November 3, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Supergirl”

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.


Previously… on SUPERGIRL:  Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) was older than her illustrious Kryptonian cousin when she was sent to Earth to protect him as he grew from babyhood.  But some unexpected delays brought her to town years behind schedule, and since by then Earth already had a superhero keeping the peace, she maintained a secret identity as Kara Danvers, meek personal assistant to tyrannical media billionairess Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart).  Eventually, though, Kara needed to rescue her adopted sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) from a plummeting jet, and Supergirl was born.  Conveniently enough, Alex, too, had been hiding a secret:  she’s an agent of the US Department of Extra-Normal Operations, whose leader Hank Henshaw (David Harewood) watches over Supergirl’s missions and development.  Apart from Alex, single Kara has two hunky co-worker buddies who are in on her identity:  Winn (Jeremy Jordan) and James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks), the latter of whom knows plenty from superpowered friends.  All would be well, if there weren’t a passel of evil aliens, escapees from a Kryptonian prison, also on Earth, who happen to be led by Kara’s own aunt, General Astra (Laura Benanti), the identical twin of Kara’s mother Alura.

Episode 2:  The second hour of Supergirl confirmed that the show, at least for now, is aimed at being the most juvenile (or if you prefer, “youngest-skewing”) of TV’s superhero brigade.  Kara is so gee-whiz that she makes The Flash‘s Barry Allen seem like The Dark Knight, and her only character flaw seems to be an excess of youthful enthusiasm, which tonight led her to unwittingly cause an oil spill when she tried to save a tanker from a harbor fire.  The script, by series co-creators Ali Adler and Andrew Kreisberg (from a story by Kreisberg and fellow co-creator Greg Berlanti) kept things simple:  another of the alien prisoners caused some havoc, and had to be stopped.  Meanwhile, Henshaw remained a demanding taskmaster (although one gradually melting toward Supergirl), James and Winn doted on her, and nasty Cat pressured Supergirl into an interview by threatening to fire James if he didn’t obtain one.  By the end of the episode, Kara had also acquired a hologram AI version of her mom to give her faux-maternal advice.

The surprises were very mild.  The show paid off its revelation of Astra as a Big Bad more quickly than the pilot had suggested to be likely (which meant that the identical twin angle ended up meaning very little), and there was a brief sign that Hank is either an alien himself or has some alien power.  Also, between the pilot and series, the show lost its allergy against using the name “Superman” when referring to Kara’s cousin.  Otherwise, it was another hour of watching Kara alternate between her latte-fetching alter ego and her empowered self, as stunt people handled the wirework of the fight scenes.

Luckily, Benoist has a lot of charm, and Benanti is a fun villain (although she’s much blander when playing Alura, who’s a chorus of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” away from being the Mother Superior from The Sound of Music).  The writing keeps things light, as when Supergirl’s mission to rescue a pet named Fluffy from a tree led to the reveal that it was a snake rather than a cute kitten.  Flockhart’s one-note bitchery, though, is an acquired taste this viewer hasn’t acquired, and on the whole the enterprise has little emotional or thematic weight.  At least the budget is sufficient (so far, anyway) for some decent-sized action scenes, well handled by director Glen Winter.  There was little to suggest, however, that this traditionalist Supergirl is going to be habit forming for viewers that aren’t either very young or very old.

CBS rolled out the red carpet for Supergirl‘s premiere last week, with a special Big Bang Theory lead-in and a supersized Scorpion to round out the evening, and the result was a tie (with Blindspot) for the highest-rated premiere of the season.  No one expects the show to remain at that level (neither has Blindspot, for that matter), and it may take a few weeks for its numbers to settle.  It seems likely to remain a renewal-worthy success, if not a high-flying hit.


PILOT + 1:  Able To Leap Medium-Sized Competing Shows At A Single Bound

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."