As much as DC may still be struggling to gain a foothold on the big screen, they’ve truly become a force to be reckoned with in the TV world. The CW alone is now home to six different DC Comics-based series, and that’s not even counting other current series like Gotham and Lucifer on Fox or Preacher on AMC. And now, with DC prepping a new streaming service that will play host to shows like Titans and Young Justice: Outsiders, there’s about to be more DC content on TV than fans can possibly make time for. But is that really such a good thing? We may be reaching the point where having this much DC content does more harm than good.
Following the Arrowverse alone has become a full-time commitment. Assuming you lump the Greg Berlanti-produced Black Lightning in with the other shows (despite the fact that, for now, it’s not connected to the other shows’ continuity), that’s five hour-long DC series airing every single week. That’s asking fans to devote a significant chunk of their weekly TV viewing habits to one superhero universe. And too often it feels like the Arrowverse has suffered from growing so massive in scale. Both The Flash and Arrow are trapped in what many would argue are their worst seasons to date. Of these shows, only Legends of Tomorrow has maintained a relatively consistent level of quality from year to year. At some point, you have to ask if the Arrowverse isn’t guilty of prioritizing quantity over quality.
The problem gets worse once you look at the full scope of DC’s TV offerings. With shows on The CW, Fox, AMC and Cartoon Network, and Krypton set to premiere soon on Syfy, is there actually a need for a wholly separate, DC-specific streaming service? Sure, Young Justice fans will happily subscribe to anything that gives them the third season they’ve been longing for. But is that enough to justify the streaming service’s long-term existence? How much can that service truly offer fans that they aren’t already getting somewhere else?
This dilemma is really becoming apparent with the recent announcement of Metropolis, another series exclusive to the DC streaming app. Metropolis is basically the Superman franchise’s answer to Gotham, exploring Lois Lane and Lex Luthor’s respective struggles in the city before the arrival of Superman. Why DC would even want to replicate the Gotham formula is unclear. Gotham may draw respectable ratings for Fox, but it’s also been critically savaged in the past and mocked for its handling of many of Batman’s iconic villains. Often, the show seems hellbent on cramming as many Batman elements as possible into a pre-Batman setting, and I fear Metropolis will suffer from that same lack of storytelling discipline. Not to mention that Gotham at least has its young version of Bruce Wayne to fall back on. Presumably, young Clark Kent won’t be a part of Metropolis.
Even if Metropolis avoids the storytelling missteps of Gotham, it’s still going to be a live-action Superman series struggling to co-exist alongside two other, completely unrelated Superman series – Supergirl and Krypton. Is there really that much demand for new Superman content? Not only will fans have three different Superman shows vying for their attention, all three are shows that will feature little to nothing of Superman himself. It’s painful enough watching Supergirl constantly jump through hoops to justify keeping Superman off-screen and uninvolved in his cousin’s adventures. At least viewers can still look forward to the occasional appearance by Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman. Neither Krypton nor Metropolis can even rely on that much.
Another concern is that DC and WB have often taken a very heavy-handed approach when it comes to allowing multiple incarnations of the same character to exist in live-action form. There’s a reason Smallville was never allowed to use iconic characters like Batman, Wonder Woman or Barry Allen’s Flash. Arrow was forced to quietly kill off Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad a couple seasons back. Now the series has been barred from using Deathstroke, in order to make way for the character’s DCEU debut. Who’s to say these same sorts of problems won’t crop up for these Superman shows? Will Metropolis ensure that we never see Lois Lane and Lex Luthor on Supergirl? Will Brainiac become off limits for Supergirl and Metropolis once he appears on Krypton? It’s all too easy to imagine a scenario where Superman’s supporting cast becomes divided up among the three shows, to the inevitable detriment of all.
The hope is that DC is doing its best to coordinate these numerous projects and ensure that each one has its own niche to fill. Redundant as they seem in some respects, Supergirl, Krypton, and Metropolis are also different enough in terms of setting, time period, and cast that they could be made to co-exist easily enough. that The fact that Berlanti is also overseeing Titans offers some hope that the series could wind up joining the Arrowverse, just as Supergirl eventually did. Similarly, David Goyer’s involvement with Krypton has fueled speculation that the series is actually part of DCEU continuity. At this point, the fewer live-action shared universes fans have to keep track of, the better.
Regardless, it’s tough not to worry that the DC Universe is becoming badly overextended on the small screen. We’re living in an era where there’s more great, must-watch television than any one person could ever hope to consume. The goal shouldn’t be to win over viewers with the sheer amount of DC-branded content, but to ensure that what’s there stands out as much as possible.