Last year The CW (a subsidiary of CBS (NYSE:CBS)) hit the bulls-eye with Arrow, a new superhero series based on the popular DC Comics character. With rising star Stephen Amell taking the mantel of famed hero Oliver Queen, executives saw one of the season's first bona fide hits. This year the network is going back to the well with an adaptation of fellow comic book hero The Flash, and based on the reaction to the show's (seemingly endless) recent castings, fans are getting excited all over again!
Before looking at why Flash is getting hotter by the day, let's go back for a second. The 2011-2012 TV season marked the first time The CW didn't have a superhero-themed series on its roster. The network had just lost Smallville and it didn't have a replacement lined up. As development season rolled along, it quickly became clear audiences wanted one and the network needed to oblige. Enter Arrow.
Produced by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg, the series looked to set itself apart by being more realistic than other shows of its kind. The character of Green Arrow doesn't have any superpowers. He's an ordinary person with an extraordinary skill set … and a bow and arrow. They wanted a world that was untouched by the magic of a flying man or a hero with a power ring.
Arrow not only met those qualifications, it did so while remaining mostly true to its comic roots. Yes, the producers took certain creative liberties with the origins and the writers were really asking viewers to suspend reality at different parts, but the bottom line was it worked. When you respect the comic community, they respect you back. It can't be any simpler.
Based on that success, The CW decided it was time for a spin-off and they settled on Barry Allen, known better known as The Flash. With the same creative team in place (plus fan favorite comic scribe Geoff Johns and talented director David Nutter) The Flash is expected to be one of 2014's hottest pilots.
While Arrow didn't have the benefit of an embedded backdoor pilot, The Flash does … sort of. The seeds for The Flash were planted during a two-episode arc last December on Arrow. But instead of sticking to the original plan and using one of the show's 2014 episodes as the official pilot, Flash will get its own stand-alone pilot.
Honestly embedded pilots have their pros, but they also have their cons as it's harder to give audiences a true look at where the show will go. You're asking audiences to not only invest in these new characters, but keep them focused on the ones they already know and love. It's a fine line. Giving the characters a full hour to evolve naturally is a much better option, but you do lose that initial sampling earned with an established series.
The Flash is going to be that rare type of series that gets both, which will be a big benefit should it get picked up for the fall. Glee star Grant Gustin was named the lead early in the process and already has been introduced to The CW's audience through Arrow. Since then, producers have outdone themselves, rounding out the cast with some in-demand names.
It was one thing to have Jessie L. Martin (Law & Order), Danielle Panabaker (Shark), and Tom Cavanagh (Ed) come on board, but this week original TV Flash John Wesley Shipp has joined as well. Keep in mind the original Flash TV series only lasted one season (in 1990 on CBS), but the casting brings a nice nostalgia effect and helps make this special. Realistically, based on the rapid fire succession of casting news, I wouldn't be shocked to see another big name sign before all is said and done.
Will it work?
So that all leads to the question of "will it work?" The answer is, I don't see why not. Gustin's two-episode appearance was well received internally and externally, which led to the decision to do a separate pilot. He also seems very capable of fronting the series, especially now that he has an especially solid supporting cast alongside him.
Perhaps the most important thing is that trust I mentioned earlier as the behind-the-scenes team of Arrow has done a nice job of calling back to the original comic at different points. As a result, that level of understanding is already in play and fans will be more apt to give the team some time to find their footing with Flash.
Granted some will be quicker to judge than others, as I'm sure a commenter or two will be only so happy to point out. Remember, comic fans are a fiercely loyal bunch, which leads to tons of disagreements and discussions about the "right" way to adapt a character. They don't do it out of malice (most of the time); they do it out of love for something that has been such a cherished part of their lives. This project has rallied some of those supporters earlier on, but it's a long road to the fall, even if you are The Flash.