There has been plenty of discussion concerning the upcoming Supergirl TV series recently, with rumored actresses in the running for the role, a new take on established "Superman" characters, and even a potential CW crossover. But little has been released from those actually overseeing the development of the CBS series - until now.
Given how much marketing fans have gotten used to concerning DC Comics' TV properties (due in large part to The CW's growing superhero universe), the relative silence from CBS has been a surprise. Executive producer Greg Berlanti recently stated that those crafting the show aren't rushing the process, but now CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler has offered her own hopes for the series and its leading lady.
A variety of sources to this point have helped create a general synopsis for Supergirl: as a survivor of the destroyed planet Krypton, Kara Zor-El - known to Earth as Kara Danvers - has kept her unique powers a secret for most of her life. But at the age of 24, Kara embraces her powers to help those in need around her. Speaking at the winter Television Critics Association event (courtesy of EW), Tassler confirmed that the series would be based around not just superpowered drama, but family and career issues as well.
That makes Kara not only a strong counterpart to the other superheroes being adapted to the small screen, but another procedural in keeping with some of the network's most successful:
"There will be [crime] cases, but what [executive producers] Ali Adler and Greg Berlanti pitched was a real series arc for her... The beauty of it is now with shows like Good Wife and Madam Secretary, you can have serialized story elements woven into a case of the week. She’s a crime solver, so she’s going to have to solve a crime. She’s going to get a bad guy."
There was a time when a 'Supergirl procedural' would have raised eyebrows, but a look across the networks shows that serialized procedurals ('cases of the week' taking place alongside season-long plots) have largely become the norm. Just how effective Kara Danvers will be as an amateur detective remains to be seen. But even if the program is expected to emulate The Flash's brand of super-heroics, the network is promising to send a much stronger message.
Tassler's decision to mention both The Good Wife and Madam Secretary is no coincidence. With Marvel launching their first female-led series in Agent Carter, both comic companies seem eager to dispel the stigma and stereotypes of old (a task proving to be easier said than done). The network didn't just see Superman's cousin as a Man of Steel stand-in, but another strong heroine to add to their slate:
"It’s a female empowerment story. If you look at the strong female characters we have on the air, it really is resonant of that … We’re big feminists. It’s her intellect, it’s her skill, it’s her smarts. It’s all of those elements. It’s not just her strength, which she does have.
"I think we’re watching an evolution with regard to the way that superhero characters are portrayed... There’s a humanity. They’re flawed. There’s a relatability. For our network right now, what we did respond to was the character’s humanity, the other characters in the show as well — the story trajectory and the character’s arc and growth. These are all things that made her just imminently relatable, and made the story exciting. We made a decision based on the pitch that we heard."
Given the success that Greg Berlanti and his fellow producers have found with adapting comic properties, it's no surprise that CBS took the opportunity to get in on the superhero action when it arose. We now know that The CW was in the running to host the Supergirl series early on, but president Mark Pedowitz says he's "very happy" to see DC's heroes spread across other networks.
As for a potential star, neither Tassler nor Berlanti seem willing to divulge their frontrunners (assuming they've found them). But the chairman knows what the role will demand, having experienced Superman on the small screen firsthand:
"She’s got to be an every woman... I think back to having had the good fortune of being at Warner Bros. when we were doing Lois & Clark, the chemistry between Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher was really wonderful. So I think in this case, it’s looking for someone who embodies both the freshness and the exuberance of being a young woman in today’s challenging climate and being someone who can carry this kind of series on her shoulders. It’s a big, big show."
Tassler would later warn that CBS is interesting in keeping Supergirl (and her "awesome" costume, crafted by Oscar winner Colleen Atwood) to themselves for the time being. In other words, add her name to the list of executives in no rush to crossover with The Flash or Arrow before establishing the character on her own.
Supergirl is expected to air on CBS in 2015.