Gotham brings comics to small screen

FOX anticipates positive reception of new show

By Georgianna Pisano-Goetz

FOX has won the bidding war to bring James Gordon to television. You may know him better as Commissioner James Gordon, the last person in Gotham to know Bruce Wayne was Batman in the Nolan trilogy. Proving the success of the men behind the superheroes theme, the premier of SHIELD, following the covert government agents responsible for keeping tabs on the Marvel super beings, brought in 12.2 million viewers, making it the highest ratings for drama in four years. It appears, with the ardent success of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD on ABC, both FOX and DC are optimistic to begin their own successful comics-based show.

Gotham will be a prequel show following the young police officer James Gordon before he became Commissioner, thus meaning there will be no Batman (or Batfleck) cameos. Bruno Heller, the man behind The Mentalist, is developing the show. While still in development, the show has been described as “the origin stories of Commissioner James Gordon and the villains that made Gotham famous.”

The approach itself is curious because those familiar with DC Comics may hear about a Gotham show about police officers and think of the comic Gotham Central, the Eisner and Harvey Award-winning series written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka. Gotham Central follows the police department of Gotham as they struggle to serve and protect in a city overrun with criminals of a different caliber and costumed vigilantes.

Central answers the difficult questions one might not think to ask. For example, the police officers in Gotham have to hire someone to turn on the Bat signal because it is a liability to have a city employee do it. Without the interesting repercussions of working under a superhero, I’m not sure what Gotham will have that will set it apart from other police procedurals, but there are a couple of different ways it could go.

Before the era of Batman, when James Gordon moved to Gotham, the city was a magnificent and technologically-advanced place due heavily in part to the societal and political contributions of the über-wealthy Wayne family (pre-Bruce). How did the city decay into the crime-ridden metropolis seen in the Batman stories? Considering there’s currently a line of much-loved Batman video games taking place in the creepy and decrepit Arkham Asylum, the roots of that Gotham staple loony bin could provide plenty of material. There’s a lot to work with, if the network chooses to move past the police procedural.

In fairness, DC has a good track record moving its comics onto the small screen. With the CW (previously the WB), DC has created series like Smallville and the currently running Arrow. Both shows have been well-received, if not for their faithfulness to the comics. Arrow is even gearing up to spin off a show about the Flash. DC has proven with 10 seasons of Smallville that Clark Kent doesn’t even have to put on the cape to keep people watching for nine years.

It’s unlikely that the show will catch up with the DC cinematic universe (if you can even call it that), which means, luckily, there will be no Ben Affleck Batman featured on Gotham and the G.C.P.D. are unlikely to make an appearance as their TV incarnations in the Man of Steel sequel, Batman versus Superman, which doesn’t begin filming until 2014.

Gotham is still a ways off from your television screens, but, to get a taste of what comics look like on the small screen, check out Arrow on the CW every Wednesday at 8 P.M. and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD every Tuesday at 8 P.M.

Junior Georgianna Pisano-Goetz is a staff writer. Her email is gpisanog@fandm.edu.

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