Before resuming Season Two of “Batman”, we’ll cave into the crave of batmania with one of the biggest chunks of studio-backed cinematic cheese ever conceived: 1966’s Batman, the Movie. For years, this was the only Adam West Batman vehicle available on home video. Batmaniacs have reason to rejoice, because this gloriously dated, souped-up big screen treatment of the series is an “it has to be seen to believed” extravaganza. The hopelessly dippy plot and dialogue may throw off angsty fanboys, but it’s all about our merry villains: Lee Meriwether in her sole performance as Catwoman, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, … Continue reading KAPOW! ZLOPP! TOUCHE! THE BEST OF BATMAN (1966-1968), PART THREE
On 30 , March 1966, Frank Gorshin‘s Riddler returned for “Ring of Wax” (directed by James Clark, written by Jack Paritz and Bob Rodger). The local wax museum is supposed to be unveiling a wax figure of Batman. To the … Continue reading KAPOW! ZLOPP! TOUCHE! THE BEST OF “BATMAN” (1966-1968), PART TWO
It’s very simple: if you love “Batman” (1966-1968), starring Adam West, you’re in the cool kids club. If you don’t, you’re clueless and need to go away. Only freaks are allowed here.
“Batman” is still the yardstick by which all other live-action superheroes are to be judged. There has never been another series like it. I’ll go even further: it’s not only a genre and cult yardstick, but it’s a yardstick for television, period.
Before we catapult into the Batcave, I’ll share a few childhood memories, of which I’m damned proud. Adam West’s Batman and‘ Superman were the epitome of cool (I’ll never forgive for turning them into caped white trash and making them go commando). I caught Superman in syndication and already knew that Superman had blown his brains out. For me, that was part of his appeal. (I was a tad off-kilter. In my defense, Superman was a more appealing martyr than the Pentecostal Jesus). Admittedly, however, Superman had bland villains, and his second Lois Lane was too June Cleaver-Protestant boring.
Then came Adam West’ Batman. I caught the last season in its first-run, then caught up in syndication. Of course, the show was mass-marketed. Among the most cherished mementos was Batman trading cards, which I would often lose. They meant so much to me that my poor Dad would have to drive all the way downtown to buy me replacement cards from the only store that carried them. I found my true rainbow pot of batgold, however, through a wedding. My cousin was getting married and wanted me for a ring bearer. The last thing I wanted to do was climb into a tuxedo in front of a church crowd, but when she promised to buy me a Batman suit AND a Batmobile to pedal around the back porch on, I begged Dad to call the tuxedo shop immediately so I could be fitted. For Christmas, my brother asked for a children’s Bible (he was such a suck-up). In sharp contrast, I asked for, and received, a Batman View-Master set. With all those bat-toys, I was indisputably the coolest kid who ever lived.
“Atomic batteries to power! Turbines to speed!” “Roger. Ready to move out!”
Since I’m hard pressed to come up with a single non-enjoyable episode, a “Best of Batman” list is bit of an oxymoron, although of course there are standout episodes. This is really more an exercise in cherry picking highlights, because by the time I could finish covering the entire series, we might be heading into 366 Weird Movies, the Sequel. So, without further ado, I have to start with the pilot, which features Batman dancing in a disco.
On 12, January, 1966 “Batman” premiered with “Hi Diddle Riddle” (directed by Robert Butler, written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr,) and, yes, that means… the Riddler () is our first dastardly criminal. He pranks the World’s Fair with an exploding cake and inspires Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) to dial the batphone. Alfred, the butler (Alan Napier) answers, and rescues Bruce Wayne (Adam West) from a fatally boring meeting. Bruce uses the excuse of “gone fishing” with his ward Dick Grayson (Burt Ward) who utters his first “Holy Barracuda!”
“It’ll be a pleasure” to tackle the Riddler, Bruce tells Gordon with such square-jawed seriousness that we damn well believe him. Cue the opening animation to Nelson Riddle’s iconic theme music.
The Adventures of Supergirl:
Airdate: 10 October, 2016
Written By: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Jessica Queller
Directed By: Glen Winter
Superman finally appears and, despite the shoulder pad cape, Tyler Hoechlin proves to be the best actor essaying the man of steel role since Christopher Reeve. As Clark Kent, Hoechlin surpasses Reeve and keeps it mild mannered as opposed to tripping over his shoe strings. No one could mistake Reeve’s Kent as having sex appeal, but Hoechlin perfects the 21st century GQ geek so naturally that even Cat Grant is reaching for a new shade of lipstick. The scene where he is introduced to the DEO gets right what alludes Zach Snyder. Hoechlin’s portrayal has been rightly acclaimed, but to date, CW has not acted on calls to give him his own series and probably won’t for fear it will compete with Henry Cavill’s execrable big screen endeavors.
Still, this is Supergirl and even Hoechlin can’t outshine Benoist. “The Adventures of Supergirl” is a very good start to a sophomore season that sees numerous changes, most of which are for the betterment of the series.
