Tag Archive: Greg Berlanti


Review by C.J. Bunce

Isn’t this a great time for a new superhero series to begin?  If you agree then you’re in luck, because tonight’s premiere episode of Stargirl might be DC Comics’ best TV pilot yet.  Prepare to meet the next superheroes from the corners of 30 years of DC Comics.  Courtney Whitmore’s relationship with her new stepdad is like you’d expect at first–awkward.  But it’s doubly awkward when he’s an over-eager good guy named Patrick played by Luke Wilson (known best for his roles in Wes Anderson movies and an unforgettable spot on The X-Files).  Courtney (seen above sporting a rather timely mask) discovers there is more than meets the eye with Pat, and the series opener will propel viewers further ahead into his secrets and past–sooner than you might expect.  The result is incredibly promising, a pilot mixing well-done special effects with a great story, a coming of age tale targeted at kids, a fun cast of familiar faces and a new young actress hitting the ground running (or soaring), a cool car and a 1950s vibe, and throwbacks for viewers who keep their eyes open.  And the entire first season is now available on digital.

Continue reading

McHale stargirl

What’s more fun than the idea of Joel McHale as a DC Comics superhero, and Luke Wilson as his sidekick?  Unfortunately that’s not the focus of the CW’s next series of the Arrowverse, but it’s close, and if the volley of trailers are any indication, fans of the DC universe will see these two in recurring backstory in Stargirl, coming next month.  The other famous league of extraordinary superpeople, the Justice Society of America meets its demise, but that’s the starting point, as a young woman named Courtney Whitmore, played by 20-year-old actress Brec Bassinger (School of Rock), learns her stepdad is a superhero sidekick.

Make that “was” a superhero sidekick.   Luke Wilson, known best for his roles in Wes Anderson movies and an unforgettable spot on The X-Files, was once S.T.R.I.P.E, a mechanic in a powered armor supersuit, and sidekick to Sylvester Pemberton, aka Starman, played by Community, Ted, and The Soup’s Joel McHale (in the comics the Star-Spangled Kid from the 1940s aka Skyman).  Members of Seven Soldiers of Victory, the All-Star Squadron, and the Justice Society of America, these guys got around.  In the new series Courtney takes on Starman’s mantle, a cosmic staff that chooses her, and she’ll begin to assemble the next generation of superheroes.

Justice Society

Appearing at first blush a lot like DC’s Doom Patrol, the pantheon of superheroes includes Anjelika Washington and Henry Thomas as versions of Doctor Mid-Nite, Yvette Monreal and Brian Stapf as Wildcat, and Cameron Gellman and Lou Ferrigno, Jr. as Hourman, taking on Christopher James Baker as Brainwave, Joy Osmanski as Tigress, Neil Hopkins as Sportsmaster, Nelson Lee as Dragon King, and Neil Jackson as Icicle.

Here is the new trailer, and some recent trailers, for DC’s Stargirl:

Continue reading

Last night’s episode of CW′s Arrow brings eight seasons of one of DC Comics’ oldest superheroes to a close as the CW aired the show’s series finale.  Focused on Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow–one of the costumed characters off to the sidelines over the years in the shadow of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman–the series would be a resounding success for the network and executive Greg Berlanti, sprouting several other DC Comics adaptations under the banner of the Arrowverse.  And what a long, strange trip it has been.  It’s been seven and a half years since I first watched the premiere of CW’s Arrow in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con 2012 at the panel featuring the creators and stars Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy (I reviewed the pilot first here at borg).  My initial reaction found the show a “refreshing, intriguing update to the superhero game,” and “even for a fan of the traditional character’s story, updates made for TV were well thought out and did little to detract from the core of what makes Green Arrow the unique character that has survived as a key comic book character for 70 years,” and that the pilot “deftly managed to alter far less of the source material than, for example, the Green Lantern movie released in 2011, and in doing so created a truer, more refreshing story with appropriate nods to the past, and one that promises to survive, should it find its fan base.”  Who knew that survival would mean greenlighting so many more superhero shows, including The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, Batwoman, and the forthcoming Superman & Lois?

