Season Two: Hopes, aspirations, and constructive criticism

13 Apr 2016 14:12 - 13 Apr 2016 22:53 #47293 by five_red
After Fats made a few comments about the criticism of the CBS Supergirl show on this thread , I thought it might be nice as we approach the end of the first season to create a dedicated thread for people to sum up what they think worked, and didn't work, about the series.

1. ReadMe 1st

Let me kick off, on a personal note, by saying that although there has been much criticism of the show on this forum, one of the reasons I bother to post reasonable length comments at this site is because this forum is almost unique in the way it treats the show. Some rival forums are dominated by comicbook fanboys who spend far too much time dissing the show because it deviates from their beloved DC continuity. Other forums seem to be devoid of any serious discussion, either because moderators are afraid of anything even approaching a serious debate, or because the serious stuff gets drowned out by trivialities like what foods should be in season two. (I kid you not!)

This forum, perhaps because it seems to attract a slightly older fan, and/or perhaps because many of the commentators here have actually worked in or around the tv industry (either professionally, or as spirited amateurs making their own fan videos), has always been a cut above the others. The commentary has been no less harsh than elsewhere, but it has at least been served with a healthy dose of pragmatism and some degree of respect for the limitations and compromises that befall all technically challenging tv shows in their first year...

I hope that any discussion that may unfold below will follow in that spirit. Open, but also pragmatic.

2. The good

Why do we criticise the show?

I want to love the show, and that's why I'm often it's fieriest critic. I'm sure that's the same reason most others would give: if we all didn't care -- if we'd given up -- we simply wouldn't bother to comment at all.

There's been a lot to praise during the first season. The acting has, with one or two rare exceptions, been outstanding. The six main cast members have all been exceptional. Of course, it is easy to single out Melissa Benoist for praise, but credit must also go to Chyler Leigh, David Harewood and Calista Flockhart, who've also consistently given excellent performances. Although their characters have not always been served with the best storylines, both Mehcad Brooks and Jeremy Jordon have also both delivered exactly what was required, with confidence and skill. Brooks' performance in the pilot episode was so assured and confident that one could be mistaken for believing that he had been playing the role for years. (It's a shame the first season just seemed to serve him up dead-end storylines that meandered without any real purpose towards an ambiguous and almost apathetic close.)

The special effects have slowly improved over the course of the season. I suspect the producers and directors are paying close attention to what works, and what doesn't, and playing to their strengths. This includes the combat sequences too. It's not like they were terrible at the start of the season, but they seem a lot more confident, assured, and (perhaps) a tad more ambitious as the season has wound on.

Also, it is nice to see an action show where women are driving the narrative. Despite all the clucking of journalists, Supergirl isn't really a show with a feminist agenda -- it's just a show where the main characters (heroes and villains) happen to be women, and the men play supporting roles. Supergirl proves that you can flip the usual gender set-up and the sky won't fall in. Hollywood needs to pay attention: casting women in the lead roles doesn't hurt..! The audience isn't so brain-dead that it requires a man in the role for the character to be credible.

And while we're on the subject of Feminism, it is worth noting that (in light of what is about to follow) some of the early scripting problem relating to the Cat / Kara mentor storyline, which did stray a little into the territory of overt feminist preaching, were quickly made more subtle and nuanced. And that's a plus for the script writers -- the same message, but just a slicker presentation.

3. The bad

Okay, so we need to talk about the scripts.

This has been a repeated concern, not just on this forum, but on other forums too. (Even the one's where they talk about Jenna's hairstyle and whether Melissa's whoopee cushion should make an appearance on the show.)

The scripts have been -- if we're being honest -- the weakest part of the first season. There's been some good stuff, but there's also been an awful lot of bad stuff. And a lot of the bad stuff seems to stem from the same source: lack of attention to detail. Indeed, the fridge logic issues in this show are getting to a point where I'm beginning to think the UN should seriously start including their effects in global warming predictions. :laugh:

The writers just seem to include stuff in episodes because it would be cool -- without any regard as to whether it makes any sense, or fits with the continuity of other episodes. We have glaring factual errors, like the key to the Fortress of Solitude weighing thrice as much as your average skyscraper (yet it just sits there in the snow!), and bizarre continuity errors, like Alex having a broken arm one week only for it to be entirely healed a short time later. Plus you have stuff that's just never explained at all, like why Siobhan Smythe takes times out to dress up in that Halloween outfit. The frustrating thing is, all of these problems could be fixed by a good Script Editor or Script Consultant. Just someone who looks at the script and says "how about a hundred tones, rather than a million?", or "you need to mention that the DEO has some alien tech for healing broken arms", or "please provide an explanation for this"...

