Forget kryptonite. The real killer for the superhero TV genre might be oversaturation.
Geoff Johns, CCO of DC Entertainment, is aware of this risk and is battling it through a diversification plan. This fall, the Warner Bros.-backed company will have four shows on three networks. It also has a fifth, the quirky, femme-skewing “iZombie,” in the warmer for the midseason on the CW.
“We’re creating this DC Universe world and introducing these DC heroes that we haven’t even gotten to talk about yet,” Johns says. “If you look at the shows we’re developing this season with Warner Brothers and all the networks, you can see they are all very different… Diversity in the properties and the tones and the shows is really important because there’s a huge audience out there and we want to have stuff for everybody. That goes from film to comics to games to TV shows.”
While this strategy has been successful with, say, financial advisers for generations, the key for television trends is in their ability to morph into the next big thing. This time, the emerging genre may be martial arts, since intense fight sequences are already a major part of many comicbook shows.
As fans of the CW’s “Arrow” know, DC character Oliver Queen was trained in a number of combat practices during his time on a remote island. The leads in Marvel’s Netflix properties “Daredevil” and “Iron Fist” also possess these skills, while the netcaster’s “Luke Cage” series focuses on a street fighter.
AMC has a different take on this trend, as the basic cabler has ordered martial arts drama “Into the Badlands” straight to series. Although the show is based on the classic Chinese story “Journey to the West,” this is only time AMC has made such a commitment to a project that didn’t have a preexisting fanbase (unlike “The Walking Dead,” an adaptation of Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore’s popular Image Comics series, and “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul”).
Al Gough, who co-created and is showrunning “Badlands” with partner Miles Millar, said martial arts speaks to the visual and visceral components of television, plus “it’s something that’s not on TV right now … also, it’s something you can actually do week-to-week. It’s something that looks great and is highly visual.”
“I think there’s a great variety of martial arts that you can call on,” he says, adding, “oftentimes it’s a fight that comes down to two characters, and television has an intimacy that really lends itself to that.”
Gough and Miller know a thing or two about being on the forefront of a TV trend — they also created the long-running Superman origin series “Smallville” for the WB/CW. Gough acknowledges that there’s “obviously an appetite for those shows,” but they’re now a lot more ubiquitous than when “Smallville” premiered in 2001.
He wonders if special effects and flash are getting to be too much for audiences, predicting that “audiences want to get back to something that feels real and is very tactile and involves characters; not avatars.”