The series accomplished a lot even if it didn’t get everything right.  Arrow suffered when it veered too far from the DC Comics stories, or when it pursued too deeply the more arcane corners of the DC universe, the biggest side trip being the dominance of fan-favorite minor character Felicity Smoak in the series, ultimately knocking Dinah (or Laurel in this version) Lance aside to be Oliver’s romantic partner, which again took center stage in the finale episode.

This winter’s ambitious Crisis on Infinite Earth’s crossover event killed off Oliver Queen in the grand tradition of killing any superhero character (aka until his inevitable return, which we’ve seen in Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks’ comics story arc).  Although the finale itself, “Fadeout,” was much like an old 1980s “filler” episode (with many scenes spliced from past episodes) and like the final Crisis episodes it was about mourning Oliver and preparing for his funeral.  But the penultimate episode, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” (which aired last week), would make for a good spin-off.  That episode took Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance (the only actor we ever expected to be Black Canary in 2012), and teamed her up with Katherine McNamara’s Mia (Oliver and Felicity’s daughter trained by Oliver last year), along with Juliana Harkavy’s Dinah Drake, all in a future world of Earth in 2040 (introduced earlier in the series).  How long will the CW Arrowverse continue without its flagship series?  Only time will tell, but viewership already switched over to make The Flash the CW’s #1 watched show.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

For all the hype, CW Network’s latest series adapting DC Comics had an uneventful start this week.  After Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Black Lightning, and several crossovers, Batwoman is the next crimefighter to throw her dagger-lined gloves into the ring.  The pilot is a straightforward introduction following the Greg Berlanti model of the other CW Network shows:  A voiceover by the caped hero/heroine, backstory training in a far off strange land, and a tidy origin tied up in a bow with a closely-connected villain, to be the focus of conflict over the course of the first season.  And like the other series, excepting the later introduction of Superman in Supergirl and crossovers, there’s no expectation that one of the biggest characters of the DC line-up will ever show.  In this case, that means Batman, but the set-up for the first episode of Batwoman pretty much requires an appearance at some point in the show’s future.

Batwoman is Kate Kane, played by Ruby Rose, who has had cameo appearances in the other CW series, starred opposite Jason Statham in last year’s summer action flick The Meg, and she got to show her skills as a badass character in John Wick: Chapter 2, the last Resident Evil, and appeared opposite Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.  She brings an edgy quality that matches the comic book superheroine, complete with tattoos that would distract from any other character but works for Kate Kane.  Batwoman changes the course for the CW Arrowverse, with real-world issues of lesbians in the military, gender identity, and bias, so hopefully the series ultimately finds the right balance to match that edginess.  The first episode very much reflects that less-than-edgy quality of Arrow.  But it’s only the beginning, and the other series in this genre took some time to get going, too.  Sorry–Rose doesn’t don that cool red supersuit in the first episode.

The only question is whether Ruby Rose, who seems to fit perfectly into the superheroine role and this take on the comic book story, can match the charisma and acting of series antagonist Rachel Skarsten, who plays Alice, an Alice in Wonderland-inspired villain who isn’t really who you think she is.  It feels early to let loose an identity bombshell, but Batwoman’s writers jump right in, revealing what you’d think would be big secrets (we won’t disclose them here).  Skarsten has had her share of fantastic badass roles, too.  She was Dinah Lance in the original Birds of Prey, Tamsin the Valkyrie in Lost Girl, and she was the young Queen Elizabeth on Reign.  Skarsten’s Alice has some similarities of the Arkham Asylum variety as that millennial-favorite character Harley Quinn, but Skarsten’s level of acting is more subtle and polished than we’ve ever seen Harley portrayed.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

British actor Michael Sheen is one of film and TV’s best actors, and he proved that again in the first episode of a new Fox mystery series, Prodigal Son.  Don’t expect that comical chap from Good Omens, this is the kind of mix of the dramatic and the strange that might just net him an award or two.  Although the second episode teetered some, some tight writing, quick action, and witty banter plus an engaging cast is turning out to be the recipe that may get viewers to come back for more, even if this is just a spin on the villain’s story from Silence of the Lambs.

