Five ways 'Gotham' can live up to the Batman legacy

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:32 PM ET

He’s the hero Gotham needs right now. But will he be the one that fans deserve?

Fox has released the first trailer for Gotham, a series chronicling a young Det. Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie, The O.C.) trying to stem the tide of crime and corruption in the show’s titular city, the birthplace of Batman. A full 13-episode season has been greenlit, and will debut this fall.

It’s hard to make broad, sweeping generalizations from a two-minute trailer, but the takeaway here is cautiously encouraging. The cast – which includes Donal Logue (Harvey Bullock), Jada Pinkett Smith (Fish Mooney), Cory Michael Smith (The Riddler), Robin Lord Taylor (The Penguin), Camren Bicondova (Catwoman), Sean Pertwee (Alfred Pennyworth) and David Mazouz (as the young Bruce Wayne) – actually looks pretty solid. The city seems appropriately Gotham-esque, yet grounded in reality. And there appears to be a darker edge to the show, as befitting the origin story of Batman’s friend and mentor.

But given that they’ve suffered everything from rubber nipples to shark repellent bat-spray, Batman fans are not an especially optimistic bunch. Here are five things Gotham could do to increase its odds of survival in the long, dark night ahead.

Don’t rewrite history

Christopher Nolan’s gritty Batman trilogy didn’t stick to the comic book canon, nor did Tim Burton’s films, nor Joel Schumacher’s flamboyant spectacles or the even campier 1960s TV series starring Adam West. Every creator has a different interpretation of the Batman mythos, and that’s OK. But with almost the entire pantheon of classic bat-villains appearing in the Gotham trailer (with the conspicuous absence of the Joker – season finale, anyone?) we desperately hope Fox doesn’t completely shred these characters’ established backstories to shoehorn younger versions of these baddies into the lives of Jim Gordon and little Bruce Wayne.

More Arrow, less Smallville

One reason Arrow has such a strong following is it treats its subject matter fairly seriously, without veering off into eye-rolling flights of fromage – yeah, we’re looking at you, Smallville. (Then again, Arrow is only two seasons in, and Smallville didn’t really start to drift off course until about halfway through its 10-season run.) Gotham needs to follow the TV lead set by the emerald archer, not the Man of Steel.

Serve up Easter eggs

Everybody knows who the Penguin and Catwoman are, but there are going to be tons of curious and skeptical comic book fans tuning into Gotham just to see how badly Fox savages their beloved Batman. One way to tip a hat to the faithful is to sprinkle in references to people, places and events that only true fans will understand, stuff that would fly over the heads of casual viewers. It’s a very easy way of saying, “Hey, we know you’re watching and we appreciate you.”

Fly free of the swarm

Despite its superheroic underpinnings, Gotham will essentially be a police procedural drama, making it roughly the 900th show of that genre on TV. But then so are True Detective and Hannibal – the latter being one of the darkest shows ever to make it to network television – which proves that with the right characters and material, Gotham could be unique. If nothing else, we should see some true investigative work in action, perhaps with Jim Gordon passing knowledge along to the kid who will become the World’s Greatest Detective.

Never show the cowl and cape

We don’t care how long Gotham runs – one season, five, 10 – but it must never truly put Batman on screen. Remember how Smallville’s creators had a “no tights, no flights” rule? How Clark Kent was always meant to remain years away from actually becoming Superman? The closer he came, the sillier the show got. We’re already having trouble wrapping our brains around Ben Affleck as Batman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel, we don’t need to see a lower-budget version of the Caped Crusader on TV. Unless Adam West is planning a comeback.

Twitter: @stevetilley

steve.tilley@sunmedia.ca

 


Videos

Photos