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If you can’t get past the campiness, The Cape is doomed

In my preview of NBC's 'The Cape,' I ponder whether a crowd mentality severely skewed my initial impression of the show, and now I'm perhaps torn in two directions after a second viewing.

If you’re experienced at doing press coverage at events like the San Diego Comic-Con, you know how it is. With television panels and events, it’s impossible for two people to cover everything, never mind only one. Such was the case for me last year, and so I had no choice but to be picky. So when I saw that NBC’s The Cape was taking up a smaller room to debut the pilot episode, followed by a Q&A with the cast, I was at first not interested; nor was I all that interested in talking to the cast in the press room afterwards. As it turned out, I wound up getting shut out of the room I wanted to get into, so I sulked off to see The Cape screening instead.

The Cape sounded and looked corny. It was at NBC, and it was coming mid-season. It did not have the makings of something that would succeed, especially when Heroes went down the dumper and we already had No Ordinary Family on its way. It felt like superhero-show overkill.

So, I sat through the screener. Forty-five minutes or so later and I was clapping with the rest of the room at what we’d just seen. I was completely converted. We were laughing at funny parts; cheering at exciting parts! I felt so, so wrong about my initial impression. I felt this show could really succeed. I wound up going to the press room and telling creator Tom Wheeler that he’ll be in Ballroom 20 next year; that the show was going to be a geek hit. Best show of the new season.

Then I started reading some of the previews going around the ‘net these past few weeks. Let’s just say those I read did not have much good to say about it. But, how could this be? There were hundreds of us cheering and clapping at the screening! Did they change the show? Were we all gassed with Nitrous in that conference room?

I had to watch the screener to find out what was going on. I’d received it at some point and hadn’t gotten to it, since I’d already seen it. The screener I received happend to have the first two episodes on it, when I’d only seen one at Comic-Con. So, I sat through the two episodes and … it felt different, but it was the same. The parts I thought were funny at Comic-Con didn’t feel all that funny anymore. The exciting parts weren’t all that thrilling. Was I wrong about this show AGAIN?

I have a theory for why the initial viewing came off more impressive than the screener. It’s not because subsequent viewings aren’t as good. It’s because of the crowd mentality. When you’re watching something on a big screen with a lot of hyped-up fans — people who were likely there because of Summer Glau — things are bound to be kicked up a few notches. People laugh together; they cheer together. It feels like you’re watching the best thing ever! Same thing happens in movies: Go see a crappy B-movie at midnight on opening night and it’s a totally different experience than seeing it a week later. I’m sure this is why some networks are doing theater screenings of their new shows, because they know this to be the case.

Even though I’m saying the experience at Comic-Con was much better that seeing the screener at home, I’m not going to say this is a bad show. I feel that many reviewers are shitting on the show because it’s “another super hero show yawn.” Just as I was before seeing the show for the first time, they went into the show hating it before they pressed “Play”; it didn’t have a chance in hell.

One thing you have to realize going into this is that it’s meant to be campy. Unlike Heroes — which took itself way too seriously — this show really does come off as a live-action comic book. There are guys with weird afflictions and nicknames to match; the hero’s disguise is almost as absurd as Superman’s. If you roll your eyes at classic comic books like Batman and Superman, then you won’t be amused one bit by The Cape. It’s not a show to be taken very seriously — it’s just meant to be fun, just not in the family-fun style of No Ordinary Family … and without super powers.

Back to how I started this post. I am afraid to recommend this show. If so many critics are already filling the minds of readers that this show sucks, it’s doomed already. Why would you listen to little ol’ me? How’s my track record? Awful. I feel The Cape has a very strong appeal to certain people, but the size of that group is not going to be enough to keep it alive. Had this show come first — before Heroes ever existed — it may have had a chance. Now, though, too many people have baggage there, and with No Ordinary Family already with a head start, it’s going to feel like hero-show overload.

Please, though, give the first two episodes a chance. I’d at least like those of you who go into this show with an open mind to come back here (or to the review post that night) and give your opinion. Were you able to accept that it’s campy without coming right out and telling you it’s supposed to be? Was it just simply awfully executed and you couldn’t be bothered?

The two-hour (two episode) premiere of The Cape is next Sunday, January 9th on NBC, at 9 PM Eastern.

UPDATE: Want to see the first hour now? Here you go (if the player doesn’t work, download the video here):

UPDATE 2: Looks like NBC and the DC Comics iPad app took the video down for the time being due to “high traffic” issues.

UPDATE 3: It’s back!

Photo Credit: NBC

Categories: | Features | General | Previews | TV Shows | Videos |

19 Responses to “If you can’t get past the campiness, The Cape is doomed”

January 6, 2011 at 12:22 PM

“……it’s just meant to be fun, just not in the family-fun style of No Ordinary Family … and without super powers.”

I was planning on watching w/ my boys, but given this statement, I’m starting to wonder if it’s suitable. Is there dirty stuff that I would find objectionable?

