Tuesday, October 23, 2012

16815--Zen and the Art of TV Archery

Taking another shot at adapting an A-list superhero from comic books to TV, executive producer Marc Guggenheim has launched a new visioning of Green Arrow at audiences. Some might debate my assignation of A-list status to a low-tech hero with no superhuman abilities, but I’ll argue that he’s carried his own title, been a long-time member of the Justice League and has a name that the average citizen-at-large won’t respond to with “Who?”. Even without a version of him appearing on the now-defunct “Smallville” for several seasons, he’s a well-known quantity who has never been shy about working in the ranks of the comic universe’s heavyweights. Like his fellow mere mortal Batman, that similar list of credentials is more than enough to qualify his Tough Guy status.

Like others of his costumed stalwarts, the details of his backstory have been tweaked as much as any urban legend. This time around, he’s been presented with a live mother and a dead father, the circumstances behind that being only a part of making him into the heroic figure he has had to become. Still a part of the Gilligan’s Island travel plan, wealthy young socialite Oliver Queen was stranded on a remote island that would serve as the crucible in which he would be tempered. Marooned as the result of sabotage to his yacht this time around, the playboy-reborn-as-Tough-Guy has come back to civilization with an attitude and a secret agenda worthy of the Count of Monte Cristo. Add in the fitful sleep of a troubled soul and they are clearly making the effort of presenting a nuanced protagonist intriguing enough to hold everyone’s attention. Certainly, that’s something the Green Arrow who first appeared in More Fun Comics back in 1941 could not have done in the modern era.

While the hero of “Arrow” may take on gangs of thugs, loose arrows with skill enough to make an Olympic archer go slack-jawed and Parkour like a monkey on Red Bull, executive producer Guggenheim is nothing less than adamant that superpowered heroes like Superman and Green Lantern won't have a place on the show. Wow. What happened to helping your buddies share in the wealth? Courtney Cox may have had plenty of her old co-stars show their faces on “Cougartown”, but it looks like Guggenheim has other ideas about how “Arrow” will play out. Conversely, he also says the show will try to utilize as much of the DC Comics universe as humanly possible:

Sorry, pal, they said...uh...our greens would clash.

"We've got a lot of different characters and then there are characters you may not recognize unless you're a diehard comic book fan. One of the things we've done, mainly because we're fans, is we've thrown in a lot of Easter eggs for the hardcore fans. If you're a big fan of the DC Comics universe, you'll see a lot of familiar names and places: Big Belly Burger, which is a hamburger chain from the Superman comic books, makes a regular appearance on our show and we have a Big Belly Burger franchise as one of our standing sets. You'll still hear about characters from those worlds and from those cities. We're imagining a DC universe without super-powered characters, but that doesn't mean that in our parallel universe that there isn't a Metropolis or a Gotham City. There are references to places like Corto Maltese (a war-torn island) and Markovia. I would listen and watch carefully if you're a comic book fan because some of the references are really subtle and will go past a lot of people."

Now my opinion on this is if they're imagining a DCU without super-powered characters, they‘re not imagining the DCU.  If you’re going to piss away the unique infrastructure that goes along with Green Arrow, why bother building a show around that character?  It seems ridiculous to waste elements of story that others can't offer in the midst of such a competitive market.  The audience may as well go watch “Nikita”, “Revenge” or “Person of Interest”.  Or the evening news.  Why spend time on a another new series when we already have proven products who've passed their first season hurdles?  Oh, it's Green Arrow, you say?  Hey, there's a quantity with some potential!  Oh, just Green Arrow?  You know, we already have plenty of non-super action and drama.  We live in it. 

Green Arrow lives in a different reality and has the opportunity to explore themes using levels of depth denied to mundane genres.  Ignoring that reality sounds like the same error “Smallville” started with when the ultimately ousted producers insisted that “no tights, no flights” was the only cool way to present Superman to the 21st century and a generation that had outgrown such heroes.  In time, the people making the show got over themselves and “Smallville“ improved. One of the notable additions to the show, ironically, was Green Arrow (though I hear they really wanted a young Bruce Wayne, but were denied such lofty access). After all these years of adaptations, you would think TV producers would’ve learned by now that acknowledging the integrated universe of such characters works far better than yanking a single thread from a tapestry and pretending that their chosen hero is the only one. I’m waiting for the day someone brings us an adaptation of some popular vampire story, but without all the silliness of biting and fangs and supernatural stuff.

Meanwhile, “Arrow” doesn't have to show people leaping tall buildings, but could slip in references to superhuman activities in newscasts and the odd urban legend mention without letting the idea overrun the show. That sort of thing would certainly put a bigger smile on my mug than a trip through Big Belly’s “drive-thru” lane. I trust “Arrow” and Oliver Queen will prove tough enough to endure creator egos and the rigors of TV ratings to become even better than the better than average showing it has already given us.

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