‘The Cape': NBC hopes for heroic success

Jan. 07, 2011 | 5:00 a.m.

Some say NBC has its work cut out for it with the new superhero series, but others think “The Cape” has themes that will connect with contemporary audiences. Greg Braxton writes about the newest entry in heroic television.

capecar The Cape: NBC hopes for heroic success

David Lyons stars in "The Cape." (NBC)

The aim of every superhero is to save something — the day, the world, the girl or the boy. But a more pointed question these days might be, “Who is saving the new superheroes?”

Many classic costumed regulars are doing fine, especially at the movies — Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man still thrill decades after first arriving on the scene. Meanwhile, the highly anticipated big-screen debuts of Captain America and Thor are fast approaching.

But in the past few years — particularly on the small screen — a new crop of would-be do-gooders have largely been greeted by the sentiment behind Tina Turner’s “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” anthem, “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” ABC’s “No Ordinary Family,” about a family that acquires special powers, has been attracting less than extraordinary ratings, and NBC is still reeling from the colossal crash-and-burn from its once promising “Heroes.”

cape2 The Cape: NBC hopes for heroic success

Lyons strikes a pose in "The Cape." (NBC)

And now stepping into the risky superhero arena is “The Cape,” NBC’s midseason drama about a framed cop who transforms himself into a comic-book style hero. The alternative hero battles evil with a specially designed garment and an arsenal of magical abilities, including, of course, an astonishing ability to use his trademark cape as a shield and weapon. The network is putting considerable promotional and financial muscle behind the drama, which debuts Sunday with a special two-hour premiere before settling into its regular 9 p.m. Monday slot (the show replaces the temporarily benched “The Event”).

The formidable producing team behind the new show believes “The Cape” can easily overcome the odds stacked against other superhero projects. Producers cite the show’s high production values and its contemporary twist on classic superhero genre themes dealing with alienation and redemption.

“We have developed a superhero mythology that works with a very contemporary sense,” executive producer Gail Berman said. “The hero here doesn’t have superpowers, just heightened skills, living in a world that feels very unfair and totally out of his control. I believe a lot of viewers will be able to connect with that.”

Creating a new superhero from scratch as opposed to embellishing an established property can be daunting. With “No Ordinary Family,” for example, the challenge in attracting an audience is whether the new universe created for the new series is sufficiently different from “The Fantastic Four” — and yet not so dissimilar that it alienates.

In “The Cape,” former Palm City police officer Vince Faraday (David Lyons) is forced to leave his family and go underground when he is framed for the death of the police chief by a ruthless billionaire mogul (James Frain) intent on taking over the city. Faraday falls in with a band of underworld circus performers, and the troupe trains him to become “The Cape,” complete with a new and unusual skill set to assist him in his crime fighting efforts.

cape3 The Cape: NBC hopes for heroic success

"The Cape." (NBC)

Berman, the former head of Fox Broadcasting who currently runs the high-powered production company BermanBraun with former ABC chief Lloyd Braun, said they responded immediately to creator Tom Weller’s pitch of a man forcibly separated from those he loves.

“There are a lot of people who feel that it’s the love of the family that keeps them going, and that’s a key theme for this show,” added Berman, who was one of the main forces behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and other genre shows. “There’s this strong undercurrent of mythology combined with this man who has just one single goal — to get back to his family.”

Weller, a self-professed comic-book geek since he was 5 years old, said “The Cape” will have more than its share of action and over-the-top villains with names like Chess and Scales: “There’ll be plenty of bells and whistles, but the heart of the show is this family that’s been torn apart.”

NBC has been hyping the series for several weeks, and held a gala premiere party Tuesday complete with fire twirlers and contortionists.

Still, some pop culture observers believe the series has its work cut out for it.

“It’s not impossible for a new comic-book style hero to work in TV and become a brand,” said Michael Uslan, an executive producer of the “Batman” film franchise. “Just look at ‘The Great American Hero.’ It goes to the basic issue of branding. Fans these days are very sophisticated, and they know when it’s the real thing and when it’s not. Unless it’s really special and fresh, it’s hard to connect with them.”

– Greg Braxton

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Comments


9 Responses to ‘The Cape': NBC hopes for heroic success

  1. Tore says:

    Cool! I will watch this show but kinda upset you didnt mention GREEN LANTERN when talking about superhero films!

  2. Marley says:

    The Cape looks moronic and I hope NBC fails miserably. They canceled “Undercovers” and I am boycotting the peacock.

    • Pete says:

      Undercovers was NOT good. While it was nice to see JJ Abrahms return to the worlds of espionage and plots, it lacked the tension and general quality of Alias (which is impossible for it not to be compared to).

  3. michaeljpatrick says:

    is this a real thing? It looks like a parody.

  4. kyle says:

    Looks like The Cape has some potential. I’m happy they don’t stick Summer Glau behind a desk like Chloe on Smalville or make her a damsel in distress or something. She’s too much of a badass for that.
    And what AWESOME actors they have cast as villians! Lookin forward to some criminal masterminds or simply twisted baddies in this and not some one-dimensional nemesis like so many shows have.

  5. 5plitreel says:

    I'm still checking it out., besided the fail buzz surrounding it.

  6. sci fi fan says:

    been looking forward to seeing this show, what a disappointment. what a joke. What age group are they targeting? infants? good luck with that.

  7. sambofett says:

    What I enjoy about tv shows is the enjoyment factor, whether that be realism or escapism, secondly I enjoy seeing my favourate actors, then there is knowledge that there is more to come. Let us as viwers give all shows a chance & enjoy them, this show looks good and I for one would like to see more without doom & gloom that it maybe cancelled, bad acting when its only just begun & NBC giving up too early either… from the UK

  8. Masimillian says:

    Uhmm, duh. The difference isn't movies versus t.v. The difference is established, beloved heroes who really appear in comics versus made-up-on-the-fly imitations. Fans want you to pay out the money to acquire the actual legends, not take the cheap way out my manufacturing a character with no past. Nostalgia is a HUGE part of superheroes. We haven't been waiting 50 years to see an on-screen version of … "the Cape"! Get with Marvel or DC or get lost!
    P.S. The big expectation this summer is also for Green Lantern, who is a more beloved hero than Thor (but not Captain America.) Thor has never been particularly popular.

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