Can a superhero television show thrive on one of the big three networks? Arrow & The Flash have garnered a fervent but niche audience on the CW (a 1.44 & 1.01 rating share respectively). These numbers are more than enough to be the top rated show on the CW; but on CBS or ABC or Fox – not even close. Agent Carter, Gotham & Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have all struggled to find a consistent audience on the mainstream networks. They’ve survived through a first (and second) season, not so much on their own merit but out of obligation to a parent company, ABC to Marvel & Fox to Warner Brothers. And yet the ratings for these shows exceed even that of the so-called successful CW superhero shows. Agent Carter hovers around a 1.51 share; S.H.I.E.L.D – a 1.59; Gotham – a 2.19. To-be-fair with the increasingly fragmented nature of television audiences, perhaps a small but engaged fan-base is more than enough to be considered a ‘success’.
Supergirl though will air on CBS, the biggest of all the networks. Will the need to appeal to the CBS brand affect the formula EPs Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg honed on Flash & Arrow? Does the need to hit a bigger audience weigh on them? Does this in turn influence the direction of the show? And what exactly is a successful ‘superhero’ show or a television show for that matter?
At Comic Con, the EPs and cast of Supergirl weighed in bringing a superhero show to CBS and the direction of the upcoming first season. Below are bullet point highlights from the conversation.
- Does being on CBS vs. the CW affect Supergirl? “So far – it really hasn’t,” Kreisberg, stated, “Thus far, we’ve been doing our same process and CBS have been great partners in helping us bring our vision of the character to life. I know behind the scenes there are probably some financial considerations. I’m not sure we could pull this show off on the CW, although we’ve gotten pretty good at doing a lot with very little. But it’s still the same. I think the big difference is when I’m watching football on Sundays, I’m now going to see commercials for Supergirl…
- How does Supergirl differ from Superman? EP Sarah Schechter – “What’s so great about Supergirl as opposed to Superman is that Kara grew up the first thirteen years of her life with no powers. Then she comes to a planet that tells teenage girls to suppress their power. So for Kara becoming an adult woman is getting back in touch with that.” Supergirl doesn’t need Superman. “It’s not that DC said ‘Oh – you can’t use Superman’. This show is about Supergirl. It’s not about the man; it’s about the woman. And the woman is the one we don’t know enough about. This is [Kara’s] story. It’s about her becoming a superhero. I remember Greg calling me and saying ‘I figured [Supergirl] out. It’s like Ginger Rogers. She has to do everything Fred Astaire does but backwards and in heels.’ That’s what Supergirl has to do.”
- What’s the best part of playing Supergirl? Per series star Melissa Benoist “I love that Kara is still in a process of discovering herself. It’s really a coming of age story. I love when she finds her strength and when she owns it, when she has no fear.” She continued — “Kara is constantly messing up. She’s flying by the seat of her pants half the time. I love that there’s room to go. It shows that no one has it all figured out no matter what powers you have.”
There will be a liberal use of flashbacks throughout the first season of Supergirl. “Kara has memories of Krypton and we’re going to continue to see and play into that” Schechter revealed, “There’s so much story to tell both in the present and in the past. We’ll continue to explore all the aspects of who Kara is – her family and her life which means we’ll be seeing more of everything.”
- There won’t be any crossovers between the superhero shows on The CW (The Flash & Arrow) and Supergirl. Per Kreisberg: “For right now, I don’t think the Arrow, Flash or the Legends universe is going to crossover with Supergirl; but just like how on those shows we bring in other DC characters and other DC heroes, we have plans to do the same things on Supergirl. Supergirl won’t feel like just Supergirl. There are going to be some great iconic DC characters coming onto the show. Some of them not even associated necessarily with Superman.” When pressed for particulars on who would show up on the series, Kreisberg remained coy.
- The implications of becoming a role model weighed on star Melissa Benoist. “I look at it as such a privilege and an honor and a responsibility. To show people that you can be a strong woman without… so often these days, it’s assumed that if you’re strong and powerful, you’re not really the nicest person… But I want to show girls that you can spread positivity and hope through your strength.”
What type of villains can you expect on Supergirl? Per EP Andrew Kreisberg “In addition to the alien threats, there will be normal human villains — Lex Luthor types who don’t have any superpowers. There will also be human beings who have incredible tech. The villains will be coming from all different sorts of areas… The more personal the conflict though the better. Just like on The Flash: Harrison Wells was a father [figure] to Barry so the fact that he was also a villain made it that much more exciting. As opposed to Superman, Kara remembers growing up on [Krypton]. She remembers her aunt. She remembers her parents. She remembers her family. For Kara, [the villains] are people that she knew growing up. We believe that’s going to lead to some incredible drama.”
- On the importance of “hope” in Supergirl: “The world can be a really dark place. A lot of people have hard lives. We hope to deliver an hour of fun and hopefulness” Schechter stated “Hope is the cornerstone for Superman and Supergirl. The hope that they offer is essential for these characters.” Schechter cited the Richard Donner films as a primary example of this “hope-filled” interpretation.
Supergirl premieres on CBS October 26th. You can read our review of the pilot here.