TV News

Fox Lands Gotham, a Batman-Related TV Show, But Is D.C. Wasting an Opportunity to Create a Shared Fictional Universe on The CW?

UPDATE: 12/3/2013 – According to BleedingCool, the script for what would be the first episode of Gotham is now complete.  An inside source WB claims the script features Detective Jim Gordon “trying to solve a very famous double homicide.”  This is most likely the double homicide of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne.  This would be the show’s to-the-point method of explaining where in the Batman timeline this story takes place, i.e., Bruce Wayne is still a kid so don’t expect Batman to show up until around season 12.  An alternate explanation would be the double homicide is a reference to the last line of Batman Begins, which references a double homicide committed by The Joker [via ScreenCrush.com].

We’re getting a live-action Batman TV show!  Except it won’t feature Batman.  Like, at all.  Nope, it’ll be about Detective James Gordon’s life with the Gotham City Police Department.  Still yay, right?  Right?

The title of the Warner Bros.-Television project is Gotham, and Fox has given it a series commitment, which basically means they’ll treat the as-yet-unwritten script like they would a pilot – if they like it, this thing goes straight to series.  This now widely reported news was first broken by Deadline yesterday evening.  According to their report:

“[Gotham] explores the origin stories of Commissioner James Gordon and the villains who made Gotham City famous. In Gotham, Gordon is still a detective with the Gotham City Police Department and has yet to meet Batman, who will not be part of the series. The Gordon character was introduced in 1939 in the very first Batman comic. Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Commissioner Gordon has appeared in comic books as well as Batman films and series, including in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, where he was played by Gary Oldman.”

Gordon_meets_Batman
So, if you take Batman and that Bat-signal out of this picture from Batman Begins it’d still be pretty cool, right?

This will come to us from The Mentalist creator Bruno Heller.  So, the guy who may or may not have simply ripped off Psych to strike gold with The Mentalist (an assertion Mentalist fans will argue against passionately) is being charged with giving us a likely rigidly formulaic police drama that will just happen to be a tad bit more comic book-y.  He’ll look to succeed where several others failed back in 2002 when The WB attempted to dramatize non-Batman events in Gotham City in the short-lived Birds of Prey.

nbc-passed-on-the-wonder-woman-drama-pilot-from-david-e-kelley-boston-legal
Just because this has happened, though, doesn’t mean this show will actually happen, considering W.B./D.C.’s prior failed attempt to adapt Aquaman into a TV series and on-going failure to do the same with Wonder Woman.

This is WB’s compromise – to them, as the owner of D.C. Batman is still too financially viable a property to squander on TV.  As such, they have famously blocked any and all attempts to bring him to live-action television over the past decade and more.  Smallville actually began its life as a pitch for a Bruce Wayne origin story which would follow his travels throughout the world gaining the training and skills he would late put to use as Batman.  It overlapped too much with a new Batman film in development at the time, but WB-TV liked the idea enough to ask a different writing pair (Miles Millar and Al Gough) to drop their hopes of a Lois Lane TV show and instead do the “young Bruce Wayne” thing just with Superman instead.

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Later on, when Smallville wanted to introduce Bruce Wayne as a character they were turned down and had to instead use noted Bruce Wayne/Batman knock-off Oliver Queen/Green Arrow

Currently, Arrow‘s producers have consistently indicated characters from the Batman saga, central or supporting, appear to be partially off-limits to them regardless of how much they covet the opportunity to write storylines for Nightwing (hopefully, sans mullet).

So, with Gotham they are still keeping Batman a film-only character, and taking advantage of the obvious procedural elements of a cop show with a nifty little hook of “yeah, it’s a cop show, but it’s about cops who work for the Gotham City Police Department…pretty cool, right?”  That is the same hook the actual comics used with Gotham Central, a series focused upon the also-ran police officers and their day-to-day lives with better known characters like Commissioner Gordon, Det. Bullock, and, of course, Batman making rare appearances.  It was a financial failure, running from 2003-2006, although it came close to getting adapted into a TV series at the time.  Gotham looks to finally make that TV series a reality, just turning it into a pre-Batman origin story for not-yet-Commissioner James Gordon (an origin that was expertly told just 8 years ago in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, which liberally lifted its ideas from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One graphic novel).

