Red Shirts and Other Lessers

I’ve been watching Gotham and doing my best to like it. The problem I have with TV shows like Gotham is I know how they’re going to end and that makes them pretty boring.

I know that, no matter how dangerous the situation is, the Penguin is going to survive. I know that no matter how many bullets are fired at young Bruce Wayne, he’s going to survive to become Batman. (Spoiler warning.) I know that Detective James Gordon has to survive so that he can become Commissioner Gordon.

Gotham‘s gimmick is to essentially focus on the doomed to die red shirt characters and the characters in the background who don’t even get a uniform. This makes the show character and actor dependent. Future major characters make appearances, but some of them are only 12 years old. Some of them haven’t even been born yet, but their parents finally get together.

Gotham’s strength is Robin Lord Taylor as a young, jittery and ruthless Penquin. He’s one of the few actors who recognize that a little camp can carry him a long way. He’s got a talent for being jittery and afraid and then turning psychotic and ruthless. (He’d make a great teacher.)

Unfortunately, he’s pretty much carrying the show. Ben McKenzie, who plays the center of the show James Gordon, suffers from what I call “Colin Farrell Syndrome”. This means 1) he’s handsome; but 2) surprisingly uncharismatic on screen; and 3) not a particularly good actor. Donal Logue, who plays his partner Harvey Bullock is much better.

Because of its premise–instead of jumping to the future after the death of the Wayne’s it stays in the past and follows the investigation–the show also suffers from “Anakin Skywalker Syndrome” which means it’s populated by annoying kids who can’t act. The actor who plays young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) is terrible. If I were king of the show, Bruce Wayne wouldn’t even appear in the show more than once or twice. He’s not actually important to the story, especially when his version of intense anger sounds a lot like whining. (It’s like, Alfred, why am I like always angry and like so full of anger? It makes me angry!)

Camren Bicondova, who plays 15 year old Selina “Catwoman” Kyle suffers from being annoyingly cute and clean for a girl who supposedly lives on the streets. Her hair is always perfect, even in the rain, as is her make up. The leather jacket and hoodie she always wears must be pretty ripe by now. By contrast, Clare Foley, who plays Ivy Pepper (the ridiculous name given to Pamela Lillian Isley who will eventually become Poison Ivy) looks dirty and her clothes keep getting more and more tattered. She also plays creepy well by not saying much.

The show’s other problem is a lack of control over tone. Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith (who plays Edward “Riddler” Nygma) and Jada Pinkett Smith (who plays the non-canonical and badly named Fish Mooney) are in a different TV show than all the other actors. Their attitude is “Scenery motherf@#ker! Do you chew it?” Jada Pinkett Smith’s problem is she doesn’t realize she’s imitating Catwoman.

The only character I feel sorry for is the young actor playing the character who will eventually become the Joker. He gets the duty of being the first post-Heath Ledger Joker. I do not envy him that task, especially as he’s not very good. A leer and a cackle do not a good Joker make.

I’ll probably finish out the season, but I’m not expecting much. I just hope they remember the Joker has green hair and not red.

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