There's also the inconsistencies in character: one episode Cat is super smart, the next she can't see the bleeding obvious when it's right in front of her nose. Cat flip-flops from episode to episode, depending on what the story demands. Likewise, sometimes Kara is a cute-as-kittens Girl Scout, other times she's this pent up seething mass of Emo anger and guilt -- it switches without apparent explanation depending upon whether the writers need eager-to-help (Worlds Finest) or anger-management (Red Faced). Please note: It's not that the characters have sophisticated personalities that annoys me, its the unsophisticated ways in which the writers use those personalities.

I joked elsewhere that the CBS show was, in some ways, paying homage to the Helen Slater movie. It has been said that the 1984 movie is best enjoyed as a series of short scenes, which don't necessarily join up to make a coherent story. And the CBS show is not dissimilar. The episodes don't line up to make a whole -- stuff that happens in later episodes flatly contradicts previous episodes. Storylines (like the James/Lucy romance) seem to drunkenly wander all over the place, with the characters in a perpetual state of uncertainty that Schrodinger would admire. Viewers are forever asking "why did that happen?"

Heck, if there's anyone from the writing team reading (which, obviously, there won't be!!), I'll even volunteer myself to read the scripts -- for free -- and points out all the oddballs, inconsistencies, continuity glitches, and wack-a-doodle crazy deviations from the known laws of Physics that stretch credibility so far that even Plastic Man would faint at their sight.

4. The bad (pt2)

Superman deserves a special mention: they need to write him out permanently somehow.

This has been mentioned repeatedly on other forums: Superman undermines the title character. You want the show to be about Supergirl, yet you have her far more famous and glamorous cousin lingering over the series like a bad smell -- never seen, but always somehow present. Fight or Flight gave us a semi-plausible explanation as to why Superman never intercedes in matters inside of National City (although it fails to explain why he never makes social calls -- does Kara have a restraining order out on her cousin?), but what happens when a threat escalates to be greater than one city? As the series progresses, hopefully over many seasons, and (fingers crossed) the stories get grander and more ambitious, the show is constantly going to have to find ways to write Superman out.

This problem isn't going to get any easier: the Man of Steel can't be washing his hair every time someone threatens to take over the world. Either the show writes him in as a proper character (and risks undermining Supergirl), or they write him out permanently. He can't be there, but not there, like Howard Wolowitz's mother.

5. And the ugly

Another thing that has to be said: the costumes have been very hit-n-miss. Granted, far more hit than miss. The worst offenders have been the one's that have tried too hard to translate comicbook onto screen: Red Tornado and Silver Banshee. What looks good in printed page artwork often looks absurd in the cold light of reality. Some character's just can't translate from print to daylight -- ever! What I'd suggest is that the costume people Google cosplays for a given character, and if none of the cosplayers can create something that looks credible in real life, then just give up and use a design that's totally original.

Aside from that, the show looks pretty good. ;)

6. So...

Supergirl has made a positive start, and I'm sure a production of this scale has had numerous technical problems and other issues that needed to be overcome. I hope that when it comes back for its second year, it will be stronger -- lessons learned, etc.

Here's my advice to the production team:

(a) The priority is the scripts. There needs to be more attention paid to the detail of each episode, and to the overarching continuity of the season. Whiz-bang-cool stuff is great, but not if there's no coherent substance below. The fact that your target audience includes children is no excuse for stuff just happening without a reason -- no matter how whizzy.

(b) Get rid of the James / Kara romance. It started out as a tepid storyline anyway, and through lack of attention it rapidly lost any energy it had. It has been dying a long slow death -- just put it out of its misery. Mehcad is a really great actor, find him something exciting and worthwhile to do next season. (Same goes for Jeremy! And Jenna too, if Lucy makes it into season two!!)

