The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Here’s why ‘Supergirl’s’ move to the CW is the win-win scenario it deserved all along

Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) finally can soar for the network on which she rightly belongs. (DC/CBS)
Placeholder while article actions load

“SUPERGIRL’s” move from CBS to the CW, which was announced Thursday ahead of this month’s TV network upfronts, shouldn’t be looked upon like a demotion to the minors after a year in the broadcast “big leagues.”

If anything, a new season on the CW could be just what the show needs to soar highly creatively — and become more in touch with its characters’ comic-book roots.

CBS, of course, needed more ratings bang for its bucks (a reported $3 million an episode). To be sure, that big-time investment popped on the screen: The show looked spectacular, from Supergirl’s well-designed costume to the often-splashy special effects. Much of the budget clearly was spent on such Supergirl powers as flight, heat vision and feats of strength. But our hero’s super-expense account, alas, didn’t always translate into compelling television.

The CW adds ‘Supergirl’ and ‘Riverdale’ for the fall, bolstering its lineup of comics adaptations

“Supergirl’s” biggest enemy during the Girl of Steel’s first season was the expectation for big ratings worthy of CBS. That, in turn, led to a creative approach that resulted in episodes that were not sharp or faithful enough for much of the comics-loving community.

For a comics-adapted show to succeed, the general audience must be intrigued, of course, but fanboys and fangirls need to feel as if the mythos of a character is there, too. “Supergirl’s” first season felt fairly well-tailored to cast a wide viewership net. But despite the “S” on her chest and the welcome presence of the Martian Manhunter, “Supergirl” didn’t have the fun, geeky vibe that has made such other CW superhero hits as “Arrow” and “The Flash” so enjoyable to watch for fans of comic-book culture.

Now, for its sophomore season, it will be interesting to see whether “Supergirl” remains on a different Earth, as was the case during the show’s successful crossover experiment with “The Flash.” Airing on the CW could bring about the interesting possibility that Superman exists within the worlds of “Arrow” and “The Flash.” But given the wink-wink manner in which Superman’s presence is addressed on “Supergirl,” we still shouldn’t expect to see the Man of Steel in the flesh.

Now, though, our hopes are raised that we will see more crossovers with “Arrow,” “The Flash” and perhaps even “Legends of Tomorrow.” It would be a waste of a shared network universe to have “Supergirl” on the CW and not team her on occasion with the superhero shows already in the CW’s stable.

[‘Supergirl’s’ Flash crossover: Here’s her best power that both Batman and Superman lack]

As for cost, there’s also the scenario that “Supergirl” might not film in Hollywood anymore, instead setting up shop and sets in Canada alongside the CW’s other superhero shows. Such a move might provide enough fiscal savings to offset having to significantly trim the show’s special-effects budget. Just consider: “The Flash,” a hero show with super-powers, makes things work just fine on a CW budget.

Next, by lessening the ratings pressure that comes with airing on CBS’s prime-time schedule — and by joining a network that has several superhero shows that have stayed on the air for multiple seasons — “Supergirl” has the opportunity to do something that could help distinguish it. It’s time to get a little geekier.

Producer Greg Berlanti should now have more freedom to play with some comic-book scenarios that might have been too complex for CBS’s general audience.

For example, the final episodes of “Supergirl” hinted at the presence of Project Cadmus, an organization responsible for the creation of the ’90s Superman clone Superboy in the comics. Now: Why not bring in Superboy for Season 2 of “Supergirl”? Having Supergirl deal with a younger, less mature, hormone-influenced version of Kal-El could provide quite the weekly adventure.

That type of move would fit the formula that the CW’s other comic-book shows have followed when using such major DC Comics characters such as Deathstroke, Ras al Ghul, the Reverse Flash and Zoom.

Bottom line: “Supergirl” now has a chance to get bigger creatively — on the smaller network that it probably should have launched on all along.

Read more:

‘Arrow’ star Stephen Amell talks about hitting the targets of TV success

How ‘The Flash’s’ second-season villain just got far more interesting fast