Earlier today (or technically yesterday, July 30th), current president of “The CW” network, Mark Pedowitz, held a press meeting announcing various current and future TV projects for the broadcast station he has managed since 2011. Among the juiciest tidbits was a major push to create a new TV for “The Flash” in the very near future. As reported by HitFix, the Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood, the game plan is to introduce Barry Allen, the “Silver Age” Flash (circa 1956), as a reoccurring character in the second season of “Arrow”. To that end, producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, and director David Nutter will thus have a chance to shape the latest TV vision of the “fastest man alive”. The second season is set to debut in October and while the role hasn’t been cast, the intention is to build up Allen in “Arrow” with the intention to spin him off on his own show, perhaps by 2014-2015. “Arrow” is, of course, The CW’s latest DC Comics inspired show based around the life and times of Oliver Queen as an archery themed vigilante. It arose due to the great recognition that the character had while on the supporting cast of “Smallville”, which ran on The WB/The CW for ten seasons.
Unfortunately, the news also came as yet another blow to efforts to return Wonder Woman to either the small or big screen. While “The Flash” is getting a “fast track” to production, a potential TV show based on a younger Wonder Woman dubbed “Amazon” is “paused” for the moment. Pedowitz added, “The script isn’t quite where we want it” after nearly a year of development. This is atop of DC Entertainment announcing a “Superman/Batman” film for 2015 with rumored development on “The Flash” and “Justice League” films for the following years – and no Wonder Woman. Several weeks ago, DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson considered the ironic heroine “tricky” to present to mass media audiences. The CW famously rejected a pilot pitch by David E. Kelley which went on to film for NBC in 2011, which was ridiculed and lambasted by critics and not picked up.
For the record, both Flash and Wonder Woman have had previous TV shows. In 1990, “The Flash” aired for one season on CBS, which starred John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen. It struggled against low ratings, stiff competition, high production costs and coverage of the Gulf War, which often interrupted it. “Wonder Woman”, on the other hand, aired for three seasons from 1975-1979 on ABC for its first season (set in WWII) and on CBS for its second two seasons and starred Lynda Carter in her most famous role. While the production budget was cut for the latter two seasons, it was cancelled (along with “Amazing Spider-Man”, which starred Nicholas Hammond from 1977-1979) not due to low ratings, but due to CBS fearing being pigeon holed by audiences for superhero shows. One would think a relaunch of the more successful show would be a no-brainer, but one would be wrong. Various websites and experts claim various reasons for Wonder Woman being “tricky”, such as the kinky habits of her original 1941 creator William M. Marston or the hesitancy of Hollywood in general to built tent pole franchises around female actors and franchises.
Pedowitz stated that any potential film plans by Warner Brothers would have no impact on any Flash TV series, and thus the only factors in that regard are ratings and critical reaction to his appearance in “Arrow”. While “Arrow” is set in a seemingly “realistic” grim city in which the hero who is obviously Green Arrow is too ashamed to call himself that for its first season, apparently characters with super-powers will arise in its second season. The notion of seeking to launch a Flash series as a spin-off of a successful series is nothing new; back in 2005-2006 there was an attempt to create an “Aquaman” show as a spin-off to “Smallville” which fell through despite a pilot being filmed.
Yet are Warner Brothers (who run The CW alongside CBS), DC Entertainment and other powers-that-be squandering an opportunity? It is no secret that aside for the Chris Nolan run Batman films, DC Entertainment has struggled (at best) to compete with Marvel licensed films and especially with Marvel Studios productions since 2008. “Man of Steel” has been a modest success, but all of their previous DC Universe themed films – “Green Lantern”, “Jonah Hex”, “Superman Returns” and “Catwoman” – have either underwhelmed or flat out bombed in theaters over the years. While DC Entertainment may be playing a severe game of “catch up” with their rivals in terms of a “superhero cinematic universe” and a train of spandex hits, they seem to fail to appreciate the fact that they own the rights to the most well known heroine in pop fiction who practically everyone at least recognizes on sight alone. With Marvel balking or at least hesitating to bring any of their heroines to the big screen (with attempts at TV shows revolving around Mockingbird or Jessica Jones falling through), Wonder Woman could be one area where WB could attempt to one-up their rival.
As Mark Hughes brilliantly points out in a long article for Forbes, franchises centered around female characters in genres of action, fantasy, and sci-fi have been more successful than bigwigs seem to let on – from “Alien” to “Twlight” to “Hunger Games”, “Underworld”, and “Resident Evil”. Out of the eighteen “DC Universe Original Animated Movies” released on DVD since 2007, one of the few not centered around Batman or Superman – “Wonder Woman” – from 2009 proved to be the fourth best selling one. The heroine has not only stayed in the public eye (as well as the hearts of children) due not only to syndication of the 70’s show but by regular cast appearances on Cartoon Network productions such as “Justice League”, “Justice League Unlimited”, and “Young Justice” from 2001 until this year.
To paraphrase a Biblical verse, it seems that Wonder Woman within DC Entertainment and Warner Brothers may be close to a pearl among swine. Her origins and decades of comic tales may be complicated in parts, but no more so than many characters who haven’t been around nearly as long (such as “Ghost Rider”, who earned two films from Sony). The root of her story is a mythical fish out of water story which offers opportunities for action, romance, and some gender equality for an era of superhero cinema where female characters are still inclined to be sidekicks, girlfriends, or at best fellow team mates of male heroes. In a world where “Swamp Thing”, a time traveling Ichabod Crane and the “GEICO” cavemen can receive stabs at network television stardom, or where $50 million can be invested in “Jonah Hex” decades after Westerns no longer equaled printed cash, surely Wonder Woman can’t be that outlandish or difficult. With the female audience being key to many TV and box office successes (even “Man of Steel” had an audience of 44% women) and many successful franchises reaching across to audiences of many genders (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), there is little excuse for not betting on the precursor to them all aside for incompetence or fear. “The Flash” may well be a good effort to broaden horizons, but he may never have the raw potential in the wondrous Amazon.