live Another Day the worst title you’ve ever heard, or is it a close second behind Dark of the Moon?

Demographic Attack!, or, Who Watches the Axe Cop?

CHOP CHOP CHOP

CHOP CHOP CHOP

Axe Cop is magical. When the web comic detailing the cop with a perfect fireman’s axe began in 2009 artist Ethan Nicolle was 29 years old and his brother and fellow story writer Malachai Nicolle was five. And it shows in the best way.

There are ninjas and zombies and dinosaurs. Heroes develop preposterous new powers at the drop of a hat: they’re dinosaur one moment, an avocado the next and an avocado with a unicorn horn taken from an alien baby just moments later. The comic is a brilliantly illustrated transcript of a boy’s imagination unhinged in the midst of a game of pretend. If Calvin and Hobbes wrote a comic book it would be Axe Cop. It’s hilarious and so much more.

Reading Axe Cop harkens back to a time when five year olds didn’t spend their days pissing off grown ass men during Call of Duty bouts on Xbox Live and were instead more inclined to create their own entertainment with that ever-dulling tool imagination.

Is Axe Cop uninfluenced by idols of boyhood like Batman and Ben 10? No. But even when such influences are undeniable the insane adaptive liberties are a site to be hold. Here’s to you Bat-Warthog-Man.

The hero we deserve, or need, or whichever.

The hero we deserve, or need, or whichever.

Axe Cop has little concern for continuity or cannon and is instead wholly focused on being fun and having fun in the moment. If that means Wexter the T-Rex becomes Wexter the Dragon then so be it. As long as he’s still lighting bad guys ablaze Axe Cop is good to go.

And plenty of bad guys are set ablaze. Plenty more have their heads chopped off (it’s kind of Axe Cop’s thing). He also has a tendency to straight up murder them in their sleep. And a bunch of folks are attacked by evil poop from a poop planet.

The light hearted imagination of a five-year-old is constantly present in Axe Cop, but it comes with a similarly imaginative naïve dark streak. While I’m laughing hysterically at Axe Cop’s night time murder-prowls I simultaneously have to wonder if other five-year-old boys are even allowed to read Axe Cop. It’s material that simultaneously serves as the type of laughably violent potty humor a parent would want to keep their kids away from and the type of laughably violent potty humor every kid concocts and spews on a daily basis just out of earshot.

Further complicating Axe Cop’s duality is the new TV show adaptation on Fox.

The pilot debuted last weekend and it was amazing. Nick Offerman voices the titular icon immaculately and the animation brings Malachai’s imagination to life. The first 11 minute episode perfectly melds the bombastic creativity that is driving a car off a wrap into space to go to the dinosaur horn planet with the mundane monotony that is arguing with the guy at the dinosaur horn store over the merits of buying a dinosaur horn versus renting a dinosaur horn and risking the inevitable late fees. It’s a cocktail that’s sure to please viewers and it’s on Fox, so it’s pretty much destined to get canned and become an awesome cult phenomenon watched ad infinitum on college campuses the world over. You need to watch it. While you still can.

Adaptive brilliance!

Adaptive brilliance!

Unfortunately, brilliant as the Axe Cop TV adaptation is, it sticks out like a sore thumb amongst its peers in Fox’s Animation Domination programming block. It’s airing at 11 at night and being bundled in amongst shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad. The show airing immediately after it, High School USA, boasts jokes about glory holes and being “rapey.” Woah. What?

Both the Axe Cop web comic and television show are hilarious and ridiculous, but they bring with that hilarity a sense of earnest nostalgia and joy. Not a nostalgia for Pokémon cards or Nickelodeon, a nostalgia for a mindset and a way of thinking that gets lost somewhere in growing up. It’s a beautiful thing, and while it might not be entirely appropriate for kids to watch, on another level it is the most appropriate thing for a kid to watch on television today. Pairing it up with the likes of The Simpsons and Family Guy and marketed exclusively to the late night college kid demographic might be smart and it might make sense, but man is it a bummer.

Still. You need to watch it immediately.

Go!