Fox just released the first trailer for its new series Gotham, which debuts this fall. The network promises an "origin story of the great DC Comics super villains and vigilantes, revealing an entirely new chapter that has never been told." By the looks of it, that new chapter will mostly focus on the backstory of Jim Gordon, Batman's best friend with a badge. And that's a shame, because there's a lot more to be drawn out of the Batman mythology than yet another police procedural.
The trailer suggests a very Christopher Nolan-esque treatment of Gotham City. You've got your bleakness, your explosions, your Inception horns, and warnings of the impending war that will flip the city on its head. We see a young Bruce being comforted by Jim Gordon moments after his parents are murdered, as well as familiar baddies like the Penguin (with an umbrella), Catwoman (in leather), and Poison Ivy (with a plant). Subtlety will not have an origin story in Fox's Gotham.
Sadly, Gotham looks a lot like a half-baked prequel to Nolan's very decent Batman Begins, which is to say that it looks like a missed opportunity. Marvel has done a great job of extending its universe into television recently with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and DC made believable teen drama out of Superman for an entire decade with Smallville. But Gotham reads like just another cop show. And unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which brings the visionary Joss Whedon back to TV, Gotham calls on the usual suspects: it will be directed by CSI-veteran Danny Cannon and written by Mentalist showrunner Bruno Heller. Even the show's star, Ben McKenzie (best known as Ryan from The O.C.) appears to be playing a character not unlike the one he just finished portraying on Southland, which was cancelled last year.
Gotham could have told a different, better story. How about Joker's origins based on Alan Moore's The Killing Joke? What was Robin's life in the circus like? Or how about basing it on Gotham Central, the revered comic series about Gotham's jaded cops written by the highly dynamic duo of Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker? Weren't Greg and Ed around for some script work?
Yes, we'll wait for the actual show before declaring Gotham a dud, but we'll have our shark repellent handy just in case Batman decides to jump.