After Cat offers Kara the “keys to the kingdom” through a promotion of her choosing, Kara opts for a reporter position, which casts her in the light of The Daily Planet’s Clark Kent. It’s a disappointing and imitative narrative solution. Still, it’s a small quibble. Better is Winn finally getting to prove his mettle by landing a job at the DEO, where his skills are better suited.
After Superman arrives, there’s entertaining relational angles; Winn’s hero worship, and Henshaw’s considerable tensions with the man from Krypton.
This is also the episode which brings in another strange visitor; Mon-El (Chris Wood), Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath), and her wretch of a mother: Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong). Being mostly on ice after crash landing, Mon-El isn’t a factor yet, although Supergirl gets in a good reference joke comparing him to David Bowie’s character from The Man Who Fell To Earth.
The Jimmy Olsen/Kara Danvers romance gets holstered before it even began, which paves the way for Supergirl’s first big romance. To be continued, of course.
Lena, being a Luthor, is under suspicion, but she’s actually a target, as Superman and Kara discover. As Lena, McGrath is a marvelously shaded addition to the series and a needed one. She teeters on following the family tradition of super villainy (she doesn’t hesitate to shoot down a potential assassin) and hopefully the writers will avoid that and keep her an imperfect ally to Kara.
Luther mommy dearest Lillian also shows up near the finale and we’ll see why, with Lex, the proverbial apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The Last Children of Krypton:
Air Date: 17 October, 2016
Written By: Robert Rovner & Caitlin Parrish
Directed By: Glen Winter
This is the second part of the teaming with Superman and it surpasses its predecessor, making it one of the best episodes to date.
It opens with old fashioned small-time Super heroics with Hoechlin delivering a gratifying line to a crook who opts to throw a punch after attempting to shoot the man of steel: “If the bullets don’t work, why the punching? I’ve never understood that.”
The dialogue between the cousins from Krypton flawlessly nails the spirit of golden age comics:”Does this ever get old?” Supergirl asks Superman. “If it does, I’ll let you know.” We enjoy them being super almost as much as they do.
Henshaw, still harboring a Superman grudge, naturally tries to rain on the parade. “When you two are done showboating…” Alex chastises the Martian: “You said you’d try to get along with Superman” and an eavesdropping Winn adds in an amusingly geeky Yoda imitation: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Meanwhile, Lillian is busy channeling Peter Cushing, creating dual monsters named Metallo (Frederick Schmidt and Rich Ting). Cat introduces Kara to her new boss; Snapper Carr (the underrated character actor Ian Gomez) who makes a colorfully grumpy addition (he will keep Kara in her place). “Ponytail,” he calls her. “Oh, you jerky…guy.” This is the precursor to Cat’s departure here. Although complaints were lodged about this change, it’s needed. Cat discovered Supergirl, inspired Kara, and donned the matronly position. Now it’s time for Supergirl to fly out of the nest. Lena will be an edgier (and ultimately more interesting) replacement to Cat.
The Kryptonite-charged cyborg Metallo (Schmidt) proves to be a daunting advisory and the producers pay visual homage to the famous Crisis comic when he bests Kara. His victory is temporary because this is an episode about team-ups: Superman and Supergirl; Superman and Martian Manhunter (we knew that animosity wasn’t going to last): Martian Manhunter and Supergirl; Alex and Winn (we need more of them together); Alex and Supergirl; Winn and Superman. Winn cries.
Welcome To Earth:
Air Date: 24 October, 2016
Written By: Jessica Queller and Derek Simon
Directed By: Rachel Talalay
Now out of the nest with Mama Cat and Superman both gone, Supergirl takes on plenty of issues. This is the episode that inspired thousands of exploding Trump Toon heads and sent them crawling back to their basement and trailer parks, crying constipated tears of slush.
The offensive bullet points come fast and furious: Henshaw, Supergirl, and Alex engage in dialogue about the demonization of “them” (illegal aliens. Mr. Rod Serling is smiling down from that Twilight Zone in the sky); National City welcomes Madame President Olivia Marsdin (Lynda Carter channeling Clinton) who actually remembers what the Statue of Liberty is about and is “better than the other guy;” the closet door is opened for the same-sex relationship between Alex and Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima); and Jimmy Olsen-you know the African-American guy-is now the CEO of Catco.
There’s a villain of the week too in Scorcher (Nadine Crocker), but that’s only half-baked. More interesting is the interplay between Snapper and Jimmy and Kara; the developments of the Daxamite Mon-El and Lena Luthor; and the finale into of M’gann M’orzz: The Last Daughter of Mars (Sharon Leal).