(c) Deal with Superman -- permanently..!!!

(d) Drop the heavy reliance on comicbook characters, particularly the more outlandish looking ones. Use more villains created specially to work with the tv show. Also, if you do use comicbook character, don't feel you have to be in any way faithful to the way they looked on the page.

(e) Slow down. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

(f) You have an incredible cast. Keep stretching them..!!

Last edit: 13 Apr 2016 22:53 by five_red. Reason: More typoes.
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13 Apr 2016 18:22 - 13 Apr 2016 20:10 #47295 by castor
I am going to focus more on the technical issues.

which some of which are good. Music i think is mostly fine, and the editing often has a good beat. Had my doubts at first about the non superhero costumes, but i do think thats good, and Benoist in particular does a good job of looking "casual slightly doubty Pretty" when clark kenting it.

1. Cinemtography- i am not sure if this is an option and you don't want to speak ill of people-but maybe they should conisder getting someone else. I realize there kind of going for this bright almost cheery vibe, thats kinda like a traditional superman book, but that kinda dependent on more intresting visuals then you can pull off. It looks at time like a kids TV Show. I think its okayish when they do Scenes in CatCo and there have been indivudal scenes that have been very good. But mostly, Yeah. The Fortress of Sollutitude for example looked horrible and fake-and you could blaim the Art Dept but really it just was it was overlit. The Goverment bases all look various shades of bad, over filled and consitent yes but not special. The images have depth, but it feels like mediocre depth. The fights are mostly blah. Benoist looks good as supergirl-but well rarely agian great.

Yeah its Televsion-but So is madmen, or for that matter Flash and Legens of Tommorow.

There are comments about overstuffing the episodes with plot-and sure why not. But if your going to do that it means you have less time to shoot the stuff. I would say Either give him or her more time....or find someone who is more able to do a lighting style that lets obessed with getting to okay.

2. Fights

Agian, i would say get someone else. I have liked the fight work that the Cordinator has done before-and hes good at getting some meaty close fights. Which we do not see in this show.

Watched Batman Vs Superman and regardless of what you think about the content 'characters' and martha and all of that- i think the two big battles at the end it was easy to follow, readable and did a good job of establishing who the characters where what there fight styles where and how to make it visually intresting while showcasing what there powers were.

Now as i have said before 250 million dollar move shot over a year as compared to 2.5 million episode shot in five days. But i would comment to a certain extent it felt a bit less is more. If you can get closer and feel the impace, let the camera(agian) do more of the work, and maybe not make every punch a haymaker. You can do stuff with speed, with props, locations etc-and i do think it can be readable tell a story and be well not the worst part of the episode usually.

I do think they have gotten a little better at this as the season has gone on.

3. Costumes

Thees a lot wrong here all of which may not all be the fault of the designer.

I am going to guess they have a restriction. This is a Kiddie TV show and they don't want to have characters who look to sexy. Fair enough-but so many of the female characters in the comics where based on it to see them in live action without it is kinda werid.

A lot of the characters they went for are kinda strange, and its hard imaging them being perfect in any movie without a lot more time and effort-certainly not a TV budget scale. The Designer doesn't pick em.

As mentioned above the Cinmetography isn't great which does a lot of the costumes no favors-some of them Red Tornado for exmaple, could have worked if you saw it more in the shadows and not in open light-this is the classic superhero costume dodge which they almost never do.

But yeah. A lot of these would look bad as cosplay at a convetnion-you could better and hope in the next season they really work on that-maybe do more teams to work on it and give each costume more time.

4. Special effects

I am not sure these are actually bad and should be changed-there pretty good a lot of the time. I do think ocasionally especially with obvious greenscreens and Mattes(agian cinemtography) they could be done better. There is to often an obvious-okay this is real this is fake feel, which hurts it particuarly with longer shots and some of the fighting action. So maybe its less change, then integrate better.

