Warner Brothers television has just announced it's latest plans and it shows they are maximizing their dominance over the airwaves. Fan favorites Arrow and [The Flash](series:1068303) have been renewed for next season on the CW to nobody's surprise. The two shows are the culmination of years spent developing styles and techniques in the presentation of the superhero in a weekly serialized format .
While [Gotham](series:1127075) and Constantine have yet to be renewed on Fox and NBC respectively, CBS has begun the casting process for Supergirl and TNT is apparently gearing up for Titans next fall!
[Arrow](series:720988) is the show out of which The Flash and possibly The Atom and unexpectedly an animated Vixen show have sprung! It is the nucleus and the tone setter. Arrow though gets its roots in at least two earlier DC themed shows, Smallville and Birds of Prey.
Smallville ran for ten seasons: 2001 to 2011. It told the story of Clark Kent as he grew from a teen to Superman. Along the way we were treated to Lex Luthor, General Zod, Doomsday, Lana Lang, Lois Lane and even Pete Ross. Without a doubt the biggest treat for disappointed fans hoping to see Bruce Wayne appear was the inclusion of several other heroes of DC Comics making up a teen aged Justice League including Justin Hartley as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow! Arrow includes many similarities to Smallville, like the lives of the rich intertwining with the not so rich and the multiple love interests for the main hero.
Taking the teen aged soap opera theme and mixing it with villain of the week and budget balanced superheroics this show maintained a steady presence on television during the post X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2001) movie debuts and continued on through the Nolan Dark Knight and Iron Man led early MCU years. Spike's Blade based on the Marvel comics character and NBC's Heroes were also on television during its run but the former never caught on and the latter lost fans with each new season. It should be noted that Heroes is set to return to NBC this fall, no word yet on any changes in tone and style.
Birds of Prey was basically thirteen episodes of Gotham also with no Batman, but perhaps more like Gotham: 30 Years Later. It featured the daughter of Batman and Catwoman continuing in her fathers war on crime. With help from a Joker crippled Batgirl; now Oracle and Dinah Lance daughter of Black Canary, the Huntress takes on some of her fathers villains like Clayface and Harley Quinn in a still troubled New Gotham City. Batman, Joker and Catwoman are only seen in flashbacks, as is Barbara Gordon in her Batgirl uniform. It didn't catch on with viewers however.
The show used also used a villain of the week formula but tied into to a season long story arc pitting Helena Kyle/Huntress against Harleen Quinzell/Harley Quinn it took on a more psychological drama approach. The show also included the theme of Meta Humans as villains like the meteor rock/kryptonite powered villains of Smallville. The influence of the dark tone of Birds of Prey is evident in Arrow and its New Gotham is very similar to Starling City.
Perhaps another show that helped seed the Arrow-verse is Lois and Clark, which ran for four seasons on ABC in the '90s. Lex Luthor, Intergang, Metallo and some Kryptonians all gave Supeman a hard time while Clark Kent and Lois Lane fell in love. The show also had a synergy with the comic books as the wedding of Lois and Clark took place in both mediums at the same time. In the comics Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and Dinah Laurel Lance/Black Canary were married at one point, so I just assume that we will see a similar union on the Arrow TV show at some point.
Taken collectively these past shows are all echoing in todays offerings. Obviously Warner Brothers have taken the things that worked and updated them into this new multi show approach. The Flash has even upped the ante by having 1990 Flash series star John Wesley Shipp portray the father of Barry Allen/Flash and Amanda Pays reprise her role as Dr. Tina McGee on the new show. With fan favorite Mark Hamill set to appear as the original Trickster in the second half of this season the connective tissue between these shows is giving fans great "easter eggs". It would be awesome if somehow in the expected time travel episode it is revealed that the 1990 CBS Flash show is an alternate reality of this show!
Looking back now it is plain to see that Warner's has always made its TV shows very respectful of the source material and at the same time unique in their presentations. Batman and Superman though, except for on Lois and Clark have always been too big for television. However, even on that show Clark was the focus not Kal-El. In Warner Brothers eyes their television shows and their motion picture library have always been two separate entities. Remember how Brandon Routh appeared in cinemas as Kal-El in Bryan Singer's Superman Returns even as Tom Welling was inching closer to donning the cape and tights on Smallville? They didn't worry about confusing fans then and obviously don't worry about it now with Grant Gustin being our TV Flash while Ezra Miller gets the nod for the big screen version in a few years.
Add in the success' of the animated series' like Batman:TAS, Superman:TAS, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice; which can really be viewed as one shared universe (YJ does need a little help fitting in with the other shows though) with the recent direct to video movies, which are well received even though they are not presented as one shared continuous universe. It is clear that when it comes to presenting their vast array of heroes to the world DC/Warner Bros. isn't new to this after all.