For a little while now, I’ve been unexcited about the concept behind FOX’s upcoming Batman prequel, GOTHAM. I don’t know if it’s because Smallville teased me for a decade or because I was more excited for Heroes than I have ever beenabout any other show. Ever.
You should note that these criticisms have nothing to do with what we’ve seen of GOTHAM at all. And that’s fair. The cast looks great. The trailer actually looks pretty amazing.
But I guess I just don’t see the point. I wouldn’t be shocked if some of the show had been inspired by Gotham Central, which I quite enjoyed. The premise being what super crime in Gotham looks like from the street view the cops have.
But the takeaway of these stories for me is that there need to be superheroes. Which I totally agree with, but why would I want to watch a show that doesn’t have any?
A Different Kind of Show
So if I were doing GOTHAM, I think the first thing I would do is get rid of Gotham City. It’s too well-known and the idea of Batman is so provocative you risk creating a Batman babies program with kid Catwoman and young Joker. I say forget that noise. Instead, I would do a completely generic police procedural like you see on TNT. There would be dramatic scenes, compelling music, and beautiful, brooding protagonists staring directly at the screen a la Rizzoli and Iles or Cold Case.
And I would keep it completely mundane for the entire first season. Just the typical one-shot criminals and police drama. And then in the second season, a few episodes in, I would hit the protagonists with their first supervillain. No one knows where he or she came from or why they do it. All the cops know is they’re darn near unstoppable and they barely run them out of town.
At this point, careful observers might have noticed the tiniest hints of weirdness around the edges of the first season that foreshadowed something else going on. And then the show would go back to normal for a little bit while everyone wondered what the #$?! was going on.
And the show would carry on like that for a while. Normal police procedural that occasionally sees a supervillain pop in a do something crazy. It would be a subtle escalation that tests the limits of our heroes and gives a true view of what everyday life looks like when you have to live in a world with superpowers.
And then around season 4 the first superhero would show up. Just out of the blue, after the cops are getting used to just barely winning and seeing friends die at the hands of super crazies, a masked vigilante shows up and changes the game.
And this is where it gets really interesting. The show turns out to have been a hero origin story the whole time, but from the perspective of our dynamic police force. And like the cops, the show doesn’t reveal who the hero is or how they became what they are. Instead we’re left guessing if it’s one of the supporting cast or some bit criminal from season 1. Could just be some guy no one knows.
Maybe eventually the police even form an alliance, if they ever figure out he’s not just another nut job and stop trying to arrest him.
And I would have the story arcs for each season pre-written, so we could lay down clues and foreshadow events years out.
It would be a long con for sure, and I expect no basic cable station would want anything to do with it in the age of instant gratification television. And if it did get a first season, there would be the constant threat of cancellation. But imagine audience reaction once it started to get real. And maybe this kind of show is too conceptual for modern television. Hard to say, but I do think we live in an embarrassment of superhero riches. As the genre’s creative boundaries stretch further and further, maybe some enterprising, young artists will read this and steal it.