Yesterday, Variety reported on the CW’s development of “The Graysons,” a new series about the life of Dick “DJ” Grayson in the days before he became Batman’s sidekick, Robin.
The series will be executive-produced by “Smallville” showrunners Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders and “Terminator: Salvation” director, McG. According to the article, it will deal with DJ Grayson’s first loves and rivals and the network sees it as a potential replacement for “Smallville,” which followed the life of Clark Kent before he adopted the Superman persona.
While it’s wrong to write off a series before the pilot has even been shot, I can’t help but harbor my doubts about its premise. In all my years of reading Batman comics, I’ve never been interested in Dick Grayson’s life before his parents died and Bruce Wayne became his mentor. It would be like looking at Bruce Wayne’s childhood before his parents were killed. What’s the point? He’s just another kid.
“Smallville” was different, because even though Clark wasn’t wearing the big red-and-blue Superman suit in his teenage years, he was still an alien from the planet Krypton with super powers. Even Bruce Wayne in his years spent in training would be interesting to see (as Christopher Nolan proved in the opening scenes of “Batman Begins”). But Robin is barely interesting as a sidekick, let alone a sidekick without the hero.
Sidekicks have had their own series before. Hawkeye’s buddy Trapper John went from “M*A*S*H” to “Trapper John M.D.,” Rhoda broke out from “Mary Tyler Moore” to get her own show and without “Cheers” there would be no “Frasier.” But the essential difference between those shows and this one is that we followed the sidekicks we’d learned to love, we didn’t see them before they got interesting. Who really wants to see Frasier in his married life to Lilith? Or Dr. Watson during his army years, before he met up with Sherlock Holmes? Or Tonto when he was just a brave?*
“Star Wars” fans still seem upset by the realization that Anakin Skywalker wasn’t nearly as interesting a character as Darth Vader. Did they really expect otherwise? And with all due respect to the success of “Smallville,” is it possible that their premise, however well-intentioned, is fundamentally flawed?
– Patrick Kevin Day
Image courtesy of DC Comics
*Fixed to correct grammar.