Fox's entry into the fray of comic book-based TV series will give us the next best thing to an actual superhero: the villains who make the whole enterprise so interesting.
Last night Fox announced that it has given Gotham, a show about Commissioner Gordon and Gotham City pre-Batman, a straight-to-series order. The announcement came just as ABC was premiering Agents of SHIELD, placing the new show—also about non-supers in a super world—in direct competition with the Marvel's potential juggernaut. But Gotham already has a secret (evil) weapon. Gotham tells the "the origin stories of Commissioner James Gordon and the villains who made Gotham City famous," according to Deadline's Nellie Andreeva. It's a smart move on the creator's part to tease the baddies.
Sure, Commissioner Gordon is an interesting guy, but making the show equally about the rise of the Batman villains, who in turn are just as iconic as the Caped Crusader himself, will draw in an audience that perhaps even SHIELD doesn't have. As Lynette Rice at Entertainment Weekly wrote: "The make-believe city that first surfaced on the pages of DC comics in 1940 is home to numerous mobsters (hey there, Carmine Falcone!), nefarious gangs, and those larger-than-life loons like the Joker, the Penguin, and the Scarecrow. There’s also the crazy inhabitants of Arkham Asylum, which is located on the outskirts of the city and houses lots of legally sane foes of Batman. A veritable creep-apalooza!" Basically, it's easy math: there is only one Batman, but there are hundreds of bad guys the show can bring aboard.
Comic book movies have known this for a long time. Sure, Michael Keaton was cast as Batman, but Jack Nicholson, the big star, was cast as The Joker, a role that later won an Oscar for Heath Ledger and The Dark Knight. And what is the big speculation about any superhero, especially Batman, movie? Who is going to play the villain, of course! These are the really juicy crazy parts that actors love to play, and getting a whole new one each week is plenty of reason to tune in.
Meanwhile, though there were hints of evil forces at work in the pilot of SHIELD, which aired last night to solid reviews, the show has yet to establish it's baddies as a reason to watch. They're built into Gotham which, even though it hasn't been written, already gives it an advantage.