With seven superhero films hitting the big screen in 2016 – followed by eight in 2017, if Fox keeps its Fantastic Four 2 slot – there’s no doubt cinema has fully succumb to the capes and cowls movement. Even the small screen, despite its wider scope and variety of content, has adopted the trend, boasting 14 comic book-inspired series for the 2015-2016 season. And leading the charge on the television front is The CW (which, for all intents and purposes, might as well stand for ‘Comic World’).
Counting the Vertigo adaptation iZombie, nearly half of The CW’s original programming is comprised of DC Comics properties. After the success of Arrow, the network quickly added The Flash; and after its own tremendous success, audiences could hardly blink before DC’s Legends of Tomorrow appeared on the horizon. Existing in the Arrow/Flash universe, the spin-off will feature pre-established characters (i.e. Atom, Captain Cold, etc.) while introducing many new ones to the network as well.
That said, The CW has no intention of becoming ‘The DC.’ In an effort to prevent superheroes from completely overshadowing the network, President Mark Pedowitz (hat tip CBM) stated – during the 2015 Television Critics Association press tour – that after Legends of Tomorrow, the DC universe’s small screen expansion is on hold: “There is no intention, at this point, to spin anything else off.”
The confirmation should not come as a surprise, nor a disappointment, to viewers. While both Arrow and The Flash have seen indisputable success, they arguably follow a more traditional storytelling format and feature less obscure comic book protagonists compared to Legends of Tomorrow – which will adopt a formula similar to that of Power Rangers. At the risk of overstuffing (or overpowering) the TV lineup even further, The CW will help itself – and small screen superheroes in general – by taking a few much needed breaths, waiting to see how Legends and even CBS’s Supergirl ultimately perform.
There is of course the possibility that Legends will not score well; thus, acting prematurely by planning, say, a Hawkgirl spin-off before the character receives the definitive fan seal of approval would only cripple the network. As such, caution is the name of the game, especially with superhero fatigue lingering near. And it is this same caution that originally prevented The CW from initially taking on Supergirl, before the show flew on over to CBS. At the TCA presentation, Pedowitz (via Deadline) addressed his regret regarding the decision.
We hadn’t launched ‘The Flash’ yet, we weren’t ready to take on another DC property. In hindsight we probably should’ve gone that direction… Sometime you lose great shows.
Spreading out the crop of superhero programs to other networks may prove beneficial to Pedowitz, though, in terms of exposure and limited risk. Whereas the failure of one DC series on the CW could negatively impact or even sink its entire shared universe ship (think ‘Battleship’ strategy), the success of Supergirl on CBS – a more “mainstream” network, if you will – could bring an increase in viewership to Arrow, Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow, while making cross-network crossovers that much more likely.
Overall, the lack of any further DC-CW shows in the foreseeable future is not a sign of foreboding, but one of potential; it is the calm before (hopefully) another potential superhero storm.
The Flash season two begins Tuesday, October 6, at 8PM on The CW; Arrow season four begins Wednesday, October 7, at 8PM on The CW; and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is expected to debut in early 2016 on The CW.