Arts & CultureFilm & TV

Price: Superhero TV series cannot compete with their big-screen counterparts



As we approach the halfway mark of autumn, the cold, dark reality that winter is just around the corner creeps into many of our minds. But we mustn’t fret. With the shortening of days comes one silver lining: the return of our favorite TV shows.

This fall, networks are continuing to chase the superhero trend. Not only did most of these shows from last season get renewed, but stations have also added several superhero-related programs to their primetime slots.

It’s no surprise that many major TV networks have tried capitalizing on superhero stories after witnessing Marvel and DC’s recent box-office dominance. The number of Superhero shows seems to have become increasingly more popular than ever before, but these shows never seem to be as good as viewers might hope.

One explanation for this is that due to the recent popularity and quantity of major motion pictures produced by comic book companies, the television industry is left with only second-tier superheroes. While the list of popular superhero movies features the likes of Superman, Batman, Iron Man and Captain America, the list of heroes seen on TV includes the mediocre cast of Green Arrow, Agent Carter and Daredevil. It’s difficult for writers to retain their audiences as it is, so when given an already unpopular main character to star in a show, it’s not astonishing that these shows don’t fare too well.

Another reason that these shows never reach their potential is that unlike superhero movies, television series focus far too much on the hero’s origin story. While movies like The Avengers and Man of Steel skim through the protagonist’s backstory as if the audience knows it by heart, TV shows will often dedicate entire seasons to the hero’s life before they put on their mask (Smallville dedicated its entire show to Clark Kent’s adolescence).

This storytelling technique creates constant rising action, which is great at first. Building suspense keeps viewers coming back week-to-week, but the tension becomes mundane when it drags on for seasons. This might explain why so many superhero shows have highly rated first seasons, but tend to experience a steep decline in the following years.

But the number one reason that superhero shows don’t work is their low production value. It’s unfair to compare the production quality of any TV show to a movie, but it’s impossible not to.

When you watch Iron Man and his gang of super-friends save New York City from an alien invasion by exploding a nuclear bomb into a closing inter-dimensional portal in 3D and IMAX, even the smallest of imperfections on a TV set make it unwatchable (Once you see it, you won’t be able to un-see the horrific backdrop on the set of Arrow).

It’s wrong to hold it against the shows for not having the same budget as Hollywood blockbusters, but from all the graphics to stunts, movies with high production value really put the “super” in “superheroes.”

In the end, it’s all about making the hero’s superhuman abilities as interesting and believable as possible. Superhero television series simply don’t have the characters, the writing or the production value to be able to compete with their big-screen counterparts.


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Zach Price

Zach Price

Zach Price is the Editor in Chief of the Emerald. He likes to write about music and watch Trail Blazer games.

Reach Zach at [email protected]