Arguably, I’m too old and much too fond of PBS to even notice the new CBS dramedy Supergirl. I like Supergirl anyway.
I like it a lot.
Much of the credit goes to series star Melissa Benoist, who calls upon the same sweet-meets-steely spunk she displayed as Glee’s cheerleader target Marley Rose to play Superman’s equally gifted cousin Kara Zor-El.
Yeah, I was probably too old for Glee, too, but I love a good tale about “odd women out” who find their own power — be it in a high-school auditorium or on another planet.
And I love that co-executive producer Greg Berlanti (also the man behind Arrow and The Flash) believed it was high time that a female superhero got her TV-series due — then supported his Supergirl with a talented multigenerational group of ladies that includes Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal) as Kara’s no B.S. multimedia mogul boss, Cat Grant; Laura Benanti (Nashville) as Supergirl’s supermom Alura; and Chyler Leigh (Grey’s Anatomy) as Kara’s secret-hiding foster sister Alex.
“One of the things I love about this show is it’s a real celebration of girl power,” says Flockhart, whose Ally McBeal was an oft-flustered everywoman role model to twenty-somethings learning to make their way in the late ’90s. “I think it’s a great show for moms and daughters to watch together. Cat’s like, ‘I’m a girl and I’m awesome, and I’m not going to apologize for that,’ and I love that about the character.”
Berlanti says his new series is also a celebration of comic book lore that has stood the test of time — 80-plus years in Superman’s case and nearly 60 for his feisty female cousin.
“Supergirl and Superman mythology is one of the most famous in all the superhero world,” Berlanti says. “We wanted to do the ‘S’ justice. I know how much those characters mean to other people, too, so every day when everybody comes to work, we really want to make sure that we’re living up to the potential of the stories and the storylines … especially for a new generation of kids who are discovering them or people who are rediscovering them and remembering why they loved that character. Those things are real fuel.”
For Benoist, that famous outfit helped her believe that she could soar in an iconic role. “I put on the cape and I look in the mirror and I see the ‘S’ and something transforms,” she explains. “I just knew automatically that she’s such a beacon of hope, and I knew that her bravery and strength was so intrinsic and important to who she is, and that I really needed to feel in myself in order to play that.”
Good thing. Because while Kara takes her verbal licks at the office and from Alex (a construct of the series the writers added for emotional depth), Supergirl endures some gasp-inducing physical blows as she learns to use her powers, finding charming allies in CatCo Worldwide Media’s IT guy Winn Schott (Jeremy Jordan) and the company’s new artistic director James Olsen (Mehcad Brooks).
Yes, that would be the self-same Jimmy Olsen who worked for the Daily Planet.
Because the producers said they wanted to sidestep the dark tone of most modern comic book adaptations, Supergirl will harken back to Kara’s younger years in Midvale and on Krypton.
And creator Andrew Kreisberg also promises “a bunch of characters from the DC Comics world,” including Reactron, Livewire, Red Tornado, Maxwell Lord and a “slightly different take” on Kryptonian bad guy Non. “We’re having [Superwoman] Lucy Lane,” Kriesberg adds, “but we’re also going to be having her father, Gen. Sam Lane, who will be coming to town with an agenda.”
Supergirl premieres Monday, Oct. 26 at 8:30/7:30CT on CBS.