Tag Archives: Andrew Kreisberg

Crossover crazy

With The Flash and Supergirl set to meet for the first time, Michael Pickard looks at the trend for drama crossovers, with viewers’ favourite characters set to share more screen time in the future.

While the movie world is relishing the prospect of Batman and Superman sharing the big screen for the first time, the realm of TV is preparing for its own superhero event.

The Flash is heading to National City for an appearance in a special episode of Supergirl, which is set to air on US network CBS on March 28.

The crossover, titled Worlds Finest, sees Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) gain a new ally in the form of lightning fast The Flash (Grant Gustin) when he appears from an alternate universe to help her battle Silver Banshee and Livewire, in exchange for helping him find a way to return home.

Details of the special episode were confirmed in February, with all manner of speculation, rumour and sheer excitement building across the internet since.

But what is behind The Flash’s appearance in another series, away from his home on The CW, and why would the producers be interested in an event like this?

Regular viewers of both shows will be aware of their place in the DC Comics-inspired universe that’s building on The CW through series like Arrow, The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, coupled with Supergirl, Gotham (Fox) and Constantine, which aired for just one season on NBC in 2014/15.

A promotional image for the upcoming Supergirl and The Flash crossover
A promotional image for the upcoming Supergirl and The Flash crossover

But the superhero shows on The CW and CBS have more than just their comic book roots in common. They all come from the creative team of Warner Bros Television and Berlanti Productions, and in particular Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg.

Together they launched Arrow in October 2012, before The Flash debuted in October 2014. Supergirl followed in October 2015, before DC’s Legends of Tomorrow landed in January this year.

And while The CW series were all conceived to take place in the same fictional universe – much in the same way as the Marvel feature films featuring Iron Man, Captain America et al, and the Netflix/Marvel series including Daredevil and Jessica Jones – this is the first time Supergirl will become part of that world.

“We are so incredibly excited to announce something that we have dreamed of happening since we starting making Supergirl – The Flash and Supergirl are teaming up,” said Berlanti and Kreisberg when the crossover was announced. “We want to thank Grant Gustin for making the time to come visit, on top of his already immense workload, and all of the folks at CBS, The CW, Warner Bros and DC for working this out. And finally, thanks to the fans and journalists who have kept asking for this to happen. It is our pleasure and hope to create an episode worthy of everyone’s enthusiasm and support.”

While The Flash has become one of The CW’s biggest hit shows, renewed this month for a third season in 2015/16, it has only averaged 3.7 million viewers this season, while Supergirl is soaring much higher with 8.1 million. So this begs the question why The Flash is going to spend time with Supergirl on CBS and not vice versa. With so many more people tuning in to Supergirl, CBS can’t expect much of a ratings bump with The Flash’s appearance – so what’s behind it?

Legends of Tomorrow
Characters that later starred in Legends of Tomorrow (pictured) first appeared in The Flash

In this case, it seems as though this is an entirely creative exercise, bringing together two popular characters. Berlanti and Kreisberg noted as much in their statement when they said this was something fans had been asking for – and their wait will be over soon enough.

Of course, with the worlds of Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow already meshed together, it’s no surprise that this is just the latest crossover in the DC universe. Arrow and The Flash have been regular screen buddies (see top image), ever since The Flash was initially introduced in three episodes of Arrow before landing a series of his own. They have since gone on to appear multiple times in each other’s storylines.

Similarly, some of the characters who would later star in Legends of Tomorrow were also first introduced in The Flash – namely Captain Cool (Wentworth Miller), Firestorm (Victor Garber and Franz Drameh) and Heatwave (Dominic Purcell). Arrow was also responsible for establishing Atom (Brandon Routh) and White Canary (Caity Lotz).

Conversely, both Arrow (played by Stephen Amell) and The Flash themselves have also popped up in Legends of Tomorrow, showing the fluidity of their shared storylines and characters.

Crossover episodes are not a new concept in television, of course. Two other CW shows, The Vampire Diaries and its spin-off The Originals, have crossed wires.

In the Marvel television universe, Agent Carter’s title character has popped up in sister ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. On Netflix, Daredevil’s Claire Temple appeared in an episode of Jessica Jones, which also introduced viewers to Luke Cage (Mike Colter) ahead of his own series, which launches on the SVoD platform on September 30 this year.

Chicago Fire
Dick Wolf’s Chicago stable of shows such as Chicago Fire (pictured) regularly feature characters from the sibling series

And it is this mechanism of introducing characters ahead of a spin-off series that is one of the most common reasons for a crossover episode – in essence serving as a backdoor pilot.

A 2005 episode of CSI: Miami led to CSI: New York, while original hit CSI opened the door to CSI: Cyber in 2014. CSI, CSI: Miami and CSI: NY came together for the first time in a three-part story that aired in November 2009.

