We’ll know in just over a week whether the DC Extended Universe is going to be a real contender in a superhero movie market thus far dominated by Marvel franchises, but on the (broadcast) television side it’s already more-or-less established that DC characters are ruling the roost. Fox’s Gotham continues to draw solid ratings (despite mixed reviews and an increasingly irritated fanbase) while The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow are proving to be a solid draw for The CW – and CBS’ bright, buoyant take on Supergirl is one of the past TV season’s success stories.
For these reasons, it’s not a surprise that the DC brand is being pushed further. In fact, one potential new project has been uncovered that should raise eyebrows among core fans: DC has trademarked “Pennyworth” as a possible title for an upcoming DC TV series.
To be exact, i09 is reporting that a potential Pennyworth TV show would be a “live-action dramatic comedy television series.” Pennyworth, of course, is the surname of Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred, currently portrayed by Sean Pertwee on Fox’s own Gotham and Jeremy Irons in the upcoming Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. One of the most important characters in the Batman mythos, Alfred appears in almost every traditional adaptation of the franchise and is typically depicted as one of (if not the most) important long-term ally of both Bruce Wayne and Batman.
It’s unclear exactly what sort of series Pennyworth would be. Trademark filings for possible project titles are typically filed for any idea that has a decent chance of happening to prevent rights issues, and the language of the filing leaves it things fairly open: Other than being live-action, it sounds as though the project could be anything from a regular series to a special-broadcast miniseries, presented in either the comedy, dramatic or both genres. A series exploring what it’s like to be a the “normal” person confidant/support-system for a troubled superhero is ripe territory for a drama, but it could easily work for a comedy too – highlighting the day-to-day absurdities of maintaining Wayne Manor’s facade of wealth and sophistication when your boss is actually Batman (think Efram Zimbalist Jr’s dry, unflappable take from Batman: The Animated Series.)
The modern conception of Alfred Pennyworth’s character typically lives a rich life, often depicted as having been a British soldier or secret agent of various sorts before he took up a career as a professional servant. As such, a Pennyworth series could easily be a prequel expanding on Alfred’s younger life – potentially presenting him as a kind of “proto-Batman” whose proficiency at heroism might account from some of Bruce Wayne’s early training. Some reports (including io9’s), in fact, had presumed that the project was officially a Gotham prequel, but there’s no specific indication of this connection thus far.
Like many aspects of the Batman mythos introduced early in the character’s history, Alfred’s character has changed dramatically over the years. Originally an overweight comedy-relief character who considered himself an amateur detective (who did not know his employers were secretly Batman and Robin until discovering it by accident), he gradually evolved into his more familiar modern conception, often in order to match the personas created by actors for live-action adaptations – notably Alan Napier’s hyper-competent English gentleman version from the 1960s Batman TV series. The character was killed off at one point in the mid-1960s Batman comics, only to be resurrected as the supervillain The Outsider and ultimately returned to his normal human state.
We’ll bring you more information on a potential Pennyworth TV series as it becomes available. Meanwhile, Gotham airs Monday nights