Friday, August 17, 2012

Barrowman and Abs Increase 'Arrow' Hype

It was recently announced that John Barrowman, he of Torchwood and Doctor Who fame, will be joining the cast of CW's 'Arrow' as a recurring character in this, its pilot season. (His character was not revealed, but let's be honest, he'd be a pretty good villain.)

'Arrow' stars Canadian actor Stephen Amell, whom I most emphatically DO NOT know from such work as Dante's Cove and Queer as Folk, as Oliver Queen, that lesser known vigilante hero of the DC universe who fights crime anonymously with the help of his large personal fortune. Known for his politics, archery prowess, bad temper and bizarre facial hair, one can assume that the CW is taking quite a different approach.

According to reports from San Diego Comic Con, where the pilot episode was screened, their approach has worked. People have raved and the interest in the show is escalating. The casting of John Barrowman is a brilliant move; it will guarantee the attention of sci/fi fans who were watching the Doctor Who reboot even before Matt Smith showed up on all the NYC buses. (Never underestimate that demographic.) Besides, if Barrowman's fans still consider themselves fans, after all those terrible Torchwood episodes, then they'll definitely tune into CW (a network that is clearly targeting the loyal cult fan base by airing Joss Whedon's Internet hit Dr. Horrible on primetime this fall.)

It's also exciting for Barrowman personally who, after literally bringing the Torchwood team to America, is still trying to break into the US market (like most British actors, though he spent many young years in Illinois.) His biggest news was his starring role in Gilded Lilys, a series I thought had much promise, despite the producer credit belonging to Shonda Rhimes, a woman who can turn a good idea into an insufferably dated, sentimental, cheesy, badly written schlockfest, when she's not picking righteous, hypocritical, racist fights with Amy Sherman-Palladino, a woman who actually knows how to write a television show.

OK, mini-rant over, sorry. Gilded Lilys was about a family of aspiring hoteliers in NYC in the early 1900s. I had the same idea of a grand period show after reading the fantastic book When The Astors Owned New York. To watch not only the remarkable development of Manhattan, but the advent of luxury, the maneuverings of business, the political and social events that were centered in those enormous hotels (from presidential campaigns to salons) all amidst the personal upheavals of an upper-class family and their upstairs/downstairs relations with hotel staff and servants would be overflowing with episodic opportunity.

Unfortunately ABC passed on the pilot. (I blame Shonda, natch.) I suppose it's possible another network could pick it up still, but it's already a bit late in the year marketing wise. Hence it's Barrowman's good fortune to still find himself with a place of some prominence when USA's primetime TV season comes around. And CW's smart move to see his talent, good looks, and loyal fan base.

Judging from initial reactions, DC should really pursue this TV show thing. (Might I suggest/plead for CW to revisit a Gotham Central series? I'm sure Rucka and Brubaker are capable of writing a TV script.) They're clearly skilled when it comes to rebooting entirely or tweaking slightly their characters for new audiences and demographics, and they have a wealth of B or C list street level characters who would flourish on the small screen. Ostensibly 'Arrow' is their test run, their foot in the water as it were, and judging from their marketing plans, it's gonna be a success:

Seriously DC, have I mentioned how brilliant you are? Cause you are. And I love you. Hey Human Resources, call me already. (Too much?)

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