So Yeah...i think theres room to improve here, but do think it can happen. Particuarly if they figure out agian how to make the Cinmetography work-i think most if not all of the problems just come from that.
Last edit: 13 Apr 2016 20:10 by castor.
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13 Apr 2016 18:40 #47296 by Woodclaw
I still playing catch up with some of the latest episodes (I just rushed World's Finest because reasons), but I think that five_red did a fair analysis overall. Still I want to counterargument on two particular elements: the villain and the reliance on the comic books.

One of the big issue for Supergirl as a superhero show is the lack of a solid established rogue gallery, with the only possible exception of the '90s Linda Danvers, no incarnation of Supergirl had a worthy rogue gallery, most of her enemies were either expies/counterparts to Superman's or directly borrowed from Kal's list. Belanti's writing team already faced a similar issue with Green Arrow, having to either borrow from the general DC universe list (Deathstroke) or Batman's to fill the voids (Ra's al Ghul, which wasn't a bad idea in my book). Still, the general problem with this kind of situation was to establish these villains in way that was both personal and made them a credible recurring character, which means intertwining their stories with those of the main cast. They did a good job with Siobhan, a pitty that Silver Banshee was never a very inspired character to begin with (except maybe the George Perez version in the New52 Supergirl).
On the subject of costume, I agree that some of the designs really need to be reworked from the ground up.

As far as the reliance on comics goes, I think it's a problem of focus and established characters: on Flash and Arrow relying on the comics worked because they are both character that are fairly defined -- especially Flash -- not so much about Supergirl. Aside from being the distaff of the Big Blue, she never developed a univocal characterization over the years: some wrote her as the "loneliest gilr in the world" wishing to be normal, but unable to; others as optimistic young woman looking to fulfill her potential; sometimes as an ungodly badass capable of destroying the universe on her own; and so on. As a result I'm not surprised that the writers have trouble keeping her consistent, each one has probably a different Supergirl in mind while penning the episodes.
On this count I agree with you that it would be better to get a more consistent characterization and, hopefully, get rid of the many "will he/she/they, won't he/she/they" that I consider tha bane of any serial narrative after a while.
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13 Apr 2016 23:58 #47297 by andyf
I still love the show despite its flaws with writing. The show seems to be moving, at times, way too fast. Too much happens in one episode fast. Maybe, that's because season 1 is only 20 eps long and the other Berlanti shows are 22-23 episodes long.

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14 Apr 2016 04:12 #47300 by shadar
This thread reminds me why SWM is such a cool place. The quality of comments. I can't think of anyplace else on the Net where the quality is so consistently high.

I think we all see significant issues with writing, which of course includes characterization and plot. But when it comes to timing and pacing, I always saw that as a key part of the Director's job. Assuming that's accurate, then I'd add direction to the list of serious problems.

But this is all fixable stuff, assuming that's a priority of the show next season.

On a related topic, does anyone know how long the staff has between seasons to step back and post-mortem the first season?

Its easy to have your head so deep in producing the next episode that you can't see the forest around you.

Anybody know how the TV production business works to incorporate learning from past season(s)?

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14 Apr 2016 04:28 #47301 by brad328
They finished shooting season one about a month ago so I'm sure the producers, showrunner, and writing staff are outlining what worked, didn't work, and what they would like to do for Season 2. Once they get official word that they have been renewed for the second season, that's when they'll really start working on it. I think shows start filming late July/early August for a late September premiere.
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14 Apr 2016 15:33 #47307 by lojack
When the show started, I noted a few things that stood out, and VFX is still on the list. It has gotten better, especially in some areas, but there are still parts which are CGI or nearly full CGI that still pop out as discordant. (Lighting, color timing, something is just 'off' enough that I notice it). The Day for Night DEO stock they run all the time is amazing to me. If you have a shot that gets used that much, you need to go back and polish that up in the off season. :pinch:

Otherwise, yes the writing is the other part that has been painful at times this season. I can't really think of any bad acting, I find that I like a few of the supporting actors better than the main. David and Jeremy in particular, but Laura as well. Melissa I think has two issues- inconsistent writing and still figuring the character. Sometimes it really shows.

I'll have to think about how to describe the other bits that have my attention, but for the most part, I agree with the posts above about cinematography and editing. This isn't a bad show, but can (and will) get better next season.
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