Spinoffs are tricky. You have to share enough characteristics with the original show to draw its core audience, but be different enough to give viewers a reason to watch your show too.
In the case of The Flash, it seems that the show is hitting all the right notes: clearly occupying the popular superhero genre of its predecessor, Arrow, while offering something quite different for viewers.
The Flash and Arrow
If Arrow has a Batman-like feel to it, featuring a millionaire vigilante running loose in a morally decaying city, then The Flash is certainly more reminiscent of Spiderman: kid of modest means but with a strong scientific background is imbued with meta powers and seeks to right a criminal wrong from his tragic past.
Tackling the role of the fresh faced Barry Allen, Grant Gustin strikes a good balance between earnest and determined without coming across as cloying or naive. As with any good superhero story, he has a team working behind the scenes (Danielle Panabake, Carlos Valdes), and a mentor to whom he looks for moral guidance (Law & Order vet Jesse L. Martin). Barry’s unrequited crush on his mentor’s daughter (Candice Patton) is similarly reminiscent of your friendly neighborhood you-know-what.
Where The Flash begins to distinguish itself is with an intriguing sidestory of an apparently time-traveling and ethically challenged guardian angel (Thomas Cavanaugh) who appears to be the Flash’s altruistic benefactor but in reality is much more manipulative.
The weekly stories have the Flash tracking down other “meta-humans” who were enhanced in the same accidental way he was. The plethora of “special abilities” on display offers a stark contrast to Arrow, where the action is (mostly) dependent on precision fighting skills and not powers. An additional mystery about the death of Barry Allen’s mother for which his father has been wrongly imprisoned is a bit hero-cliched, but with so many moving parts adds a welcome additional level of complexity.
Most importantly, The Flash nicely contrasts with Arrow while maintaining a common core. Anyone who is a fan of the latter has likely already latched on to the former as a favored new show.
Arrow, meanwhile, enters its third season with several changes in place. Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is having to pursue his vigilante desires on a budget, and with his girl Friday Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) working for his rival. To the undoubted delight of fans, Oliver & Felicity are also trying to sort out their romantic interest in one another.
SPOILER ALERT: A second storyline focuses on the death of Sarah (my personal favorite Caity Lotz), and reinvigorates the character of Laurel (Kate Cassidy), who had wandered into a bit of a rut.
But the most interesting development of the season thus far was last season’s cliffhanger which had Thea (Willa Holland) going off with her real father Malcolm (John Barrowman) to…who knew what? So far, it would seem learning to fight with knives and mastering a Gordon Liddy-style indifference to physical pain are two of the whats. With Thea headed back home, how her character will now interact with Oliver’s Arrow and his team is one of the highly anticipated developments of the season.
Arrow continues to succeed on its own terms, and anytime a show is doing well enough to spawn a spinoff, you know its connecting with its audience in exactly the right way. For the CW network, having success with this genre of show, which is a bit divergent from its typical Y.A. fare like Reign opens up additional possibilities (that’s right iZombie, we see you coming).
With a stable overflowing with police procedurals, you’d think CBS would be more discriminating in which ones they greenlight, but it seems like you can stick a blue uniform on just about anyone and CBS will give it a time slot.
Such is the only explanation for Stalker, a seriously flawed drama about an LA police unit that investigates stalking crimes. There are two main problems with this show.
First, and this is the biggest, it’s “case of the week” stories are incredibly poorly written. The cops have no idea what the evidence means until all of a sudden they do. The criminal will appear to some sort of evil genius right up until the point where he does something completely moronic and obvious to get caught. This is bad, lazy crime storytelling, and the entire Stalker lot should head over to Elementary for lessons in how to make crime solving interesting.
My other problem with this show is the equally cliched way its two lead characters, played by Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott, are drawn. This is the stalking unit, so naturally the squad leader (Q) has a secret history in which she was apparently the victim of some awful stalker. Meanwhile, the new guy (McDermott) is secretly stalking his ex-wife, and some secret she keeps threatening to reveal. This doesn’t build mystery, it builds annoyance. It’s all too convenient for these characters to have these problems in exactly this setting. Why not just have a graphic that flashes on the screen every five minutes reading “YOU ARE WATCHING A TV SHOW. THESE CHARACTERS ARE NOT REAL.”
We already know that, but your job is to make us forget it, even for a few minutes a week. Job not well done.
Fans who’ve stuck with The Chair on Starz Network can get their payoff this week when both directors’ films Not Cool and Hollidaysburg, air on the network this week. I’m not sure I’m going to like either film, but I loved watching them get made.
It’s official: the first casualty of the new TV season is Manhattan Love Story, an unimaginative romcom that was distinguished almost solely by Annaleigh Tipton going all in for writing that didn’t deserve the effort.
Educational TV. Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) People taste like chicken (Talking Dead); 2) You can’t take a van to Nigeria (Conan); 3) Ms. Pac-Man has brown nipples (Brooklyn Nine-Nine).
You’d think a 50 year old TV show might have run out of original ideas, but this season of Doctor Who has featured a surprising trend of classic movie homages, including Murder On The Orient Express, Oceans 11, Jurassic Park and The Fantastic Voyage. If Doctor Who has ever done this before, it was so long ago I wasn’t born. Bravo to TV’s longest running adventure for finding yet another way to surprise us.
The series finale of Boardwalk Empire airs on HBO on October 26.
2 Broke Girls returns to CBS on October 27.
Mike Tyson Mysteries debuts on October 27 on Cartoon Network.
The series premiere of Benched airs on USA Network on October 28.
Mom and Elementary return to CBS on October 30.
The McCarthys debuts on October 30 on CBS.
TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet. Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on? Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an email: [email protected]. I welcome your input!