Air Date: 31 October, 2016
Written By: Paula Yoo and Eric Carrasco
Directed BY: James Marshall
This had an interesting premise with the villain Roulette (Dichen Lachman) running an underground fight club for aliens, but it’s short-shifted in what should have been the main story by again trying to cram in spotlights on all the supporting characters (something Star Trek was often guilty of). Despite rushed writing, the secondary narratives are all of interest: Gomez continues to add color to a character that could be reduced to cliche; In trusting M’gann; Henshaw is abducted and drafted into the fight club. Winn trains Mon-El; Maggie and Alex are slowly but surely stepping out and into…
Intro, with parts 1 &2 are here:
Truth, Justice And The American Way
Airdate: 22 Feb, 2016
Witten By: Yahlin Chang and Caitlin Parrish
Directed By: Lexi Alexander
With Astra dead by the hand of Alex, Kara joins Non for a Kryptonian funeral in the sky. Vance, as Non, does good work balancing grief with controlled menace. At Catco, Kara has a rival in new assistant Siobhan (Italia Ricci) and a villain of the week: the Master Jailer (Jeff Branson) who is executing escapees from Fort Rozz. Something akin to a vigilante Iron Man, the Master Jailer is a generic one-shot (Iron Man himself rarely had memorable villains).
Even short of a superior antagonist, “Truth, Justice, And The American Way” does a good job balancing the various plot points this time. Not too much time is spent on Kara’s growing resentment of Henshaw (for wrongly believing that he impaled Aunt Astra), Cat’s poignant revelation of a past mistake, the rivalry of Siobhan, Olsen’s conflicts over Lucy and Kara, and what to do with the imprisoned Max.
It is Olsen who motivates Kara and the DEO towards an ethical choice in the latter. Mehcad Brooks shines in the scene and is more convincing as Supergirl’s pal than he is doing the lovestruck routine. Ricci and guest actor Todd Sherry (as alien professor Luzano) add salsa to the mix.
Benoist takes something of a side burner here, but the episode is well-paced.
Airdate: 29February, 2016
Written By: Rachel Shukert, Anna Musky-Goldwyn, and James DeWille
Directed By: Dermott Downs
Enlisting”Smallville” Supergirl Laura Vandervoort as computer intelligence nemesis: Indigo was a smart casting move. Vandervoort’s interpretation of the Supergirl role having been quite different, she slips into her villainous blue x-man-like virus skin with iced charisma. Better yet, Indigo is in cahoots with an aroused Non, who is briefly allowed to grit his teeth. However, even he can’t compete with Vondervoort; Supergirl’s best baddie since Livewire. Vandevoort impresses enough that one resists accepting her inevitable defeat.
At Catco, Siobhan continues competing with Kara. She disses Winn when he tries to greet her: “I’m sorry, I have difficulty making conversation with men under six-feet tall.” Hoping to deliver a package with a potential “scoop,” Siobhan defends delivering it to Cat unopened: “I just spent the last 90 minutes in the mail room letting a glorified postal work stare at my chest so that I could be the one to give this to Cat. I’ll take the credit.”
On the domestic front, Lucy Lane and James Olsen appear to be kaput (finally), while Winn and Siobhan, having moved past her initial contempt, promise to be the series’ first interesting potential romance; both having deviant daddies, which of course can make for refreshing off-kilter bonding.
Winn also gets to flash techie talent in assisting good Supergirl against bad blue Supergirl, which may come in handy for a Toyman Jr. resume. Jordan has appealing eccentricity and needs to breath more as he does here.
With the truth of Astra’s fate finally revealed, the episode ends in a scene emotionally well-acted by Benoist, Leigh, and Harewood.
Air Date: 14 March, 2016
Written By: Robert Rovner & Jessica Queller
Directed By: Larry Teng
With the exception of Superman II, the Kent/Superman character has proven to be consistently better suited to television. Even the 1978 Superman with its episodic quality, plays more like strung-together TV segments (which is not a bad thing). Superman III and IV, along with the Zack Snyder movies are dung heap. Slightly better, but woefully uneven and dour is Superman Returns. However, the first two seasons of “Lois and Clark” are 90s bliss. The first actual Superman feature, Superman and the Mole Men was intended as a precursor to the series, “The Adventures of Superman” and feels like television. It’s also often forgotten that in the first noir season of the George Reeves series, Superman was darker than Batman.
Even with its traditional Superhero gone bad theme, “Falling” restores that darkness in the series’ best episode to date. Unlike the Snyder films, it retains a sense of entertainment and narrative coherence. Poisoned by red kryptonite, Supergirl loses her puppy demeanor and goes full pit-bull mode. Benoist is more than up to the challenge and napalms naysayers. There’s a small nod to one of the few decent vignettes from Superman III when Supergirl demolishes a tavern with a pile of peanuts. In this episode, she almost expunges memories of Christopher Reeve.
