Few new fall shows received as much hype as Fox’s Batman-less Batman series “Gotham,’’ which debuted to some pretty strong ratings on Monday night.
Despite facing heavy competition in the form of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,’’ the latest superhero property to hit the small screen premiered to the tune of eight million people.
Those poor souls.
Unfortunately, I was one of the millions of viewers to witness Monday’s cringe-worthy premiere, and I honestly wish I had spent my night doing something — anything — else.
As a longtime Batman and comicbook fan, it pains me to say the “Gotham’’ pilot was a huge let down.
Maybe I’ve been spoiled since the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight’’ trilogy and by Marvel’s ever-growing cinematic universe, but I couldn’t help but be put off by “Gotham’s’’ cheesy dialogue and faux-noir style.
The more I watched, the more I realized that the only reason why the show is on TV is because Fox thinks it can coast on brand recognition rather than succeeding through character development and thoughtful storytelling.
Since Batman is just a pipsqueak in this series (played by David Mazouz), far from donning his cape and cowl, the focus of “Gotham’’ is on a young Det. James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Det. Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue).
Logue and McKenzie both previously played cops on “Law & Order: SVU’’ and “Southland’’ respectively, and they’re fine veteran TV actors, but the script doesn’t give them much to work with — due especially to the excruciating amount of cheesy dialogue.
“We had the drop on him,’’ Bullock yells at Gordon after he stops a gun-toting criminal. “Yeah, well he’s dropped, isn’t he?’’ Gordon replies.
McKenzie and Logue do their best, but their versions of Gordon and Bullock are too cartoonish for the serious tone that “Gotham’’ is going for.
Cops aside, the premiere offered a glimpse at Dark Knight’s famous pals’ and villains’ origins, including younger versions of Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and the Penguin.
The pilot seemed to name-drop members of Batman’s rogues gallery at every turn, but rushed cameos and vague introductions are about as superheroic as it got.
“Arrow,’’ the CW’s own DC Comics TV property, has done a better job at introducing various Batman-related heroes and villains than the “Gotham’’ pilot. “Arrow’’ tends to let things play out and takes its time carefully introducing characters, like the menacing Ra’s al Ghul, who’s been teased since season 1 but will finally hit the small screen this year.
By trying to cram so many different heroes and villains into the first episode, “Gotham’’ shows that it thinks it can only get viewers’ attention by flaunting its Batman-ness.
If that’s the case, then they should have just included the brooding Bats in the first place!
Since we likely won’t see the Dark Knight on screen in this series for a long time (although we will see him on the 2016 big screen in the form of Ben Affleck), the show is poised to play out like a police procedural than a superhero show — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
That being said, outside of its comicbook connections, “Gotham’’ does little in terms of action and dialogue to set it apart from the plethora of other cop dramas on the air.
Since the show is going for a gritty, realistic take, it’s clear that “Gotham’’ wants to align itself with Nolan’s version of the Batman mythos. Unfortunately, it fails in that respect as well.
Take, for instance, the harrowing scene where a young Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of his parents. While “Gotham’’ and Nolan’s “Batman Begins’’ were both pretty gruesome in their portrayals of this scene, the latter gave the moment a better narrative treatment.
Nolan’s interpretation depicted the murder as the result of a random act of violence (a theme that is expanded upon in the form of Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight’’). Not to spoil it for fans, but “Gotham’s’’ version is a very different take on the incident, framing it as an alleged conspiracy ploy.
I get that they want to tie certain characters together from the get go (for example, the young Catwoman witnesses the aforementioned murder), but it’s a lazy way of going about creating motivation and connections between the different players in the “Gotham’’ universe.
Maybe it’s just a case of being a clunky pilot, but the writing definitely needs some work on this show if it wants to continue being a ratings grabber.
For now, “Gotham’’ may be able to coast on brand recognition and the current hot market for anything involving superheroes, but who knows how long viewers will continue to tune in for.
If only Batman was here to save the day.