One can view the timing of this news as a giant middle finger to Marvel, attempting to grab headlines the same night and morning after the long-awaited premiere of the pilot for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  

agent-shield-gregg-lola
S.H.I.E.L.D. has a flying car? So, what! We have a new show all about Batman!!!! Take that!  Of course, Batman won’t actually be in our show, but, still, you’re not talking about S.H.I.E.L.D. anymore, are you?

However, the news itself is still a bit surprising.  Why at Fox?  Since WB is part owner of The CW (along with CBS) all D.C.-related properties usually end up there, Smallville in the past (starting its life on CW predecessor The WB), Arrow in the present, and probably The Flash and maybe Amazon (Wonder Woman show) in the future.  Beyond corporate synergy, D.C. shows being on The CW also makes sense from a storytelling perspective, offering a potential shared cinematic (or, I guess, televisual) universe.   Why waste Gotham on a different network and pass up the potential for cross-overs with Arrow and Flash?  You could give us origin stories for Batman villains on Gotham, and then later cross them over onto Arrow or Flash, the former of which features a cop as a supporting character and the latter will feature a police forensics analyst as its lead character.  With the shows being on different networks, it would be stunning if any of that happens now.

Then again, based upon Heller’s prior work this sounds like it will be a police procedural, which does not fit The CW’s profile.  Plus, Deadline indicates there was a bidding war over Gotham, which The CW clearly lost, if they were a player at all (maybe they want to limit their number of comic book shows).  Fox does have a relationship with WB-TV/D.C. after adapting D.C. property Human Target into a sadly short-lived TV show a couple of years ago.  They simply were the most willing to commit to this concept, and on its own merits a TV series centered around Gordon could be very interesting.  It’s just a tad bit curious where it ended up at.  This would seem to draw into question assumptions that Marvel’s rumored Agent Carter, a TV series centered around Captain America character Peggy Character, would definitely end up at ABC just because Marvel and ABC share the same corporate overlord, Disney.

So, if you’re keeping score Fox (Gotham), ABC (S.H.I.E.L.D.), and The CW (Arrow, Flash) all have superhero/comic book shows either on the air or in development with Agent Carter a potential free agent.  Plus, Amazon at The CW is currently on hold, being re-tooled to get it just right (or, more likely, never be heard about again for several years).

What do you think?  Does this sound good, bad, too early to tell?  Can’t wait to see Gotham‘s Clayface origin story episode?  Just think it’s cool that they’re trying to do an origin story for Gordon the same year they are set to release an origin story video game for Batman (Arkham: Origins)?  Let us know in the comments.

10 comments

  1. Deadline said that FOX *won* the rights, indicating to me that it was a financial decision, not a creative one. CW may not have had the pockets for it. I’m guessing any Batman-related property is pretty spendy.

    And as much as I’m happy to see a non-CW DC series, I believe that the missed opportunity is indeed in the loss of a tie-in to a shared universe. Watching “Agents of SHIELD” yesterday, I loved the fact that for the first time I can remember, movies, comics, short stories, and TV series are all in one shared world. It’s very immersive in a world where the audience demands more immersion, don’t you think?

    Of course, I had some issues with SHIELD’s pilot involving that very crossover status, but overall, I think getting the universes all together creatively is a great thing for fans and for the franchises.

  2. I agree that this was likely a financial decision, not creative. Deadline makes it seem as if this was simply a bidding war that Fox won, with the identity of their competitors seemingly being most other networks. The CW does have fewer available timeslots than any other major network due to its decision to only program 2 hours of original material per weeknight. So, to potentially fill up three of those with a D.C. show would certainly be risky if they wanted a more diverse audience. Plus, this sounds like it will be a police procedural, which would fit in better at another network. However, The CW still could have been all in on this thing and still lost to Fox’s better offer.

    You’ve got Marvel expertly creating a shared universe with their film and television properties, which I agree is a great think for fans and Marvel’s respective franchises. W.B. would seem to at least be in position to set up a shared universe with their television properties. Of course, they tried to take Amazon to the CW, who shot it down, putting into turnaround. So, Fox may just be their best chance at getting Gotham on the air. However, it appears to me to be a rather short-sighted move that again points to how far ahead of the game Marvel is than WB/DC at this point.

    1. You’re right. The standard thing to do is just to mention the person’s most recent credit, which is why I only mentioned The Mentalist. However, Heller did write half of Rome’s 22 total episodes, and the fact that he did both The Mentalist and Rome certainly indicates range.

      Sigh. I hang my head in shame.

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