As iconic as Reeve was in the role of Kal-el, his Kent bordered on caricature and he really only had four good hours as Superman. Dean Cain was a fine Kent; albeit one stuck in a Superman costume. George Reeves’ Kent is the proverbial yardstick to measure all by; almost more steel than his alter-ego, which was quite good and paternal (something no other actor attempted in that role), but he only had one great season (his first), one very good season (2) and a final good, but uneven one (6). Tyler Hoechlin (from Season 2 of ‘Supergirl’) nails both characters with a balance unequaled by his predecessors. His Kent is sexy geeky, as opposed to cartoonish. Unfortunately, he is competing with the godawful Henry Cavill and it’s likely Hoechlin will be consigned to an occasional appearance in this series.
As distinctive as all the above have been respectively, it’s a supergirl who soars highest as a strange visit from another planet. In the space of one season, Benoist’ dual characters have done something none of the boys have managed; she’ve evolved and proves she was born to play this role. Here, she employs a range that takes comic book character acting to new heights. Supergirl begins by doing her usual suburban hero beat, but after being exposed to and poisoned by synthetic Red K, Kara becomes brassy, sassy, and competitive at work. She gets rid of potential usurper Siobhan (which unfortunately looks to end an interesting relationship with Winn), takes the boys dancing and then turns against everyone. That climaxes with nearly splattering Cat and leveling the city until Maxwell Lord (who created the poison to stop Non) creates an antidote for the DEO (oddly, Lord seems more creative and effective dealing with alien threats than the organization whose job it is to do so). Although Lord hasn’t lived up to full-blown antagonist potential, he’s an interesting minor character.
Henshaw again self-sacrifices, although why he needs to is questionable. Still, Harewood’s characterization is superbly colored (and has been throughout the series). Now, with the plot turn, he adds new potential that begins with a friend’s xenophobia. Along with Leigh and Benoist, Harewood is indispensable.
Exorcized, Kara is devastated and Benoist knocks it out of the park with a performance that has run the gamut within an hour.
For complexities beyond the simplemindedness of Trump and his toons, along with opening the xenophobia can of worms, “Falling” earns a “you ain’t grabbin’ shit award.
Part one is here:
Airdate: 14 December, 2015
Written by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Caitlin Parrish
Directed by: Karen Gaviola
There are parallel potential hostile takeovers, but the second is akin to a sketch of something that will be colored in later.
The first and more prominent attempt at a coup involves a walking personification of white male privilege attempting to oust Cat from her own company.
Winn, Olsen, Kara, and Lucy Lane join forces to protect Cat from her potential usurper and there’s a bit of cold-war type of counterinsurgency that’s bubblegum fun. Olsen has a shining 007-like moment when sabotaging by Mr. White Male Privilege. Almost caught, our intrepid CATCO photo journalist slithers his way out of that scenario with all the charm of a GQ Sneaky Snake.
Meanwhile, Aunt Astra (Laura Benanti) and hubby Non (Chris Vance) attempt to hack Earth and there’s some gladiatorial combat in the sky afoot, but as DEO Green Beret Alex (take that John Wayne) observes; Kara’s not up to par. The emerald training session, where Alex proves to be an artisan in combative encounters, renders the Kryptonian tug-of-war as comparatively tame. Of course, the key ingredient is Chyler Leigh as Alex.
However, this episode ultimately belongs to Benoist and Flockhart in their respective roles, which enjoy edifying development here. Family secrets from both ladies are revealed and those revelations inspire them towards shared intimacy that’s heroic. This climaxes in the big reveal, which takes place after the threatening crisis has been subverted. Benoist excels with such hushed vulnerability that the scene is her best since “Human for a day.”
For exposing the morally bankrupt Trump Toon mindset of winning and the hypocrisy of white male privilege, “Hostile Takeover” earns …
Airdate: 4 January, 2016
Written By:Ted Sullivan and Derek Simon
Directed By: Steve Shill
“Blood Bonds” picks up where “Hostile Takeover” left off; in a rousing battle between Kara and Non. However, this outing becomes narratively cluttered and although enjoyable, the direction is off-kilter in kinetic pacing to accommodate multifarious bullet points.
There’s an additional misstep in the writing when it segues into handicapping Astra with sentimentality. Bennati is too commanding a presence in the role(s) to be potentially diminished. Likewise, Maxwell Lord is proving to be an underwhelming adversary when he holds back after capturing Olsen in a bit of photo espionage.
Olsen and Winn are two characters who thus far are lacking the level of complex development on a par with Kara, Cat, Alex, and Henshaw. Here, the interplay between Olsen and Winn refreshingly moves past Supergirl pals, but it’s still filler.
There’s also disappointment in the back-peddling of Cat’s discovery from the previous episode. The secret identity troupe can wear thin and it’s hardly conceivable that the smartest person at CATCO is so quickly convinced that she erred while Olsen and Winn are in the know. That aside, Cat’s relating to Kara and the big discovery is whimsically prismatic and there’s fun to be had in seeing Cat humbled. Henshaw’s aiding the ruse works wonderfully even if we’re not convinced it was necessary. Taking a cue from the “Adventures of Superman,” it’s a kick to see Supergirl and Kara side-by-side.
