BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - So I've seen the first episode of Gotham, and I have to say, I liked it better than I thought I would.
I admit, I rolled my eyes when I first heard about another Batman story, although it's not really a Batman story per se, but rather a Batman prequel. But with Gotham's debut fast approaching (Sept. 22 on Fox and CTV), creator/writer/executive producer Bruno Heller touched on some key elements at the Television Critics Association tour.
- Four legendary Batman villains are introduced in youthful form in the first episode of Gotham, but that can't continue.
“You have to front-load the pilot with the best that you've got, because that's the way you have to open big,” Heller said. “As the show rolls on, we'll be far more ... not parsimonious, but careful with how we roll out the villains in what way. And there will be more fun and more surprises and tricky ways of getting them in, rather than just presenting them.
“One of the joys of a TV series is you can respond to what pops with the audience or what actor pops. So the first year is very much about the rise of The Penguin (played by Robin Lord Taylor) and his titanic struggle with Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). But we'll respond to what's working and what isn't.”
- Gotham doesn't exist in a specific era, but there is a deliberate feel to it.
“We talked a lot about New York in the '70s as a tone poem for what Gotham is, and that was a time when the city was falling apart,” Heller said. “But I remember going there and it was precisely the decay and the decadence and the anarchy that was, at the same time, joyous and thrilling and exciting and scary and sexy. There is something about a great city as it falls apart that you are compelled to watch.
“It's a mash-up, to use the modern phrase. If Batman exists today, then this world is the past. But it's everybody's past, an 18-year-old's past and a 54-year-old's past. This Gotham is a timeless world. It's yesterday, it's today, and it's tomorrow all at the same time, because that's the world that dreams live in.”
- The Gotham pilot actually is quite violent by network TV standards.
“I think violence, if you show it, should be disturbing,” Heller said. “That's the only moral way to show violence. It shouldn't be comical. This is a crime story, and crime is violence essentially, or coercion.
“We're all very aware that we're telling a crime story to a general audience. Fox is right on top of that and very aware of the audience that they are trying to go for. Like I say, if this were not a crime show, then the violence would be inappropriate. But once you're in that world, then it's important to, and I think morally correct to, make it disturbing.”
- The Mythology of Batman will be incorporated to some degree, with the understanding of what mythology is.
“Mythology in the true sense of the word is precisely when so many stories are created that none of them can be consonant with each other,” Heller said. “You name any mythological hero and there are contradictions in the story. That's exactly when you've reached the level of a genuine myth, that many stories can be told.
"What we won't do is break the kind of canonical iron truths of the Batman story. But issues of chronology and who was there when and how, we will play with. In a fun way, not in a disrespectful way or a sort of iconoclastic way.”
- Batman purists likely will take issue with Gotham in some ways, but Heller thinks they'll be able to get into it nonetheless.
“Will the fan-boys back away from it? I don't think so, because certainly for me, the really interesting parts of these stories are the origin stories,” Heller said.
“As soon as you're into the capes and costumes, it's less interesting than seeing how they got there.”