Supergirl TV show is more like Lois & Clark than Arrow

Arrow exec and CBS boss talk Supergirl, Lois & Clarke and the need for more superheroines

Supergirl as she appears in the New 52
Supergirl as she appears in the New 52

There’s no doubt that Superman casts an enormous shadow, and perhaps no one has felt that more than his cousin, Supergirl. But now, after faltering on the big screen in 1984 and offering up supporting roles on television in Smallville and in a number of animated films, the Girl of Steel is ready for her TV close-up.

On a creative and critical roll with Arrow and The Flash, executive producer Greg Berlanti is working with co-writer/executive producer Ali Adler (the duo previously collaborated on No Ordinary Family) on new TV series Supergirl, which will be airing on the CBS network in America, with Glee actress Melissa Benoist in the titular role – much to the delight of network president Nina Tassler.

“As you can tell from the strength of the female characters we have on television, it’s a real passion of ours,” says Tassler, speaking exclusively to SciFiNow.

“We heard the pitch for Supergirl, and we realised that she embodied so many of the qualities and characteristics of classic female heroines on this network. We think that it’s a coming-of-age opportunity for us. We also just fell in love with the pitch. We think she’s a great character, and I love the superhero genre.”

Melissa Benoist
New Supergirl Melissa Benoist singing her heart out in Glee

The show posits Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El as a young Kryptonian who is only just discovering her abilities. Having previously hidden her powers, she eventually decides to stop running from her heritage, and – like her famous relative – embraces superherodom.

There has been a building outcry over the lack of superheroines on the big and small screen, and that’s something Berlanti kept in mind during the development process of Supergirl.

“That was really important to all of us when we set out to working on it,” he explains. “It was really important to DC, and it was really important to the women I’m working on the show with, the women that work at the studio and the women that work on the network.”

Supergirl as she appears in the Superman Unbound animated movie
Supergirl as she appears in the Superman Unbound animated movie

He points out that he did not look at what happened to David E Kelley’s ill-fated Wonder Woman pilot from a couple of seasons ago for lessons on what not to do with Supergirl.

 

“I think for us,” he offers, “it’s always about learning from our own mistakes and our own successes. So a show like Arrow and The Flash without stuff I learned on Eli Stone and No Ordinary Family wouldn’t exist in terms of visual effects and stunts, and things like that.

“Story-wise, what we’ve learned on these shows is how important casting is. If you’re right on the money and you have the kind of actors we have on these shows, it just makes you look so much better. With each show, it’s always, ‘How can we improve on what we’ve learned before?’”

One question about the show is whether or not it will be serialised or more standalone.

Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain in Lois & Clarke
Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain in Lois & Clarke

 

“When I was at Warner Bros,” Tassler notes, “We developed Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman. There’s a human drama there. Certainly in terms of the public, there are so many superhero characters portrayed in films, but we’re watching an evolution with regards to the way superhero characters are portrayed. There’s a humanity. They are flawed. There’s a relatability.

“And I think for our network right now, what we did respond to was Supergirl’s humanity, the other characters in the show, the story trajectory, and the character’s arc and growth. These are all things that made her just eminently relatable and made the story exciting. It’s an adventure, and that made her incredibly appealing.

“We made the decision based on the pitch that we heard.”

Supergirl will air on CBS in the US some time in the near future. Find out more about the comics that inspired the series with the 100 All-Time Greatest Comics bookazine!