As with the source material, J’onn J’onzz aka Martian Manhunter is proving to be the enigmatic green “illegal” with a heart of fiery gold. Harewood is drawing out the character in a gradually compelling way and although his divulging to Kara comes sooner than expected, it’s also welcome.
The strength of this episode is the fleshing out of Kara’s authentic need for life at CATCO. Benoist adds considerably to the outsider quality of her character, especially when things go south. Per the norm, Benoist nails it; continuing to add versatility and meaty dimension to a pulp hero.
For guts in tackling status quo biases across the board, “Blood Bonds” earns one exploding Trump Toon head.
Airdate: 26 Oct,2015
Written by: Greg Berlanti, Ali Adler, and Andrew Kreisberg.
Directed by: Glen Winter.
Starring: Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers AKA Supergirl
Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant
Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers
Mehcad Brooks as Jimmy Olsen
David Harewood as Hank Henshaw
Jeremy Jordan as Winn Schott
This is one of the best pilots for any comic-based series, which is remarkable given that the origin is necessarily similar to that of Superman. Over the last few years, the Krypton saga has been taken to levels of extended banality (i.e. Man of Steel), so it’s refreshing that the writing team of Supergirl shoots through it like quicksilver and gets us to the heart of the matter : Supergirl herself. Immediately, the series establishes its brightness. Kara jumps for joy from the couch, embracing her super-ness after saving sis Alex from a potential plane disaster. Supergirl’s pilot was so pluckily modern and amusingly entertaining that sexist fanboys immediately took to social media to show us their heads exploding. Of course that reaction is so predictable as to be yawn-inducing since the genre base is often hyper-right-wing male-driven, which of course means xenophobic, homophobic, and misogynistic, Oh My! Since Supergirl is contrary to all that, that means the recent news of being renewed for a fourth season is going to inspire still more exploding heads. Bring out the cheesy popcorn.
Benoist’ enthusiasm for the role and show is contagious and although the cast is uniformly excellent, she’s the constant, even when the show’s writing occasionally slips (as it inevitably will in any series). She has strength in her innocence as both Kara and Supergirl and we can readily identify with both personalities. With her bun-haired nerdy demeanor, Kara lets her golden locks flow so fancifully as Supergirl that we completely buy her peers’ cluelessness. Benoist balances hero with mild-mannered alter-ego better than anyone in the man of steel role and that includes the late, much-missed Christopher Reeve. Her nerd qualities don’t come to the surface by walking into a wall, but merely by being a twenty-something who hasn’t figured life out. What she does know is that she loves being more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, even if she is initially out of her element, hugs too hard, and screws up more than she succeeds. Being a super girl is better than pizza and this lady loves pizza (and supergirl cake!) Unlike her famous cousin, Kara has no yearning to be human. What, are you crazy? She can fly and can’t wait to try out her powers. “Are you sure you’re bullet-proof?” “Hope so.” “I can do a car chase,” she says with voguish aplomb. On the other had, she tries on-line dating and it’s a friggin disaster. To heck with this jerk, time to go save some people. She’s excited about her secret and can’t wait to share it with National City CATCO co-workers, including future Toyman antagonist Winn ( the scene of ousting herself to him is pure adrenalin charm). Naturally, protective Alex chides Kara for loose lips and later in the season Supergirl herself will slip again on TV.
Benoist as Kara personifies the best qualities of millennials, who predictably are rendered a perennial demographic target of Trump Toons. It’s not that she means to provoke the barrel-bottom dwellers, but she’s having too much fun being a heroine to tiptoe through the tulips of their incessant hangups. For her unintentional exclamation point, she’ll even trump a villain who underestimates her because she’s a girl.
James Olsen is another co-worker that Kara bonds with. Brooks is so tight-shirt sexy self-assured as the African-American Supergirl pal that he should be able to help keep Milk of Magnesia in business with the series’ white-robed haters as long as he’s on the air.
Alex, being the crackerjack ninja that she is, gives Kara’s super-moniker serious competition, especially in her fight scenes and when it comes to heavy-duty pop emoting, Leigh, being the pro that she is, hooks us from the premiere on. She’s as essential to the series as Benoist. Alex will upgrade from kicking chauvinistic ass in season one to mantling David Cronenberg and napalming homophobe heads in season 2. Leigh and Benoist are the series’ yardsticks for gauging one’s broadness. If the idea of 21st century National City Valkyries clog your bowels, then you’re probably a Trump Toon and should stick to Hack Snyder fantasies.
CATCO CEO Cat Grant steals almost ever scene she’s in, as we would expect the former Ally McBeal to do. When she gives the reason for naming Supergirl, she does it with such style and conviction that we take her side over an objecting Kara and our own reservations. Cat’s the perfect inspirational model for coffee girls, superheroes, and us. She’s only a fixture in the first season and some have lamented her departure. Yet, she can be likened to a short, but sweet visit; knowing when to exit and knowing it will benefit the show to do so.