Sheen plays The Surgeon, a serial killer who murdered 23 people before being caught.  All along during his crime spree The Surgeon was being a good father to young son Malcolm.  Flash forward a few decades and Malcolm (the series lead, played by another British actor, The Walking Dead’s Tom Payne) is a troubled victim of PTSD and some other maladies prompted by his unusual father, while he’s also a genius profiler of the Sherlock Holmes and House, M.D. school of sleuths.  In the first episode Malcolm is fired by the FBI and hired by the NYPD, thanks to a long-time relationship with a police detective, played by Lou Diamond Phillips.  Malcolm’s relationship with the detective provides some of the secrets of  Malcolm’s past that unfold during the pilot episode.  Malcolm is close with his sister, a broadcast journalist played by ex-crewmember of The Orville Halston Sage, and their mother (and The Surgeon’s ex-wife), is played by Bellamy Young, who primetime audiences watched grow into playing mom roles from her beginnings guest starring on every other major crime show back to Law & Order and The X-Files.  Young never goes for the straightforward stuff, and there’s more than enough peppered in the initial two hours to suggest her character may have been more aware of what her husband was up to.  How much and how far will certainly be what is ferreted out over the first season.

The show is led by Chris Fedek (Forever, Chuck, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), Sam Sklaver (Deception), and master comic book-to-screen adapter Greg Berlanti.  It has bits and pieces reminiscent of plenty of prior genre series:  The tone of Castle, the quirky lead in Forever, and the supporting sibling relationship of Tru Calling all come to mind.

Continue reading

Initially we figured the new Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina would merely fill the void left between seasons of Stranger Things, but this week’s teaser preview looks like the creators of Riverdale may touch on a look and feel from one of the all-time greatest television shows.  You, too, may also feel the vibe of horror similar to the greatest of all teen coming-of-age series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer But you might miss the details even if you don’t blink (like levitating or hanged witches, Sabrina entering a blue portal to another world, the above image of Sabrina entering the woods, and more).  Netflix has sneakily dropped in several brief scene images that look 100% Buffy the Vampire Slayer, including a Hellmouth-esque beast that could have come from the mind of Joss Whedon (and those three nasty characters seem to be from the same realm as the Gentlemen from the episode “Hush”).  How many times have we seen an image of Buffy readying to face demons on her now-classic TV show just like Sabrina in the above image?  At a minimum the new series may make up for the absence of another great horror series we miss, Grimm Ten episodes of the series will be arriving just in time for Halloween.  And along with the teaser, a new poster is out, echoing Sabrina’s 16th birthday as seen in the teaser, all pointing toward a decision to commit to the coven or not, which Sabrina will soon face.

If you peruse most of the entertainment websites over the past several hours you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone mentioning the comic book series the show is based on.  Even comic book sites are still dwelling on comparing this to the 1990s comedy version.  Sabrina was created for Archie Comics 56 years ago by writer George Gladir and artist Dan DeCarlo, and if you’ve been reading borg.com very long (like coverage here) you’re already familiar with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack’s fantastically macabre series of the same name published under the Archie Horror imprint.  Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is based on the characters in the comic book series, detailing the compelling and, yes, chilling, re-imagining of Sabrina’s occult origins–not any of the several TV adaptations–mostly comedies–that have aired.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars The Legend of Korra’s Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina, with some well-known genre actors: The Lord of the Rings and War of the Worlds’ Miranda Otto (Zelda), Shaun of the Dead and Wonder Woman’s Lucy Davis (Hilda), Doctor Who and Gotham’s Michelle Gomez (Mary Wardell), Beverly Hills Cop and Perfect Strangers’ Bronson Pinchot (George Hawthorne), and Prince of Persia’s Richard Coyle (Father Blackwood), with Ross Lynch (Harvey Kinkle), Chance Perdomo (Ambrose), Jaz Sinclair (Rosalind), Tati Gabrielle (Prudence), Adeline Rudolph (Agatha), Abigail Cowen (Dorcas), and Lachlan Watson (Susie).  That’s Salem the cat sneaking around at the end of the teaser, and yes, we hear series star Kiernan Shipka is allergic to cats, so we’ll have fun watching how the show films them both together this season.

