By Erik Grove
Thanks for coming back for another edition of Erik's Weekly Watch! This week I'm returning to Fox's Gotham after letting it develop a little bit.
It may be difficult to do but we need to be honest with ourselves; after a promising, though certainly not perfect debut (as recounted here), Gotham has gotten worse. I'm not going to spend a lot of time pointing out the show's flaws (or its strengths, which it definitely has) and I'm not going to proclaim it a lost cause, but I am going to use it to talk about audience loyalty and how far that loyalty should be stretched. Before all that though, I want to talk about Generation X.
In 1996, 4 years before Hugh Jackman put on a black leather and mutton chops and became a household name, Fox made a backdoor pilot turned TV movie based on the then-popular Marvel comic Generation X. Sort of. The adaptation took significant liberties with the source material, dropping main characters from the comic, race-bending others and subbing in new characters (Buff! Refrax! Max Headroom!). It boasted sub soap opera level acting talent, laughable special effects and a script that was apparently written to make the people responsible for making the Red Skull Italian and J.D. Salinger's son a terrible actor in the unfortunately created 1990 direct-to-video Captain America movie feel better about themselves.
This 87 minute long thing-that-actually-happened-on-TV was one of the worst comic book based live-action properties of all time. Of course I saw it premiere (I'm not sure it ever got an encore) and I was disappointed it didn't become a series. 18 years ago there weren't a half dozen respectably budgeted TV adaptations of comic books. There were just VHS copies of the old Hulk and Flash TV shows and new episodes of Lois & Clark: the New Adventures of Superman. We appreciated what we got like starving, lost nomads in a desert stumbling upon an oasis because we didn't have an alternative. It was bad comic book TV or it was no comic book TV. I'm sure I should squeeze something in there about going up and down hills made of glass and tears but I think you get the idea.
So what does Generation X have to do with Gotham? Gotham is undeniably superior in all respects and has within it the potential for being good but still, like with Generation X, we could and should expect better. Right now the top two films by domestic gross are Guardians of the Galaxy, a remarkably well-made movie based on C-list super heroes and a Captain America sequel, a property that couldn't even manage a theatrical release 25 years ago. And here we have Balloon Man? Really? Calcium? Seriously? Gotham is a floundering desperate mess of a TV show because it's trying so hard to pander to every possible member of the audience (comic book fans, Christopher Nolan fans, procedural fans, Adam West fans) that it gets lost on the way to making a good TV show. It' disappointing and it should be better. We deserve better.
So here's my modest proposal: stop watching it. There are plenty of other quality television shows that you can watch or you could go outside or something. Gotham doesn't need you to succeed. Gotham doesn't care if you're watching. It has a full-season order already. It has a lucrative Netflix deal in place. It's not 1996 anymore. Generation X can't get our hopes up and just abandon us with like that again.
You might be wondering but what if it gets awesome? Well, that could happen. Someone could get a handle on where the focus of the show should be and just do that. Like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. it could improve in some key ways and become worth watching. If that happens though, you can still find Gotham. It's on the Fox website, it's going to be all over Netflix sooner than you think, and people like me are still going to be watching it week after week. If it gets good, I'll let you know. In the meantime, the Flash has been pretty cool so far, right?
Erik Grove is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. You can read his work at www.erikgrove.com and follow him on Twitter @erikgrove