At this point Harewood as Henshaw appears to have a mixmaster up his ass and doesn’t know it, but… (stay tuned)
Jordan as Winn is one screwed-up sweetie and invites us to sympathize with him as the perennial Charlie Brown type (a quality that Kara occasionally shares). We hope against hope that he’s not going to turn. However, if comic lore is being followed here… (stay tuned)
The series establishes its cooler-than-peanutbutter-world of aliens in the premiere. Despite reservations, Henshaw recruits Kara to work with himself and Alex at the DEO (DEPARTMENT OF EXTRANORMAL OPERATIONS. How cool is that?). After an episode chock-full of hand-wringing over delivering cold latte and a couple of failed costume attempts, Kara is literally up to her x-ray peepers in dodging glowing alien tomahawks and ends her debut up, up and away.
For a girl superhero who likes being a superhero, two-African American leads, two women who can kick bad GUY ass, an empowered businesswoman, and Winn who thinks it’s cool that Kara’s gay (even though she’s not), “Pilot” earns an exploding Trump Toon Head.
Airdate: 2 November, 2015
Credits same as pilot.
Kara is still adjusting to public superdom and per Cat’s advice, Supergirl backs up a tad from trying to be the quintessential hero. Her earnestness comes to full-flower when she saves a big snake stuck in a tree after being told it was cat. Even with her super-resistance, she hates touching the icky thing. Of course, being the trooper and animal pal that she is, she saves it anyway. Benoist invites us to keep it positive with her and we do. Of course there’s a couple of monkey wrenches: a bug-like alien who does gross things with his mouth and Kara’s badass Kryptonian Aunt Astra (Laura Bennati) fresh out of the Kryptonian prison Fort Razz (and gearing up for invasion).
After a humble butt-whipping, Kara is learning the ropes, gets taught by a mere mortal, and ready or not, prepares for the big interview.
For female empowerment (of course), having smart girls who refuse to be reduced to male receptacles (WHAT?!? WHAT?!? WHAT?!?), feminine wit, Peta-like BS, and girls doin’ good GUY things, “Stronger Together” earns an exploding Trump Toon head.
Melissa Benoist is indisputably the most perfect actor embodying the role of a comic-based character since Christopher Reeve donned the red and blue for Superman in 1978. Given all the competition since then, such a statement might prove controversial… to constipated Trump Toon comic geeks, but their opinion is as worthless as their Craven Cantaloupe Christ who currently resides at 1600 Penn Avenue (or rather, the golf course). Too, I need to alter the title a tad; it’s not only the hippest damned superhero show on TV, it’s hipper than any of the comic-inspired productions being offered in cinema and the hippest genre series since the 1960s Adam West Batman.
Yet, Supergirl is also among the favorite of alt-right fanboys; favorite targets that is, joining the esteemed company of 2017’s Star Wars; The Last Jedi (how dare Rey-a girl-earn the role of a Jedi through work as opposed to being fathered in? Kinda the antithesis of President Oompa Loompa) and 2018’s Black Panther (for obvious reasons, despite the fact that the comic book off which it’s based is over 50 years old).
Let’s first address fanboy complaints from the yawn-inducing Goebbels Operational Playbook. Why? because it’s so damned fun to out them as the 19th century bigots and Neanderthals that they are. Naturally, they’re as predictable as a paint-by-number set; amusing in their ethical timidity and the ease by which they are offended.
Complaint One: “GASP! Jimmy Olsen is black! That’s PC BS! “
Never mind that to complain about political correctness is politically correct in itself. In some of the complaints seen on various social media outlets, the mentally and ethically challenged alt-right don’t often come right out and say it’s because he’s “black.” Rather, they say “Olsen is supposed to be a geeky redhead with freckles and Mehcad Brooks plays Olsen like a GQ model!”
Let’s call this lame BS spin-doctoring for what it is. No one complained when a freckle-less Olsen had black hair in “Lois and Clark.” They didn’t complain when Hack Snyder killed Olsen off in a war zone. No, this is just a smokescreen to mask the inherent bigotry of Trump Toons.
Why? Because these are comic book fundamentalists. They have the same mindset as religious fundamentalists. Comic book characters are essentially gods to Trump Toons and even though the fanboys know the characters to be fictional (we hope), they still edify literal portrayals of deities who wear underwear outside of their pants-WHEN it’s convenient for them to do so (like bible fundies-they pick and choose).
In the comics, Superman doesn’t kill. Trump Toons didn’t protest one bit that this long-held tradition was deviated from in the execrable Man of Steel (2013). Superman had a curl hairdo. Henry Cavill doesn’t have a curl. Superman had red briefs. Not anymore. And so on. Thus, these complaints being spewed by funny paper-reading Trump Toons are rendered as cartoonish and hypocritical as they are.