Elsewhere, NCIS was introduced through a backdoor pilot from Naval legal drama Jag, before it in turn gave birth to NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans through backdoor pilots in 2009 and 2014 respectively. They have all enjoyed further crossovers that largely involve lead characters from the main series joining its younger siblings.

More recently, NBC’s Chicago franchise, overseen by Dick Wolf (Law & Order), has seen characters from Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med cross over – with more in the pipeline should Chicago Justice get a series order for the 2016/17 season.

The increasingly common use of crossover episodes goes to show how just a handful of successful TV shows have been able to build franchises or shared worlds, giving viewers more of the stories and the characters they enjoy and dominating the broadcast networks’ schedules.

But while the idea of a crossover could help boost one series by introducing characters from its more popular sibling, in many cases, as it appears with The Flash and Supergirl, it’s just a fun way to see popular characters from different shows appear alongside each other, even if it’s only for a single episode.

And should this latest example prove to be a success, it will be only a matter of time before fans can look forward to seeing Supergirl make the return journey to The CW.

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GLAAD shines spotlight on LGBT progress

Orange is the New Black 'boasts more LGBT regular and recurring characters than any other scripted programme'
Orange is the New Black ‘boasts more LGBT regular and recurring characters than any other scripted programme’

In the US, an organisation called GLAAD – formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation – has spent the last 20 years tracking the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters on television.

Each year it uses the data generated to create a comprehensive report entitled Where We Are On TV. The 2015/2016 edition of the report came out this week and shows that the TV industry is moving in the right direction – but still has a lot of work to do.

As GLAAD CEO and president Sarah Kate Ellis points out, fair representation of the LGBT community on TV isn’t just about the number of LGBT characters in TV dramas, but also how they are portrayed: “As each of us lives at the intersection of many identities, it’s important that TV characters reflect the diversity of the LGBT community,” she says. “

It’s not enough to include LGBT characters; writers must craft those characters with thought and care. They must reject outdated stereotypes and avoid token characters that are burdened with representing an entire community through the view of one person.”

So this week we’re taking a look at which shows and writers are making the most headway towards LGBT equality.

jamal-lyon
Empire’s Jamal Lyon is played by Jussie Smollett

US broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, NBC)
GLAAD’s figures show that out of 881 regular characters on 118 primetime scripted series, 35 were LGBT. This is up from 32 characters last year. GLAAD counted an additional 35 recurring LGBT characters in the same pool of shows.

Gay men make up a slight majority, though lesbian representation is up 5% year-on-year to 33%. Perhaps surprisingly given the prominence of the transgender agenda, “there are currently no regular or recurring transgender characters expected on broadcast networks’ primetime scripted programming.”

The organisation singles out Fox hit Empire as one of the best performers in terms of its LGBT character credentials. With a writing team headed by Danny Strong and Ilene Chaiken, season two sees gay musician Jamal Lyon “taking on more of a business role as the head of the family music label, Empire,” says GLAAD. “Tianna, a bisexual artist signed to the label, was upped to a series regular this year. Several other gay, lesbian and bisexual characters will recur (during season two).”

There are also plaudits for Fox’s new show Rosewood, with a writing team headed by creator Todd Harthan: “While crime procedurals have long been a place where LGBT characters were most often included as villains or victims, this season introduces lesbian couple/pathology experts Pippy and TMI.”

GLAAD also singles out CBS sci-fi drama Person of Interest, created by Jonathan Nolan, for the burgeoning lesbian relationship between hacker Root and assassin Shaw. It also finds encouragement in the superhero genre, at least on TV – film is a disappointment by comparison.

“Arrow (developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg for The CW) will resurrect bisexual heroine Sara Lance before moving her over to mid-season series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow as a lead character, the White Canary. Her former girlfriend Nyssa will continue to recur on Arrow, and the series will add the recurring gay character Curtis Holt. ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (showrunners Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jeffrey Bell) will introduce recurring gay character Joey Gutierrez, who has the power to melt metal.”

Penny Dreadful has killed off its Angelique character
Penny Dreadful has killed off its Angelique character

US cable networks
The number of LGBT characters on scripted cable programmes continues to rise, says GLAAD, with 84 regular characters, up from 64 last year. This trend will presumably continue with the growing number of scripted shows being commissioned and the industry’s increasing awareness of the diversity debate.

Recurring characters were also on the rise, up to 58 from 41 previously. Echoing the situation in broadcast TV, gay men dominate, though in this universe lesbian representation dropped 3% to 22%. “Three characters are transgender,” says GLAAD. “Unfortunately one of these is the now-deceased Angelique on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful (created/written by John Logan).”

According to GLAAD, “the teen- and young adult-skewing ABC Family and premium channel Showtime are set to be the most LGBT-inclusive networks on cable, with each network boasting 18 regular or recurring characters (including all of the transgender characters counted on cable).

