Commentary

Can 'Supergirl' Soar In A Male-Dominated Genre?

The trailer for CBS’ upcoming “Supergirl” reportedly got more than 10 million views in one week. The traditional press coverage of the high volume of trailer views, however, probably has more impact than the actual online viewing itself.

Over the years, I’ve demonstrated many times that pre-season buzz has no correlation with new series success. This is particularly true for sci-fi/superhero shows, which always get the most online and comic con buzz from fanboys (and girls).

Soon after the trailer came out, the pilot was leaked online. Given that the series was getting a significant amount of negative speculation, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was leaked “on purpose.” 

Still, the pilot was very good, so the fact it was leaked can only help the series. 

There are several factors to consider when projecting any potential  “Supergirl” success. “Supergirl” is trying to be a combination of the breeziness, humor and tone of “The Flash” and the more serious “let’s protect the world from enhanced powered people and aliens” tone of “S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Other heroes who occupy the same DC Universe, “The Flash” and “Arrow,” are both successful on CW. But CW’s barometer of success is lower than CBS’. Had either aired on CBS, and averaged the same rating (under 1.5 among adults 18-49), they might have been canceled after just a few episodes.

ABC’s “Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” gets a slightly higher rating, but if not for its tie-in to “The Avengers” movie franchise, and Disney (ABC) owning Marvel, it would probably not have been renewed.  Fox’s “Gotham” is the only show to generate higher than a 2 rating among adults 18-49 (and 25-54).

 “The Flash” and “Arrow” both have median ages under 45, while “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Gotham” have median ages of 48 and 49, respectively. Obviously, CBS, which has an average median age of 59, is hoping for the same. The “Supergirl” median age should be slightly lower than “Gotham.”

Both series have a mythology most familiar to baby boomers, but  “Supergirl” is more kid- and teen-friendly. It will also be interesting to see if men and boys will watch a superhero show where virtually all the main characters are women, including the main villain.

Whether it can be maintained on a weekly basis remains to be seen.  It can if it doesn’t fall into the same trap as the “Superman” movies – namely the only real threats to her are others from her home planet, Krypton, or someone with kryptonite. That will get boring fast.  The interactions among the regular ensemble cast will be just as important to the show’s success, as the action and special effects.

It seems ripe for crossovers with “The Flash” (less with “Arrow) and with continual references to her super-powered cousin in Metropolis; an occasional sweeps appearance would certainly help. With DC’s upcoming “Batman vs. Superman” movie, and plans for a Justice League of America franchise, there seems to be ample opportunity for  “Supergirl” to be part of that universe.

In a real head-scratching move, CBS will schedule “Supergirl” at 8 p.m. on Monday, opposite “Gotham,” which will have a month and a half to re-establish its audience base before “Supergirl” debuts in November.

This will not only limit its audience, but further hurt it by limiting its live audience. There’s nothing worse than a low-rated series with high DVR (i.e., low commercial) viewing.  Here’s hoping CBS decides to move the series to a more appropriate time period – otherwise it might not get off the ground.

With a better time period and proper promotion on similar programming, “Supergirl” could soar and be the under-50 hit CBS is looking for.  It is primed to appeal to baby boomers and their kids.

 

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