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The Cape – Superhero Schlock?

Last night, I watched the first two episodes of the new NBC show, The Cape.  I usually develop opinions about television shows and movies pretty quickly, but this one still has me wavering between “bloody awful” and “I get the joke”.

In case you don’t know, The Cape is a superhero story, here’s the pilot’s plot synopsis from NBC.com.

An honest cop on a corrupt police force is framed for a series of murders and presumed dead. Forced into hiding and desperate to reunite with his wife and son, he recreates himself as a caped hero, determined to bring justice back to the city he loves.

The show doesn’t waste a single second on things like subtlety and nuance, it puts character and story development on the fast track and goes from Zero to Ludicrous in the first half hour of the two-hour pilot.  It makes every attempt to hit all of the vigilante superhero tropes that you can imagine; good cop framed for a crime but presumed dead, big businessman bad guy, carnies who offer training, revenge and a mystical cape, mysterious helper and tech guru, etc., etc., etc..  It seems as if the creators sat down and made a list of elements that have appeared in comics for the last 50 years and set out to check them all off as quickly as possible. It’s painfully obvious that this character is heavily influenced by another Caped Crusader/Dark Knight/Worlds Greatest Detective, to the point where I wonder just how they’re going to get a way with it.

All fictional stories require that some level of cooperation from the viewer or reader.  You have to be able to put your disbelief aside and understand that this is just how things operate in the world that the story takes place in. To enjoy The Cape, you’ve got to be a real pro at suspending your disbelief, it’s downright hokey. I was an avid viewer of Heroes until it jumped the shark in season 3, in fact I stopped watching it as soon as the mysterious carnies showed up!

That’s the “bloody awful” stuff, now for the “I think I get the joke” part.  The story is so cliche, so in your face corny that it absolutely has to be intentional.  There’s just no way that any network executive who enjoys being employed would look at this script and take it seriously. I believe that the creators are counting on the audience to “get the joke”, to just sit back and accept what’s happening on the screen and enjoy the action.  When you watch the show with that in mind, it’s much less painful and truthfully, it actually started to grow on me after the first hour. I may be wrong, but I hope that I’m not.

I’m not sure how long the show will last, its way too cheesy to be taken seriously but it’s not quite cheesy enough for everyone to pick up on the joke.  It’s a bit too violent for younger children, but older ones may not find it exciting enough.

The jury is still out on this one for me, I’ll give it a few more episodes before giving my final verdict.

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About Todd E. Grady

I'm a dad, husband, IT guy and geek of all trades.

Posted on 01.19.2011, in Comic Books, Television and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I thought it was a good yarn told at a good pace, and I didn’t get bored in the first two hours. Unlike Smallville, (where Superman still hasn’t learned to fly, and still isn’t called Superman well into the 10th and final series) The Cape’s pilot told the whole character development process too quickly, in my opinion. A little more character development over a number of episodes may have told a richer storyline.

    The problem TV executives face nowadays is the ease that series get cancelled. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the rules of cancellation sometimes, but low viewing figures can even cancel a series mid-episode, it seems. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. Anyway, I think the break-neck speed that this pilot introduced itself is evidence of this fear factor. “Let’s put it all out there and hope its a hit.” I hope they’ve left enough out there to keep the audience’s attention.

    None-the-less, it was good fun, and hit all the right notes for simple family viewing, and I too hope it is a success.

    • I completely agree. The problem that I see is simply that people won’t give it a chance because it’s so contrived and formulaic. I actually hope that they step it up a notch and continue down their checklist of superhero tropes.

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