UPDATED 2/10/14: I recently wrote a follow-up article updating the status for all 5 of DC’s shows in active development. You can read that here.
Marvel just dropped the bombshell that Netflix has committed to a minimum of four thirteen-episodes TV shows, each one centered around a specific character-Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage. This multi-year event will conclude with the four characters uniting in an Avengers-style mini-series event called The Defenders, which, like The Avengers, is also the name of a long-running superhero team in the comics. So, that’s 5 different TV shows Netflix has apparently committed to airing, er, streaming.
You know what, though? Maybe D.C. saw this coming because they actually have 5 different shows of their own currently in active development, two of them (Hourman, iZombie) just announced this week. However, because D.C. is going through the more traditional network show development route not a single one of their in-development properties is guaranteed to ever make it to air whereas Marvel and Netflix make it seem like their shows are 100% happening. Compare that to prior failures for D.C. like the ill-fated Aquaman show to run alongside Smallville on the WB, and David E. Kelley’s horrendous version of Wonder Woman for NBC. At least both of those made it to pilot. The CW’s own recently scrapped Wonder Woman project, Amazon, never even made it that far.
The point is it’s a bit of a crapshoot, these TV shows. So, here are the 5 shows D.C. currently has in active development. They are arranged from oldest to newest (in terms of when they were announced), and I provide an assessment as to how likely they are to ever end up on TV:
Network: The CW
Background: A potential spin-off of Arrow centered around the Barry Allen version of The Flash, to be played by Glee’s Grant Gustin. Allen will show up in episodes 8 and 9, currently scheduled to air 12/4 and 12/11 respectively. He will re-appear in the second half of the season in episode 20, which be set in “in his own world” (most likely Central City) and function as a backdoor pilot for a Flash TV show. If The CW picks likes the backdoor pilot and orders a full spin-off series, Arrow co-creators Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg and D.C. Chief Creative Officer and sometimes Arrow writer Geoff Johns will head the new show.
Chances?: Very strong; Arrow has emerged as an anchor show for The CW where being watched by just less than 2 million people every week is pretty good. Plus, the network just recently jumped into the spin-off game by committing to The Originals, a Vampire Diaries spin-off, and so far The Originals is pulling in decent ratings.
Background: Set up as a police crime procedural that just happens to be set in a pre-Batman Gotham City and revolves around a not-yet-Commissioner James Gordon. In this telling of the story, Gordon would still just be a detective, much as he was in Frank Miller’s iconic graphic novel Batman: Year One (which partially inspired Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins). It’s likely that as in both of those sources Gotham would see Gordon battling corruption from within the police force. Some of Batman’s villains are on the table to possibly show-up, but Batman is off-limits. The concept is somewhat adapted from the short-lived comic book series Gotham Central, which was almost adapted into a TV show as far back as a decade ago. Bruno Heller (The Menalist/Rome) is attached as creator/executive producer.
Chances?: Strong; Fox won a bidding war over the show with the other networks by giving 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, no fuss.
Background: John Constantine began as a chain-smoking, trenchcoat-wearing British street magician/conman who became a paranormal investigator constantly tasked with looking into the latest supernatural happenings on the seedy streets of London in Hellblazer. He has most notably beaten cancer, journeyed to hell, and even made appearances in stories with Sandman and Batman. He is a notoriously cynical, irreverent anti-hero, an individual around whom loved ones drop like flies and return to haunt him as literal ghosts. The TV adaptation will present a different take on the material than the much-maligned 2005 Keanu Reeves film. It comes from uber-screenwriter/producer David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel, Da Vinci’s Demons) and writer/producer Daniel Cerone (The Mentalist, Dexter), and they landed a script commitment from NBC.
Chances?: Low; A show about a paranormal investigator would fit perfectly on NBC’s Friday night line-up with Grimm, a better fit than the limited series Dracula. Plus, David S. Goyer is a definite big name to have attached. However, NBC’s level of commitment here – a mere script order – is low. They’d have been better off getting in bed with a cable network where they could do a more faithful adaptation of the material.
Network: The CW
Background: I’d actually never even heard of Hourman before this week. So, here’s how The Hollywood Reporter described him:
“Hourman centers on a brilliant-yet-troubled pharmaceutical analyst who discovers that the visions that have plagued him since childhood are actually glimpses of tragic events occurring one hour in the future. Determined to win back his ex-wife and son, he heroically prevents these tragedies from unfolding, finding both purpose and redemption along the way.”
That immediately draws to mind comparisons to shows like Journeyman, Flash Forward, Awake, and Angel, particularly the latter where a prime story-generator was characters (Doyle then Cordelia) experiencing prophetic visions of bad things about to happen and sending the heroes to prevent the vision from becoming reality. “Michael Caleo (Ironside, The Sopranos) will pen the script and executive produce the drama alongside Dan Lin and Lin Pictures’ head of television, Jennifer Gwartz.”
Chances?: Low; it’s unclear what type of commitment The CW has even made to the project other than commissioning Caleo to go write a pilot script. There’s not really enough information yet to know what to think about this project’s long-term chances, other than observing that recent shows to feature time-travel as a central component have not done well ratings-wise.
Network: The CW
Background: Similar to Hourman, I can make no claims to having heard of this one before this week. So, here’s how Deadline.com described it:
“iZombie is a supernatural crime procedural that follows a medical student-turned-zombie, who takes a job in the coroner’s office to gain access the sweet, delicious brains needed to keep her humanity. Each brain also allows her to experience the corpse’s memories, teaming with her medical examiner boss and a detective to solve homicide cases, and ultimately quiet the disturbing voices in her mind.”
If nothing else, this news makes me want to go read this comic now, which is on D.C.’s Vertigo imprint. The component of the brain eating being a pathway to gaining that person’s memories is reminiscent of Warm Bodies. It’s tough to imagine a show featuring a zombie as a central character who somehow passes for not-zombie, but I never would have envisioned the non-traditional versions of vampires presented in Being Human (have light sensitivity to sunlight, but don’t burst into flames) and Vampire Diaries (wear magic rings to move around in sunlight with no harm) prior to those shows either. Rob Thomas and his Veronica Mars movie co-writer Diane Rugiero are attached as show co-creators/producers and will write the pilot.
Chances?: Moderate; Just like Hourman, we actually know very little here, and Rob Thomas may be a name but it is a name attached to critically-adored shows (Veronica Mars, Party Down) that not enough people watched. However, it’s a show about zombies at a time when The Walking Dead inexplicably continues breaking its own series ratings records. Plus, the French drama The Returned has received critical praise for its fresh approach to the zombie story, and it is now getting remade at A&E. It’s the right topic at the right time for iZombie meaning The CW will likely be very eager to make this thing work.
What say you? Which one intrigues you the most? Bores you the most? Or has Marvel successfully sucked up all of your attention with their Netflix announcement yesterday?