Check out all of these scene images that you may have missed, followed by the full teaser:

Continue reading

Stepping into the void left between seasons of Stranger Things, Netflix will be releasing a new television series from the creators of Riverdale that could be the next big thing for comic book, horror–and Stranger Things–fans.  Ten episodes of a live-action adaptation of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s fantastic macabre Archie Horror comic book series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (we’ve talked about the comic book series a lot here at borg.com) will be arriving just in time for Halloween.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina stars The Legend of Korra’s Kiernan Shipka as Sabrina, with some well-known genre actors: The Lord of the Rings and War of the Worlds’ Miranda Otto (Zelda), Shaun of the Dead and Wonder Woman’s Lucy Davis (Hilda), Doctor Who and Gotham’s Michelle Gomez (Mary Wardell), Beverly Hills Cop and Perfect Strangers’ Bronson Pinchot (George Hawthorne), and Prince of Persia’s Richard Coyle (Father Blackwood), with Ross Lynch (Harvey Kinkle), Chance Perdomo (Ambrose), Jaz Sinclair (Rosalind), Tati Gabrielle (Prudence), Adeline Rudolph (Agatha), Abigail Cowen (Dorcas), and Lachlan Watson (Susie).  Netflix provided a sneak peek at the new Sabrina and Salem the cat, too.

Don’t worry, it’s not a reboot of the 1990s television series.  Initially couched as two five-episode seasons, the updated news is that Netflix viewers will get all ten first-season episodes at once, and IMDb lists 20 episodes in the works total.  Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will draw from the comic book series written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Robert Hack, detailing the compelling and shocking re-imagining of Sabrina’s occult origins.  This dark coming-of-age story deals with horror and witchcraft and will see Sabrina struggle to reconcile her dual nature of being half-witch and half-mortal while protecting her family and the world from the forces of evil.

Continue reading

Black Lightning is the latest character from Greg Berlanti’s DC Comics “Arrowverse” taking your TV by storm.  Cress Williams plays the new CW series lead character, school principal Jefferson Pierce by day, masked superhero with actual energy-harnessing powers when called upon.  Raising two daughters, divorced from their mother, and trying to lead the kids in his community in a world full of hate and prejudice, this superhero is very different from what we’ve seen from DC on TV.  On paper Black Lightning sounds a bit like The Incredibles, with a retired hero returning to the superhero business.  But this isn’t all fun and games superhero antics like the other CW shows.

The superhero debuted in the comic book Black Lightning, Issue #1, forty years ago.  Writers Tony Isabella and Dennis O’Neil wrote the original stories, with artwork by legendary artist Trevor Von Eeden.  Black Lightning is the first DCU major African-American superhero, and rounds out the key classic African-American male superheroes of decades past to make modern on-screen appearances, along with Anthony Mackey’s Falcon, Mike Colter’s Luke Cage, and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, all from the Marvel universe. 

