I’ve been a Superman fan forever. I devoured the DC comics in my youth, and I never missed an episode of the old black and white TV show starring George Reeves. Then later on Christopher Reeve became (for me at least) the consummate Superman when the Man of Steel hit the big screen.
When I read there was going to be a “Supergirl” TV series, I was apprehensive about it because if the show weren’t done the right way, it could be both a joke and disaster. In the past few weeks we’ve seen the emergence of some excellent new shows like “Blindspot” and “Quantico,” and I had my doubts that a new series about a comic book character would be worth watching. Was I ever wrong! The pilot for “Supergirl” promises a delightful new show for the entire family.
Appropriately enough, the story begins on the planet Krypton, where the parents of Kara Zor-El are loading her into a spaceship to send her off to earth because Krypton is about to explode. Sound familiar? Now it just so happens that Kara is the cousin of Kal-El, aka Clark Kent, aka Superman. Kara is supposed to watch over her cousin when she reaches earth, but she never reaches her destination on time because something knocks her ship into the Phantom Zone in space. It’s more than 20 years until she gets back on course, and by the time she finally arrives on earth, Kal-El Is firmly established as Superman.
Two scientists by the name of Jeremiah and Eliza Danvers (Dean Cain and Hlen Slater) take Kara (Melissa Benoist) and raise her as their own, along with their biological daughter, Alex (Chyler Leigh). From this point we move ahead about 10 more years and find Kara employed as the assistant to Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart), the founder and CEO Catco Worlwide Media, a conglomerate based in National City. Cat’s immediate problem is that the National City Tribune, one of her newspapers, has fallen on hard times, and she needs to cut back on the staff. To this end she asks Kara to write termination letters for the people she’s letting go.
Keep in mind that up until now Kara has concealed her super powers from everyone except Alex, but all that changes when Alex finds herself in a life-and-death situation and Kara ultimately orchestrates a spectacular rescue. The obvious result is media frenzy, and now National City has its very own super guardian just as Metropolis has Superman.
In addition to the characters already mentioned, two other important ones are James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) and Winslow “Winn” Schott Jr. (Jeremy Jordon). The former is the new art director Cat has hired away from the Daily Planet, where he went by the name of Jimmy and was a personal friend of Superman. The latter is a technical expert who develops a real case on Kara.
After seeing just one episode of “Supergirl,” I feel confident in predicting that it’s going to a big hit with appeal to a wide audience. This is a show parents can watch with their children (ages 6 and up) because it’s filled with plenty of action, adventure, and humor, and the pilot didn’t reveal anything unsuitable for youngsters.
In addition to introducing the main characters, the pilot offered a totally unexpected twist as well as some wonderful action scenes. All I could think of as I watched Supergirl zoom around in the sky was how far the technology has advanced since George Reeves was “flying” across the black-and-white TV screen. (As I recall, his pose in the air was pretty much the same all the time.) The special effects on the show are outstanding, and the fight sequences are terrifically entertaining. And even though Superman never appears, he is a constant presence in the show.
Benoist is perfectly cast in the dual roles of Kara and Supergirl. She carries off the female Clark Kent persona perfectly, and when she loses her glasses, displays her all-American good looks, and dons the red cape and the blue and red suit bearing the famous coat of arms on it, she morphs into a perfect Supergirl. In an online interview with Debra Birnbaum of Variety, Benoist explained what attracted her to the part.
“Not only because she’s a strong female and a female hero, which I think is so important and will speak to so many people at this time right now in the world. I also was so drawn to her humanity, even though she is an extraterrestrial with powers. I was drawn to how flawed and complicated she is. She’s more complicated than you see in superheroes nowadays. Greg (producer Greg Berlanti) breathed that life into her from the get-go. He even said to me in one of the auditions, ‘She’s like the Annie Hall of superheroes,’ and that sealed the deal for me. I was like, yes! She is quirky and eccentric and intelligent and on this journey of self-discovery. She’s figuring out how to be a woman and the difficulties of that.”
Of course whenever a pilot for a new show is made, there is no guarantee that a network will pick it up, but CBS wanted this show, and in her Variety interview Benoist described her reaction when she heard the news.
“Elated! I was on cloud nine. I kind of had an instinct that it would be (picked up) bectause we all worked so hard and Greg brings so much passion it’s really infectious. Everyone working under Greg busts their butts, so I was like, it’s going to happen. So when it did, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had all this energy and didn’t know what to do with it. I wish I could have really flown away and done some somersaults in the air.”
“Supergirl” offers the most pure fun of any of the new shows to date, and because of that it earns the final score of a super nine.