Why Do Superhero Shows Work So Well On TV?

Superhero shows are everywhere, but the way this minion of TVWriter™ sees it, they probably won’t last all that long because they’re all the same, you know? At least that’s how they appear to this non-comic book-fan. But as this article points out, I may be in a very small minority:


by Alex Hodgson

Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil, Gotham. We are inundated with superhero TV shows at the moment (I’m not saying this is a bad thing!) and the great thing about it is – they’re all really good. But what makes it work so well?

Originally, if a superhero show was televised it would be seen as a kids show or it would be very campy – see the 1960s Batman series starring Adam West. Today, after the success of the MCU, it seems superheroes are finally getting the respect they deserve from the wider public. Whereas before they were seen as something only “geeks” would like, now they make up some of the most popular programmes on television. I have only named a few in the opening line, but there are many more.

Though DC may be lagging behind in its Cinematic Universe, the same cannot be argued for its TV universe. Since Arrow began in 2012, The Flash has spun off from it to great success and early next year, we will have DC’s Legends of Tomorrow starring a motley crew of heroes and villains from both shows. It seems that the DC TV universe is going from strength to strength. Yes, the writing and production values are excellent, but I think there is another reason these shows continue to thrive…

The Clue is in Their Original Form: Comic Books

The procedural nature of television is the key. Each season has an overarching storyline, but within each episode there is a procedure. Usually, the stories are self-contained and settled by the end of each episode to allow casual viewers to understand what is happening. The reason I feel this works for superhero tv shows is that this is the way superhero stories have been told for over 50 years. In the comic books, the heroes would face a villain and defeat him in one issue. This remains true to this day, though stories have often become more sophisticated, with writers favouring long-form storytelling. However, there will always be “done in one” issues that require no prior knowledge of the story. The very same tactic is used in television….

Read it all at Movie Pilot