Episode one of Black Lightning makes for a solid pilot, and is re-airing on the CW network tonight.  The stakes in the series are real, it’s more grounded in reality than the other DC Comics shows, more like the Netflix Marvel Universe television series.  The pace, choice of music, and tone are similar to Marvel’s Luke Cage, the other superhero based on a 1970s black lead comic book title in a current TV series.  Principal Pierce stopped being a superhero for nine years–he had originally become Black Lightning to fight a villain named Tobias Whale and a string of mobsters, to give people hope, but he made a commitment to his wife to stop the violent lifestyle.  But crime is worse now and when his youngest daughter is in the wrong place at the wrong time, he has no choice but to make his return.  He says he saved more lives as a principal than he could have as a superhero and he doesn’t want to go back.

Continue reading

Before Greg Berlanti became a household name, responsible for creating, writing, or producing hit television series like Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and Riverdale, he created a successful drama for the WB network that would help propel his career forward–Everwood.  What could have been a flop on paper–a family drama about a widower who takes his career as a neurosurgeon and his son and daughter to a small town in Colorado to start again–became an engaging and enjoyable series with an electric cast and powerful writing.  The entire four seasons, all 89 episodes of the 2002-2006 series is now streaming via CW Seed online for free.

Treat Williams (The Empire Strikes Back, 1941, The Phantom, White Collar) starred as Dr. Andy Brown, an immensely successful big city neurosurgeon who, while intruding on the turf of the pompous local family doctor, Dr. Harold Abbott, played by Tom Amandes (Arrow, Fairly Legal, Leverage), begins to become an invaluable and influential member of the community.  Standout in the cast was Debra Mooney (Dead Poets Society, Tootsie) as Dr. Abbott’s mother Edna, whose snarky attitude was perfect as she helps the new doctor with his clinic across the street from her own son’s competing clinic.  Stephanie Niznik (Star Trek: Insurrection, Enterprise) played Dr. Brown’s friendly neighbor Nina, and Brenda Strong (Dallas) played Dr. Brown’s late wife in flashbacks.

But Everwood, which has not been available on any previous streaming service, will probably be best known for the breakout roles of two Marvel Cinematic Universe stars, Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star Lord Chris Pratt and Captain America’s love interest Sharon Carter from Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, Emily VanCamp.  VanCamp and Pratt had significant roles on Everwood.  Portraying Dr. Abbott’s teenage kids, VanCamp was Amy, the target of affection of Dr. Brown’s son Ephram (Gregory Smith, selected for the role over Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki), and Pratt was Ephram’s not-so-bright new friend, ironically named Bright.  Both actors shined in these early performances (and were a real-life couple for several years).

Continue reading

cw-superhero-fight-flash-arrow-legends

Where DC Entertainment has been limping along in its efforts to bring superheroes to the big screen in recent years, it has ruled the airwaves on network television thanks to the CW Network and the creative team of Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg.  What Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan have failed to capture–the same interesting, exciting, rich stories, character development, action, and fun of comic books–these guys have delivered, tapping into what fanboys and fangirls want most.

Are their shows perfect?  Definitely not.  The budget for television series doesn’t allow the freedom of big budget movies.  The stories adapted to the small screen have also changed many things from the comics and when the characters themselves have fans of multiple versions of each character… well, you can’t be all things to all people.  Yet, DC on TV has fared better than on film.  We’d all rather see the relationships build between superheroes, even if they are the B-team superheroes, than costly explosion-filled disaster movies posing as superhero stories.  Yes, we’re talking about you, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and The Dark Knight Rises.

The CW Network has cornered the market on the best of DC on TV.  And this Fall with the addition of Supergirl from ABC, we now will have a superhero series every night from DC and Warner Bros.  If DC really had its act together it would see that Fox’s Gotham switched from Monday nights to Fridays, for a full weekday schedule, but that doesn’t look like it will happen.

jsa

This past week, to preview the new season and what characters we can look forward to, including–at last–Martian Manhunter (the last remaining key Justice League character to make it to the modern live-action DC Universe) the CW released a follow-up to last year’s Superhero Fight Club video.  Check it out:

Continue reading