When Gotham was initially announced, the fan reaction was not what you would call 'overwhelmingly positive': "A Batman TV show with no Batman? No way!" ...was what we heard echoing around the Interwebs. It was a valid concern: a Batman spinoff TV series set in Gotham City immediately after the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents, years before the young man will ever don the iconic cape and cowl and begin a one-man war on crime? Where's the hook?
Soon after it was announced that the show would not only follow detective James Gordon's arrival in Gotham, but also chronicle the back stories of Batman villains (Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, to name a few). Fans were intrigued. Then came the official Gotham trailer (which you can view below) and the tide officially turned: Gotham is no longer just one of OUR most anticipated TV shows of 2014. Between it, new Flash and Constantine TV series and the continuing success of Arrow, fans are practically ready for a DC superhero TV revolution!
EW got to speak with Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller, who dropped a lot of info that curious fans probably want to know about. We've taken the liberty of condensing the full interview down into a list of facts for you speed-reading convenience:
- The show is possible BECAUSE Batman does not technically appear in it (WB is using him, if you hadn't heard). That's okay with Heller, because to him superheroes are more interesting outside of the mask.
- The hook of the pitch for the show was, What if young James Gordon was the detective who investigated the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents?
- Jim Gordon as a new man in town was the entryway into the script; a lot of the heavy work was creating more extensive backstories for iconic villains.
- Heller did his research, realized how many iterations of the characters there are, and when he'd absorbed enough, he created his own version of them.
- Season 1 is fully plotted out in advanced, and the show WILL be serialized. A procedural wouldn't have worked because the villains also get storylines. Fox is backing that approach.
- Heller wouldn't name-drop EVERY character who will appear in the show (some could be surprising), but he did say, "Penguin, Riddler, young Catwoman, Alfred. Possibly Harvey Dent. Poison Ivy."
- Joker is coming, but it's going to be a slow-burn and carefully built reveal.
- It'll be a darker sort of Joker (like Heath Ledger), but a new design; they aren't shying away from interpreting the character for their own universe.
- Likewise, the show makers aren't letting the Nolan films define their take in any way. Heller goes so far as to say that Gotham will be better at articulating the street-level world of Gotham City, which he compares to '70s NYC.
- Unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Gotham isn't taking place in the same time period as an active superhero universe - it's set before one. Heller believes that will help their show avoid the "valley of letdown" that comes with not being able to see Agent Coulson standing next to Thor or Iron Man every week.
- While certain iconic characters have a fixed trajectory, the characters around those icons are in play to create surprise, twists, character and story arcs, etc. In addition, there are Batman villains from way, way, back (like the 1940s) which people have not seen onscreen before.
- There will be violence and darkness in this network show.
- Donal Logue allowed them to make Harvey Bullock shine; Alfred (Sean Pertwee) will be a "dangerous" father figure with a military background, who slowly but surely allows Bruce to become a dark vigilante.
- David Mazouz (young Bruce Wayne) is a "prodigy" according to Heller. His talent allowed them expand the use of Bruce Wayne in the series. NO WORRIES: Bruce won't be trying to pull-off some child vigilantism every week. The show explores the "strange education" that leads to the formation of his alter-ego.
For our part, there are some reassuring things that Heller said:
- The angle of young Bruce Wayne has been a serious make-or-break element for us. Exploring Bruce's mentality sounds so much better than having a young kid trying to be Batman (it's probably safer too, legally speaking).
- Each of the principal characters sounds like a proper angle on an icon: new but still familiar, and appropriate for the hard-boiled, Noir-ish world of Batman.
- The fact that Season 1 is fully plotted out is comforting; shows with good showrunners and a fully-formed vision are the type we like to see. (Truthfully, network needs more of them.)
- A darker, violent world is what we'd expect from Gotham City. It's good to hear that network TV (and let's be honest... FOX) won't be an impediment.
- The claims that Heller is making about the show's visual palette and artistry are bold ones - hopefully it lives up to them.
As we said: Gotham is already at the top of our most anticipated TV shows list - how about you?
Gotham is in development and expected to premiere on FOX in Fall 2014.