Complaint Two:” It has lesbian sex!!! This is political propaganda! with a pro-gay agenda!”
Uh, no it doesn’t have lesbian sex. It depicts a couple who happen to be in a same-sex relationship and they did kiss a couple of times, but essentially we can translate this as: IF Hollywood happens to show any characters that are not hetero WASP males, then it’s … “POLITICAL!” Never mind that the Trump Toon geeks’ Kool-aid serving savior has a much put-upon wife who did a same-sex photo shoot ( a few years earlier these same politicos were outraged that Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless dress). This is also telling because homophobes only associate same-sex unions with sex. Of course we knows that gays are subhuman, they don’t have feelings and don’t do things like take out the trash, fold laundry, or go to church together, etc. Perhaps even worse, Supergirl’s big gay sis Alex (the too-hip-for-words Chyler Leigh) can kick male butt.
Of course, Hollywood is the great evil empire; the whore of Babylon; the secret illuminati trying to brainwash us by sending subliminal pro-gay agenda messages. Oh wait; Mango Messiah Trump was a Hollywood trash TV host? Throw a blanket over that inconvenient fact and scream “FAKE NEWS!”
Today, few seem to pay mind to the artists, writers or creators of comic book characters. When as Indiana adolescents, Denny Stephens and I walked into Denny White’s comic book shop, we immediately knew -without looking at the credits, if a book was penciled by Jack Kirby, Frank Robbins, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams, Steve Ditko, Mike Ploog, Curt Swan or Wayne Boring. In their place is a bland homogeneity permeating both the world of comics and the shops which market them. One book looks the same as the next, blending without seams, shorn of rough edges, entry points, atmosphere, originality, color, or inherent personality.One could say the same regarding the recent spat of films based on DC characters (not so with their television work, including animation where they rule their Marvel rivals. On the big screen, Marvel does it better). While the 50s Television Superman was nowhere near as imaginative as stories being cranked out by Otto Binder in Superman Magazines, ( TV didn’t have the budget or, still in its infancy, the know how) the first season of The Adventures Of Superman has reached something of a silver age within itself.
George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, Jack Larson, John Hamilton, Robert Shane, Tommy Carr and Lee Sholem each put an individual stamp on the characters and episodes; a personalized milieu and individuality that today is alien to an audience whose primary concern towards character tends toward biblical fidelity and adulation.
For many, George Reeves remains the quintessential portrayal of Clark Kent and his alter ego, Superman. It’s not out of nostalgia or because he was the first actor to portray the pulp character. In fact, he wasn’t the first at all. That honor belongs to Kirk Alyn who starred in the serials: Superman (1948) and Atom Man VS. Superman (1950). Alyn, who interpreted Kent as a kind of bumbling Jimmy Stewart character, simply doesn’t inspire. That lack of inspiration isn’t just limited to the serial’s quality. Certainly, many of the later television and big screen incarnations were equally poor in writing and execution. Rather, it’s due to Alyn’s Kent, which set the blueprint for the later Christopher Reeve performance: Kent really isn’t Kent.He’s Superman and the newspaper paper reporter is just a caricatured facade.
It’s hardly a secret that George Reeves had no love for playing a role that later actors would kill for. For Reeves, this was scraping the bottom of the barrel. Not only was he playing a little boy’s pulp comic book character who wore underwear outside of his pants, but he had been reduced to television. Like many actors of his time, including Alyn who had refused to repeat the role for TV, Reeves was suspicious of the new medium. It was called small screen for a reason, lacking the glamour of the big screen.
Earlier, Reeves’ career had been on a roll, having played the Tarleton twins in Gone With The Wind (1939) and a critically acclaimed starring role in So Proudly We Hail (1942) before being drafted into service for WWII.
After returning from the Air Force, Reeves discovered he had been forgotten by studios. Adding to that woe was the unexpected death of the producer who had aided Reeves career. Still, known for his ability to quickly memorize dialogue, along with a rugged physique, Reeves landed roles in low-budget serials and features, which were rushed productions, and live television. Although he was successful on the small screen, the quality of scripts he was offered seemed to confirm his trepidations.
In 1951, Studio executives and producers unanimously chose George Reeves for the starring role in Superman and The Mole Men, which was to be followed by one season of a television series. Producers saw something of the quintessential Superman/Kent in Reeves that neither the actor himself, nor post-Christopher Reeve audiences could see. Producers envisioned Reeves as embodying Kent/Superman as a barrel-chested father figure (he is closest to Wayne Boring’s Superman). As Whoopi Goldberg astutely observed in a documentary about the actor, “Reeves’ disappointment in not becoming the next Gary Cooper inspired him to put his all into Kent.” Reeves refused to play Kent as a slapstick idiot. His Superman is merely an extension, or an afterthought of Clark Kent. As two villains observed in one of the series’ episodes,”it’s not Superman we need to worry about, but Kent.” George Reeves’ aggressive Clark Kent was far more of a threat with type writer than Superman merely banging two heads together.