“The returning drama The Fosters, which follows a lesbian couple raising their biological, foster and adopted children, is ABC Family’s most inclusive show, with seven LGBT characters including trans teen Cole – played by transgender actor Tom Phelan.” The Fosters was created by Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige, who continue to be directly involved in the writing of the series.

GLAAD praises ABC Family for upcoming series Shadowhunters (which has Ed Decter as showrunner) and Recovery Road, in which gay actor Daniel Franzese will play a gay man struggling to combat an addiction. There is also a positive report for AMC’s The Walking Dead, which has a gay couple and a lesbian in its extended pool of characters. “The new season will also introduce Paul ‘Jesus’ Monroe, a gay character from the comic books series that provides the show’s source material.”

Toby Stephens as Black Sails' Captain Flint
Toby Stephens as Black Sails’ Captain Flint

Other shows to get the GLAAD stamp of approval include Starz pirate drama Black Sails, where it is revealed that lead character James Flint has previously been involved with a man. Created by Jonathan E Steinberg and Robert Levine, the show also features a number of other bisexual characters.

USA Networks’ critically acclaimed new series Mr Robot, created by Sam Esmail, boasts “several LGBT characters,” says GLAAD, “including cybersecurity firm CEO Gideon, Evil Corp’s VP Tyrell, and hacker/activist Trenton.” It’s a similar case with BBC America’s Orphan Black (created by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett), which depicts a lesbian romance between Cosima and Shay, and FX’s American Horror Story: Hotel, in which Lady Gaga does her bit for the LGBT community by playing a character engaged in a same-sex relationship.

In terms of where the sector could do better, GLAAD wants to see “more racially diverse characters.” Of 142 regular and recurring LGBT characters analysed, 71% are white, which is a bit high for a country with the USA’s multiracial profile.

Jeffrey Tambor takes the lead in Amazon's Transparent
Jeffrey Tambor takes the lead in Amazon’s Transparent

Streaming content providers
This is the first year GLAAD has analysed Amazon, Hulu and Netflix. Due to the lack of defined seasons on such platforms, it looked at shows that premiered or are expected to premiere between June 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016. Across 23 series, GLAAD found “43 regular LGBT characters and an additional 16 recurring characters.” Lesbians had a higher representation than on broadcast and cable, while the transgender community is represented by four characters.

“Notably, two of these four characters are leads: Maura in Transparent and Nomi in Sense8,” says GLAAD. “Transparent show creator Jill Soloway also paid special attention to ensuring diversity both in front of and behind the camera by employing trans writers, crew members and several trans actors in recurring roles.”

Other LGBT-inclusive Amazon series include Mozart in the Jungle and Red Oaks, while Hulu’s most LGBT-inclusive series, interestingly, are imported British soaps Coronation Street and Hollyoaks. “The two series include 10 LGBT characters between them, with Hollyoaks, notably, including a gay character who is HIV-positive. Hulu also airs Australian series Neighbours in the US, which includes two gay characters.”

Kieron Richardson as Ste, one of a number of LGBT characters in Hollyoaks
Kieron Richardson as Ste, one of a number of LGBT characters in Hollyoaks

Hollyoaks works with the Terence Higgins Trust charity on its HIV storyline. The show’s executive producer Bryan Kirkwood says: “We have wanted to tell this story for a long time and while HIV can affect anyone, infection rates in young gay men remain too high and to ignore that is to do the gay audience a disservice. Hollyoaks is in a unique position to talk directly to millions of young viewers and if the safe-sex message is not coming through education, we can help with that on screen and through multiplatform support.”

According to GLAAD, Netflix series Orange is the New Black (created by Jenji Kohan) “boasts more LGBT regular and recurring characters than any other scripted programme.” Other LGBT-inclusive Netflix shows cited include Sense8, Grace and Frankie, Degrassi: The Next Class, The Fall, Bojack Horseman, House of Cards, Master of None, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Wet Hot American Summer: “We’ll also be keeping an eye on upcoming series Jessica Jones,” says GLAAD.

Aside from the lack of racial diversity in LGBT portrayal, GLAAD noted that people with a disability are underserved. It also called for better representation of the HIV issue (keeping in mind the only HIV-positive character in the report is from a UK show).

GLAAD’s Ellis concludes: “We’ve witnessed tremendous progress, but there is still work to be done. We will continue to applaud networks and streaming services telling (LGBT) stories – and hold their feet to the fire when they don’t.”

Footnote: There isn’t anything like the GLAAD report internationally. But there are good examples of LGBT-inclusive shows. A classic case from the UK is the Russell T Davies 2015 trilogy Cucumber, Banana and Tofu. Also worth noting is the Norwegian drama Eyewitness, distributed internationally by DRG, and CBC’s Schitt’s Creek – a mainstream show that includes a pansexual character. Another standout example (mentioned briefly above) is Allan Cubitt’s The Fall, in which Gillian Anderson portrays bisexual detective Stella Gibson.

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