Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Warner Bros. studio has been hit or miss when it comes to churning out box office hits, but it has had significantly more success when it comes to getting heroes on the small screen. The Warner-owned CW recently announced that it was already ordering a new season of "Arrow," a series based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow. This shouldn't come as a surprise given that the show is the network's top-rated series. It's also the source of what may be its next major hit.
Speeding things up
Because of the popularity of "Arrow," a spin-off focusing on Barry Allen, aka The Flash, is in the works. Allen's character (played by Grant Gustin) was introduced in a two-part story arc in the second season of "Arrow," though he was left in a coma after a freak accident. A backdoor pilot was originally planned for the new "Flash" series, but given the ongoing popularity of "Arrow" and how well received the Barry Allen character was, the network decided to give it a traditional pilot instead.
One primary difference between "Arrow" and the "Flash" spinoff will be the increased prevalence of super-powered characters in what has thus far been a much more grounded TV reality. In addition to the titular speedster, the new series will feature super-powered villains. Rick Cosnett (of the CW's "The Vampire Diaries") has been cast as Detective Eddie Thawne, who almost certainly has some connection to the comic character Eobard Thawne (also known as the villain Professor Zoom or Reverse Flash). Danielle Panabaker has been cast as Caitlin Snow, the alter-ego of the ice-powered villain Killer Frost.
Knowing the audience
As more information about the "Flash" spinoff is revealed, it's becoming increasingly clear that the network is trying to give its fans what they want. Instead of setting up a slow burn like "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC, the new CW show may leap into the thick of things and give some major nods to the fans at the same time.
Generating a lot of buzz is the casting of John Wesley Shipp in an as-yet-unnamed role. The actor played Barry Allen in the "Flash" TV series that aired in the '90s. Shipp is reportedly going to appear in the pilot, and will be a recurring character if the show is picked up for a full season. Many speculate that he may play Jay Garrick, the original Flash character from the 1940s. Another popular idea is that he may play Barry Allen's father, who was framed for the murder of his wife by an individual with super speed.
Another advantage to framing "Flash" as a spin-off of "Arrow" instead of an unrelated property like 21st Century Fox's (NASDAQ:FOX) upcoming Batman-related show "Gotham" is that the potential for crossovers between the shows is strong. Barry Allen has already appeared on "Arrow," and either the character or some of the supporting cast could make additional appearances in the future. Likewise, members of the "Arrow" cast could make the trip to Central City for cameos in future "Flash" episodes if the series gets picked up.
One thing that we aren't likely to see, though, is any crossover between the series and the cinematic universe that Warner Bros. is producing. While there were briefly rumors that "Arrow" star Stephen Amell had met with Warner executives about an appearance in the upcoming "Batman vs. Superman" film in production, he was quick to shoot down those rumors himself on Facebook. While The Flash and possibly the Green Arrow will likely appear on the big screen at some point, they are unlikely to be portrayed by the same actors as their small-screen counterparts or have cameos from the cinematic Justice League like "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has had with a few members of the "Avengers" supporting cast.
Off to a fast start
While a definite date for the "Flash" pilot hasn't been set yet, the studio seems to be putting a lot of effort into making it worthy of being picked up as a series. The casting announcements that have been made so far, including both those mentioned above and additional supporting roles, hint that the show will have a solid supporting cast to back up Gustin's Barry Allen. Though only a pilot has been confirmed thus far, it's hard to imagine the show not being picked up given the talent involved.
If "The Flash" follows the general formatting of "Arrow," mixing action with plot development in a way that keeps the series moving without one section dragging the other down, it should easily take its place among the top shows on the CW. If it tries to differentiate itself too much, however, it might end up with too much exposition or episode plots that seem tacked on to fit into a larger arc like several episodes of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." had.