As Warner Bros. prepares to bring the Caped Crusader back to the big screen in Batman vs. Superman, the studio has also been busy preparing a prequel series set for the small screen. In lieu of a simple Dark Knight origin story, Gotham will follow Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) during his early days on the GCPD force while also introducing a number of fan-favorite Batman franchise staples, years before they became iconic superheroes and villains, including The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin, Catwoman, and others.
For months, rumors suggested a Batman-inspired TV series was in development at Fox and, given that superhero adaptations are now more lucrative than ever, it came as no surprise that when Gotham was finally announced the network picked up the show as “straight to series with penalty” (prior to filming the pilot episode). Now, half-a-year later, Fox has made their intentions official and confirmed at least thirteen episodes of the show – along with new details on when fans will see a trailer (read: sooner than you might think).
Entertainment Weekly was the first outlet to assert the pickup would mean “at least” thirteen episodes – though, given the talent and source material involved, it’s easy to imagine Fox will not stop there. After all, it was always assumed that Gotham would be picked up by the network, given its potential for hit ratings (and a stiff $10 million penalty if it wasn’t), but today’s announcement confirms that Fox remains confident in the project. Any number of things could have gone wrong as the network and Warner Bros. began work on the show, such as creative differences over casting choices or overarching series formatting, but the latest announcement indicates that if executive producers Danny Cannon and John Stephens encountered bumps in the development process, any hiccups weren’t big enough to give Fox pause.
Of course, it’s hard to blame the network when you look through all of the talented people that have signed-on to the project. A strong cast of performers (and characters) including Ben McKenzie (Detective Gordon), Donal Logue (Harvey Bullock), Jada Pinkett Smith (Fish Mooney), David Mazouz (Bruce Wayne), Robin Lord Taylor (The Penguin), Cory Michael Smith (The Riddler) along with newcomer Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle), as well as talented writers like Bruno Heller (The Mentalist), should provide a solid platform for the network to build – especially with the promise of other fan-favorites, most notably The Joker, set to be explored in the future.
That said, plenty of questions remain: what exactly does Fox (and Warner Bros.) intend to construct from this foundation? Network executives keep stressing that Gotham isn’t a show about Batman, it’s about a city on verge of criminal rule; yet, the same executives are name dropping iconic villains in nearly every interview. For that reason, it will be interesting to see if the showrunners can find a balance between familiar franchise faces and the non-Caped Crusader storyline they’ve set out to tell. At face value the premise should have no trouble attracting comic fans but the network needs Gotham to pull-in casual TV viewers too – and with every mention of The Joker (who has yet to be formally cast), along with other Bat-characters, Fox is walking a dangerous line between both having their cake and attempting to eat it.
There’s no doubt that, with the right creative team, Gotham can be a success – even if Bruce Wayne never shows up on screen in cape and cowl. Though, if the writers and showrunners get distracted from their unique story of Gotham and its people, injecting well-known characters just to drum-up interest, it’s possible that the whole project could collapse. As a result, Fox will need to execute a very careful balance between trusting their original story and working-in enough iconic characters to keep the experience fresh and familiar.
It was an ambitious project from the outset, resulting in a healthy mix of viewers that are enthusiastic about visiting Gotham City in a new way and those who consider the Warner Bros. show an affront to Batman’s TV legacy. Love it or hate, Fox is (at the very least) confident that both sides, along with those in between, will be eager to see what the network has created when the show debuts in fall 2014. Of course, fans and critics won’t have to wait that long for a taste of Gotham, since viewers will be inundated with marketing leading up to the show’s premiere – marketing that will kickoff as soon as tonight (during the 24: Live Another Day premier).
We’ll keep you up to date on Gotham as more official information is available (including the first trailer), so check back soon for further reveals!
Gotham is in development and expected to premiere on FOX in Fall 2014.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for any future updates on Gotham, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.