Much like they have taken over cinemas over the last few years, superheroes are also taking over television. This isn’t a new trend, some of the shows are starting their 3rd or 4th season, but last year marked the start of a full takeover and this fall shows the trend growing in strength. The stalwarts of the genre are CW’s Arrow and ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, they were joined last year by The Flash, Gotham, and Agent Carter. This year has already added Daredevil, and will see Supergirl, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Legends of Tomorrow and Heroes Reborn. That’s a lot of TV superheroes. To help out viewers that don’t have the time or inclination to sort through the chaff to find wheat, I will lend my largely non-existent expertise to point out the shows most worthy of your time.
- Agents of SHIELD: This show is starting its third season and has yet to show any of the energy or excitement that makes Marvel’s movies so popular. It gets by on a tenuous connection to those movies, but is otherwise completely dull and forgettable. I guess you can give a shot on Netflix, but I would recommend skipping it. Watch it: No
- Agent Carter: Unlike the show that this spun off from, Agent Carter does possess much of the energy of its big screen cousins. Hayley Atwell does a great job with title character and the period setting gives it a hook. The first season was a solidly interesting mini-series; hopefully this year’s will be more of the same. Watch it: Yes
- Arrow: Starting its 4th season, Arrow is the elder statesmen of this crop of superhero TV shows. It has its strengths, like surprisingly well shot fight scenes for broadcast TV and some interesting original characters; it is also a show that occasionally (i.e. frequently) overplays the melodrama. Last season was considered by many to be the show weakest, though it did have its moments, but this season appears to be somewhat brightening the tone and changing things up a little. I don’t know how attentive I will be. Watch it: Yes, probably
- Daredevil: Season 1 is already up on Netflix and Season 2 is due sometime in the first half of next year. Much like the Daredevil comic, the show is self-serious and almost comically dark, but it also is easily the best made show on this list. This feels like a superhero show with prestige budget of something like Game of Thrones, as opposed to The Flash’s Dr. Who-like cheesiness. If that is your thing, go for it. Watch it: Yes
- Flash: The Flash is doing true superheroics, not just costumed karate-man stuff like Daredevil and Arrow, on a limited budget. Instead of trying to mask its cheesiness, it revels in it, making it one of the most entertaining shows on TV right now. This is the show that best captures the blue skies heroics that make best comics so much fun. Watch it: Yes
- Gotham: A Batman show without Batman. That should tell you all you need to know about this show. Despite some solid acting performances, the show can’t hide that it is all prologue. The end is that Bruce Wayne becomes Batman; everyone knows that. While a good show could be crafted out of this, so far there is no fun to be had watching the sausage being made. Watch it: No, aside from some hate watching
- Heroes Reborn: Didn’t we all learn our lesson last time as the solid first season imploded at shocking speed? There is no reason for this, the first show thoroughly eradicated any goodwill anyone felt for it. Watch it: Not a chance
- Jessica Jones: This is Netflix’s second dose of Marvel goodness and despite some reservations I have about Daredevil’s tone I see no reason not to expect this to exhibit a similar level of quality. I do wonder how well the shows will connect, considering that the original plan was that they would be 4 mini-series leading to a Defenders show, but when this hits in November I will be jumping right on it. Watch it: Yes
- Legends of Tomorrow: The third of the CW’s superhero shows, this one looks to be the most ambitious. All of the other shows either star one hero or even a team of not actually super powered character. This appears to be the first attempt at a genuine super team show. Can they possibly do the Avengers on a CW budget? Not likely, but the attempt will be interesting. I also really like the proposed team they’ve set up. It could be a train wreck, but it could also be great. Watch it: Yes, at least initially
- Luke Cage: This one likely won’t be on until February or March, but much like the other Netflix shows, it should be at least well-made if not actually any good. It also stars a better character than the previous two. (Yes, Luke Cage, Power Man is a better character than Daredevil) Watch it: Yes
- Supergirl: The early returns on this show make it sound very Flash-like. That is a good thing. Unlike recent Superman movies, this seems to actually be letting a Super-character be light. This looks really, really good. Watch it: Yes
That looks like a lot of TV watching, but only Arrow, Flash and Supergirl are full seasons. The Netflix stuff is easy to marathon over a weekend or two and Agent Carter and Legends are both going to abbreviated runs. It is more than likely that I don’t keep up with any of them beyond the Flash. Still, it is a good time to be a superhero fan.