Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Modest Proposal: Batman the Series

I think it's high time we had a new live-action Batman series on television.

With CW's new series Arrow, focusing on the Green Arrow, we're seeing a gritty, realistic, drama about a millionaire who fights crime as a costumed alter ego at night. If they can pitch that, why the hell aren't we seeing a Batman series? With no slight at all intended towards Green Arrow fans, of course. 

Laying aside the rather schlocky superhero shows of the 1970's and 1980's, over the last twenty years, we've had two separate very successful series centered on Superman (Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman 1993-1997, and Smallville 2001-2011), but nothing for Batman. 

Now, Batman has seen more than his share of cowl-time in movies and animated shows, I'll grant. We've had no fewer than seven feature films, most of which have been huge commercial successes, and a number of animated series; Batman The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Young Justice (in a supporting/cameo role), and Beware the Batman coming next year. In fact, I think it's reasonable to say we've had a glut of Batman in animated form (even if Batman: The Brave and the Bold was something of a palate-cleanser in terms of its lighthearted tone compared to the others). All the more reason to tackle the Batman milieu in live-action form.

I envision a show that's a cross between the first Michael Keaton Batman film and Batman The Animated Series, with a little dash of The Dark Knight. Forgive me for not delving into more detail or drawing more inspiration from the comic books, but I'm much more familiar with the film and television material. 

From Keaton's Batman, take a lot of visual cues; the stylized look of Gotham City, Batman in body armor, and a Gotham City whose criminal element is more mob bosses and petty crooks than a never-ending parade of costumed super villains. From Batman The Animated Series, take more visual cues; the art deco interior decor, the general "film noir" style, the more realistic looking Batmobile (but not so realistic that it becomes something more suited for the streets of Baghdad than Gotham). Take also the idea of introducing Bruce Wayne's background preparing to become Batman in flashbacks; his martial arts training in Japan, his training to become an escape artist under Zatara, etc. From the Dark Knight, take the more realistic portrayal of the equipment in his arsenal and the emphasis on more prosaic crime bosses. For goodness' sake, stay away from the garish colors and campy attitude of Batman Forever and Batman and Robin.

I'd do hour long episodes, with season-long (or even multi-season) character and story arcs, but still crafting the individual episodes so they're fairly self-contained. You shouldn't have to watch the entire season to have fun watching a particular episode, even if some of the nuances of character growth and building story lines are lost upon you. Make at least a third of them non-super villain stories. Mob bosses, hoods; ordinary crimes that need solving and ordinary victims that need protecting. 

For a fantasy cast, as I've said before, you don't cast for Batman. You cast for Bruce Wayne. I might give the nod to either Henry Cavill or Sam Worthington. Who would you choose? (Difficulty: it can't be someone who played the role in one of the films, and has to be someone who could do the part today.) For others, I could see Harry Lloyd as the Joker (I would have picked Tim Curry, but he's getting a little old), Jason Momoa as Bane, David Tennant as the Riddler, Patrick Stewart as Mr. Freeze, Jolene Blalock as Poison Ivy, and Toby Jones as the Penguin. Your suggestions are more than encouraged in the comments!