February in Tights, Part One: Gotham
It’s been a while since I’ve taken on a bit of themed blogging (RIP Doctor Who recaps, at least till this brutal last term of university is over). And, since I’ve been watching and thoroughly enjoying the almost grotesquely campy Legends of Tomorrow and I recently imbued myself with multi-coloured comic book supervillain hair-
-I figured that I should take a look at some of the other superhero shows currently doing the rounds on TV. There’s plenty to choose from, and I’m open to suggestions, so if there’s something you think I’d utterly adore or totally detest and want to see reviewed here, feel free to comment/tweet/howl to the moon about it till I get it done. I’ll be kicking off this week with Gotham. So, without further ado, let’s get started on February in Tights!
Right, so, when Gotham first came out, it was pretty inescapable. There were ads on the side of buses, for fuck’s sake. And I’ll admit that I was pretty interested. I’ve always liked the character of Jim Gordon, and it’s always fun to get a chance to revel in the extensive and especially fiendish rogue’s gallery that the Batman universe offers. I watched a couple of episodes, lost interest, and didn’t give it much thought till I decided to make it my inaugural post for this month’s blogging.
Now, as a casual comic-book fan, Batman is my favourite superhero. How could he not be? With oodles of angst, cool gadgets, and a slick playboy alter-ego, he’s by far the coolest caped crusader on the block. And that’s partly what Gotham’s appeal was to me and many other fans- a dark, gritty, live-action Batman TV show! Why hasn’t this happened before? HOW COULD THIS POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
But, fuck me, Gotham went wrong. It’s hard for me to convey just how much this show’s continued popularity and critical acclaim (?!?!?!?!) baffles me, because I honestly think Gotham is maybe the worst show to come out of the last few years on TV. And yes, I’m including disasters like Glee and Smash in that list, because while they were terrible, they were at least terrible in a disastrous and occasionally amusing way. Gotham is an endless, nightmarish trudge of a show, a funeral dirge for my interest in the Batman universe. All things admitted, I watched till the end of season one in a sort of horrified daze, so I all my criticism relates to the episodes I have seen.
It stars Ben McKenzie as a young Jim Gordon, a police detective in Gotham attempting to keep the city clean while cracking the murder of the Waynes, a homicide that left only their son, Bruce, alive. This offers a problem right off the bat (if you’ll excuse the pun)-what makes Jim Gordon so interesting to me is that he’s a consummate good guy, a man of morals who’s uneasy alliance with the violent vigilantism of Batman gives his character some internal tension. Take that away, and you’ve just got a paper-thin hero archetype patting little Bruce Wayne on the head. And yes, you read that right- this is a Batman series in which Batman is a small, whiny child, one who reaches staggering levels of irritating by the end of the first fucking episode, let alone the first season. I hate ripping on child actors, but is this really the best one they could find for such a pivotal role in the show? I mean, it’s not as if he has much to work of off-Sean Pertwee straining to be Michael Caine as Alfred and falling far, far short, Camren Bicondova, apparently playing a young Catwoman but coming off as more Victorian-era orphan, and Ben McKenzie along with various other Noble Cops boring the audience to suicide.
The rest of the cast is slightly better, if only because they get to play the infinitely more interesting villains. Robin Lord Taylor as the Penguin is about the only one to come out of the show unscathed, in an edgy and mouthy performance that just vaults passable but looks Oscar-worthy in comparison to the rest of the cast. Jada Pinkett-Smith as Fish Mooney is neither camp enough to be outrageous fun or straight enough to be taken seriously, no matter how hard she tries to get a handle on the character. Nicholas D’Agosto (who will always be “Oh, that guy from Final Destination 5, right?”, no matter how many critically acclaimed shows he features in) as Harvey Dent is…there, I guess? Milo Ventimiglia hits a new career low (which I thought was genuinely impossible after Heroes) in a horrendously bastardised version of Ogre.
And, since I mention it, one of the things that fucks me off about Gotham so much is that it insists on butchering some of Batman’s coolest villains. Take Victor Zsasz, for example, my absolute stone-cold favourite Batman villain of all time- I was pumped beyond belief when I found out he was going to turn up in this series. And what started out as a killer so unhinged there weren’t spaces between the words in his internal monologue winds up on Gotham a….vaguely threatening mob grunt? Ogre, a character driven insane by years of torture at the hands of scientists attempting to find the next stage of human evolution, turns up as a…good-looking sociopath who kills women who don’t meet his standards? To me, at least, these changes are baffling-why the fuck would you make a Batman show about the origins of Batman and his greatest enemies only to completely ignore what they actually are? Why not just create a show all of your own? Well, we know the answer to that question: Batman sells. Even if he’s a kid and the villains are almost all terrible or nonexistent.
So, yes, I guess my biggest problem with Gotham is the fact that it doesn’t feel like a Batman show. That would always have been a risk with a story of this nature, but, in failing to build a convincingly Batman-y world, Gotham transforms into a generic procedural with the Bat-signal blasting from it in an attempt to con in new fans.
So, what should I review next?