This portrayal of Kent is matched by the writing of the first season. It’s not as well-matched in seasons 2-6 with Noel Neil’s Lois Lane and John Hamilton’s Perry White making occasional snide comments about Kent’s “being afraid of bullets or running to hide from danger,”which we never see as Reeves’ portrayal of a toughened, fearless reporter remains consistent throughout the series run.
Still, despite his enthusiasm for playing Kent, Reeves was told, and hoped, that the series would be shelved and forgotten. He seemed to get his wish when producers sat on that first season for two years, in an attempt to find a sponsor. That delay turned out to be a blessing for sponsors.
By the time The Adventures of Superman beamed into 1953 living rooms, Dwight D. Eisenhower had been elected President and the country was swept up in a style of leadership that came to be known as Rockefeller Republicans. Reeves/Kent/Superman fit that mood like a glove. Reeves’ Kent/Superman has a genteel, patristic quality that no other actor has given the role (s). His type of conservative echoed Ike and the Webster definition of conservative as a moderate. Tradition was valued, but never at the expense of being bought by special interests (the NRA and religious right).
Nor was the Eisenhower conservative prone to anti-government sentiments. Indeed, the idea of conservatives allying themselves with confederacy sentiments would have been unthinkable to an ideology still under the influence of its founding father figure, Abraham Lincoln. Of course, this was before Strom Thurmond and his fellow Dixiecrats infiltrated and sabotaged the conservative American party. It was also before the appearance of radical right-wing Dixiecrat offspring who have rendered conservative and bigot as synonymous.
Indeed, in Superman And The Mole Men, Reeves’ Superman seems to symbolically echo mounting warnings of the threat in uneducated right-wing thugs dismantling an authentic conservative tradition.
Nor would Reeves’ Kent be given to bigotry and homophobia. He proved an advocate for gun control in Superman And The Mole Men, and, although hetero, his best pal was the gay Jimmy Olsen (Jack Larson). It’s no wonder that Reeves’ Kent/Superman is indeed an alien to millennials who only identify conservative as extremist kooks.
Off-screen Reeves was a passionate drinker, known for his partying and decade-long affair with a mafioso’s wife. However, the actor took his role seriously enough to stop smoking and give Kent-like moral advice to the show’s pubescent audience. In this he had a model in William Boyd’s Hopalong Cassidy, which is apt; Reeves’ Superman is more noir B Western cowboy than sci-fi character (and it probably is no coincidence that the series debut director was Tommy Car, who had previously helmed several episodes of Hopalong Cassidy and Dick Tracy). When finally released, the success of The Adventures Of Superman took everyone, including Reeves, by surprise and he immediately transitioned into mantling a public persona.
The consensus, for once, is right in ranking the first season of The Adventures Of Superman as the best, being heavily inspired by the preceding noir radio show (with Bud Collier voicing Kent/Superman). There really never has been anything like it before or since. The second season has its gems, and some actually prefer its slicker sheen, but few of the episodes were well-written and set the stage for the lower, Kellogg’s sponsored, family friendly quality for later color seasons (many of which can compete with the ineptness of Ed Wood script writing).
Naturally, the special effects throughout are dated and sub par (the Mole Men ray gun is a decorated vacuum cleaner, Superman’s flight is executed by placing the actor on a glass table, etc). Seen today, it becomes clear that the enduring legacy of The Adventures Of Superman six seasons are primarily due to Reeves’ performance.
Additional standout performances include Jack Larson as Jimmy Olsen and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane (still, the yardstick measure of both characters). The Lois Lane of Noel Neil, from seasons 2-6, was uneven, through no fault of the actress. In contrast to Coates’ brassy portrayal, Neill gave Lane a charming perky, petite quality, but was often reduced to June Cleaver-like decor. It’s a testament to Reeves’ that he responded well to both actresses. His chemistry with Larson, and at the opposite end, Robert Shayne (as Inspector Henderson) was equally winning.
Special effects always date and, in a few years, it’s a given that Man Of Steel (2013), like Superman (1978) will look antiquated. Unfortunately, Snyder’s film neither has a good narrative, nor a charismatic lead performance to ground it, such as in Superman II (1980). Although in slight defense of actor Henry Cavill, the Kent of Man of Steel, like Dean Cain’s Kent from the TV series Lois And Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman, proves more influenced by George Reeves’ portrayal, rather than Christopher Reeve’s.
The Adventures Of Superman actually premiered in theaters with Superman And The Mole Men. Dispensing of a pointless mythology-making origin, it gets straight to the action and is far more a testament to the Clark Kent/Superman character than its predecessors (the dual serials) or offspring. Here, Kent is pure 50s Americana. A tough, but genteel defender who inherently knows that “Truth, Justice, And The American Way” means justice and civil liberties for all, including the minority, misfits, and outsiders.