Friday, September 21, 2007

Guilty superhero pleasures

Guilty pleasures. We all have them. For some of us, it’s that extra Snickers bar at lunch-time. For others, it’s staying up that hour beyond when you should go to bed while playing World of Warcraft. Others have far less innocent guilty pleasures, but in all cases we do something that we know we shouldn’t, just because we enjoy it.

A recent discussion reminded me of one of my own guilty pleasures, the short-lived Birds of Prey series from the WB. Not the excellent comic book, but the television show loosely (ok – really loosely) based on it. It was a weird blend of elements from the Batman mythology. Barbara Gordon was paralyzed, a result of being shot by the Joker. She used to be Batgirl. Batman has left Gotham (which probably had as much to do with copyright issues as anything else), and Oracle guides the Huntress (in this version, a metahuman and the daughter of Catwoman) and later on Dinah (a blonde teenaged girl with psychic abilities – very vaguely supposed to sugges Black Canary) as they try to stop metahuman crime in Gotham city.

The show wasn’t good – I won’t lie about that. Some of the choices made were nothing short of idiotic, and there were acting moments that made me cringe. But it wasn’t as terrible as some people tried to say it was. And I think that a lot of science-fiction/superhero television shows need a full season to find their groove – which Birds of Prey never got.

(Don’t believe me? Watch some of the first few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It wasn’t good. Had it not been for rabid Trekkies who were just happy to have any form of Trek on TV again, it wouldn’t have lasted long enough to get good.)

Anyhow, this made me think of some other superhero related shows (most of which are now available on DVD) which fit into the category of “guilty pleasures.” So, here’s a list of a few of my favorite guilty pleasures, which I sneak a peak at whenever the SciFi channel runs a marthon of them.

1. Birds of Prey - Already discussed above.

2. The Crow: Stairway to Heaven - Wisely the creators of this show chose to make this film a re-imagining of the film, rather than a sequel. (Yeah, I’m looking at you Highlander.) Marc Dacastos made an excellent Eric Draven, and the show managed to make a compelling case for the fact that Eric was trying to reunite with Shelly, but giving it enough story to last as a series.

3. Swamp Thing - Dick Durock may be the only man who can say that the superhero he played has appeared in multiple films and tv series, and has always been played by him. This is all the more remarkable considering the strikingly different tones of the two films, with the series edging more towards the first. Roughly half of the episodes of the show had little or nothing to do with the Swamp Thing, instead exploring another mysterious happening, but they were almost all watchable.

4. Robocop: The Series - The RoboCop movies are dark and gritty, with an extremely high bodycount. They’re awesome movies, but clearly meant for an adult audience. The series tried to shift the focus to a young adult/teen audience, and made Murphy’s aresenal less lethal. It also gave him a Virtual Reality-based ally. I prefer the films, and the later RoboCop: Prime Directive mini-series, but this is a much family-friendlier RoboCop, and one that I can watch an episode or two of any time.

5. The Greatest American Hero - It was goofy and featured a hero who never was able to get control of his powers. The premise was ridiculous – surely with all that the suit was able to do, the aliens could have made the instruction manual a part of the suit itself. But it was also a lot of fun. And the costume remains one of the more distinctive superhero costumes in existence. Stand the Greatest American Hero (never actually given a superhero name in the show, incidentally) next to Mr. Fantastic, Daredevil and V, and the average person on the street will identify only one of them. The show also gets points in my book for being goofy and making fun of superheroes, but doing so with the kind of gentleness that shows a love for the subject.

So, what are your guilty pleasures?

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Blogger Matt said...

1. Daredevil -- What can I say? I know they could and should have done a better job with it. I see Frank Miller's work and wish it had been done like that. Still, I find the movie isn't that bad and could of been much worse (like the extended edition). Daredevil's my favorite hero (and not just because he's a blind guy named Matt) and I'm impressed that a medium B-lister actually got his own movie.

2. The Incredible Hulk T.V. show -- I love watching reruns of this on SciFi when they run them. Sure the Hulk is a lot weaker than his comic counterpart (to the point where guns can wound him), but I found David Banner's story compelling.

3. Birds of Prey -- I used to watch it when it was on the air and I liked it then. Not sure if I would like it now since I know more of the mythos behind D.C., but I expect I probably would.

4. Smallville -- It's a superhero soap opera with cool moments, bad plots, and a Clark Kent who acts more like Peter Parker. Still, I'm okay with all of this.

5. The Adam West Batman series -- It's corny, full of campy moments, ridiculous plot twists, and way too man bat-(insert device name here). Still despite all that (or maybe because of it), I find it very entertaining and still can't help humming along with the theme song.

4:11 PM  

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