Why You Should Be Optimistic About ‘Supergirl’

Supergirl just delivered its first trailer, and the reaction was decidedly… mixed. Some thought it was great, some thought it was that Black Widow SNL sketch brought to life. For me, it struck an oddly optimistic note. To explain why, I need to talk about another pilot.

A few years ago, DC tried to bring Wonder Woman back to TV, and the results became the stuff of infamy. I’ve seen it, and as bad as you’ve heard it is, trust me, it’s much, much worse, and not in an entertaining way. What stood out about it was that for a show supposedly aimed at women, you found yourself wondering if the people involved had ever met one. “Hey, chicks like ice cream parties in their jammies, right? Throw that in.” “Chicks don’t like it when you merchandise their t*ts, right? Throw in something about that.” There’s a reason DC and NBC mutually agreed to bury this thing; it was miserable pandering crap.

So, it’s interesting to watch the Supergirl trailer and notice two things: One, CBS, or at least somebody in the marketing department, would very much like Supergirl to be miserable pandering crap. And two, it’s fairly clear that’s not what Supergirl is.

Let’s break down the trailer by content because it’s pretty telling once you break out the stopwatch. Before I go meganerd here, keep in mind: All of the trailer footage is from the pilot episode. The show didn’t get a series order until last week, so if they’re cutting in anything from future episodes, it’s the office stuff. Follow along!

  • The trailer opens with a 30-second sketch of Kara’s origin, and it quite literally rushes through her decade-plus on Earth in a few seconds to get to her assistant job.
  • From there, it’s a minute and a half of office politics, hunky Jimmy Olsen, and sisterly rivalry.
  • It’s not until two minutes in that we get an action sequence, and that’s about 40 seconds.
  • Then another minute or so of sisterly rivalry and that terrible, terrible joke where the future Toyman thinks she’s coming out as a lesbian.
  • After that, we’ve got short clips of action sequences couched in what amounts to an attempt to turn what’s clearly a running joke about her outfit getting destroyed in fights throughout the pilot into a fashion montage. That’s another minute and a half.
  • Forty seconds dedicated to the actual overall plot of the show, with Supergirl fighting supervillains, followed by another brief montage of all those action scenes they were scared of showing us…
  • … Which is immediately cut with thirty seconds of Jimmy Olsen flirting.
  • And, finally, a few quick shots of action scenes.

Clocking the office politics and romance, that’s about four minutes and 30 seconds out of a six-and-a-half-minute trailer. It’s clear that somebody in the marketing apparatus decided to downplay the action sequences… of which there seem to be quite a few. You know, because women just hate the idea of a lead female character holding her own in a fight scene.

Granted, there are a few problems here, not the least of which is that CBS clearly bought Supergirl with the expectation they were getting Wonder Woman, and instead got, well, a superhero show in the DC style we’ve seen on The CW. If you’ve been watching The Flash and Arrow, there’s a distinct feeling of those shows around this trailer, which is quite a good thing.

True, this raises a few questions, not the least of which is how CBS will react when they discover they took a superhero show to series assuming they were going to get, well, miserable pandering crap and instead got an actual genre TV show. I find it unlikely Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti, and Andrew Kreisberg are going to turn around and make a dull, unfunny show that happens to star Supergirl. But I am optimistic they made a good show, even if it made for a less-than-super trailer.

UPDATE: Just to reinforce my point, here’s a fan edit of the trailer, using the same footage, but mostly cutting out the office politics and swapping out the music.