January 6, 2011 at 12:35 PM

I’ve experienced that same thing with movies. I went to a screening of Rat Race and it was the funniest movie since Airplane! Then I watched it with some friends on DVD and I was like I know this was a lot funnier the first time I saw it. Some things just play better to big crowds. I’m still planning to tune in to this. But you said there are no super powers? I assume the cape has some kind of powers, no? It’s hard to tell from the previews. I see someone disappear in a puff of black smoke, so I assume there are powers or magic involved in the plot. I’m really confused now!

January 6, 2011 at 12:48 PM

bsgfan: It’s not “dirty” from what I remember. It’s just not going to get into silly family issues, like how kid X can cheat on his homework with his powers, or Mom Y can get the shopping done in record time because she’s super fast.

Chuck: So far nobody has super powers. The pilot will show how The Cape gets his “powers,” which aren’t really powers. He has a specially crafted cape that is super strong and flexible, and he learns the power of illusion and deception from a band of misfits that take him in.

The villains also have no powers, but they are “colorful.” There’s a guy called “Scales” because of an odd skin deformity, and the main baddie “Chess” because he uses contacts with chess pieces on them.

January 6, 2011 at 5:35 PM

Oh, okay. I thought there was some kind of magic involved. When I first saw the previews, I thought it was the same traveling carnival people from the last season of Heroes that got a spinoff! LOL

January 6, 2011 at 1:21 PM

wouldn’t put it past NBC to “seed the crowd” with people to make the preview audience more excited

January 6, 2011 at 5:46 PM

. . . . .

I’m completely going into this show with optomism a’burstin’.

Let’s have a little hope that some good time camp will reign in the miasma of schlock.

Hope! Turn that frown upside down … !!!

January 7, 2011 at 3:37 PM

I want to be as optimistic as you are about this show. I mean it looks like they are trying to avoid the massive errors that made Heroes suck. Embracing the camp is the first step because except for Nolan’s Batman films, no one has really been able to get a straight serious superhero film/TV series right. Might as well just embrace the silly aspects of a caped hero and go have fun with it and by the looks of the previews they are indeed trying.

So why am I not optimistic? Well its on NBC and they have a good record of disappointing me when it comes to drama and sci-fi series.

January 6, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Count me in the group of people who were not impressed. I couldn’t even get through the first two hour episode.

I’ll give it another chance when it airs live, but I’m not going in with any real expectation.

January 7, 2011 at 1:14 AM

I don’t really get the negative reviews for this show. It almost seems as if folks are writing it off before watching it because of Heroes, when as far as I can tell it’s pretty much the opposite of Heroes, no giant ensemble cast (I think), very little moral ambiguity (at least in terms of whether the hero is a good guy). It’s a based on the classic comic book and is proud of it. It’s never going to be what Heroes could have been and should prove to be far more entertaining than No Ordinary Family which suffers far too much from having to incorporate the entire family into each episode.

And I know that Summer Glau is being written off as nerd friendly stunt casting, but IMO she’s only ever been in quality shows. Looking at IMDB, her relatively maor roles were the Firefly, the 4400, Terminator:TSCC, and Dollhouse, all of which were at least above average and have strong fanbases. (I haven’t seen the 4400, but the other 3 are excellent even if they take a bit of time to get on their feet.) Their excellence isn’t really because of her presence, but my hope is that is shows some ability on her part to choose quality TV shows to be on (that is, if she has the luxury of choosing between parts).

January 7, 2011 at 10:50 AM

tarlinian: The negative reviews are coming from people who HAVE watched the show, not just assuming a show will be bad.

January 7, 2011 at 7:58 AM

I’m unfazed by the torrent of negative press, and still looking forward to the Sunday premiere. Heartened by cautiously hopeful reviews from Keith and Maureen Ryan.

As to being a midseason replacement on last-place NBC, it’s unfortunate because none of my friends (all comic book-friendly) have ever heard of the show, which I would assume holds true for a good deal of the viewing public at large, but fortunate because that means it only has to maintain ratings above those of Chuck, The Event, and Parenthood. ;)

As to Summer Glau, her role on The Unit proved to me at least that she has a greater acting range than the lost/waifish/vacant-eyed pretty girl on a sci-fi show.

January 7, 2011 at 9:03 AM

Funny related story about Summer Glau: When I was at the Cape press room, and then later that night at a NBC party, Summer was that lost/waifish/vacant-eyed person … in person. Her responses felt rehearsed and robotic, as though she had NO desire whatsoever to be there, whether because she didn’t like Comic-Con or the fact it was her birthday. Or maybe she wasn’t feeling well, I dunno.

January 7, 2011 at 9:32 AM

The real-life interviews I’ve seen of her have all featured that persona, although perhaps not to such an extreme extent. I’m sure Comicon magnified the effect on her, but even in Thomas Dekker’s on-set Flip Video diaries she seemed shy and hesitant with her own co-star. Likewise with playing herself on The Big Bang Theory, so she might truly be that person. It just impresses me more how she can project confidence, flirtation, even seductiveness when acting.

It kind of reminds me of those actors who are completely believable portraying intellectuals, yet are chittering airheads in talk show appearances who admit they don’t understand the dialogue they memorize.

January 8, 2011 at 6:04 AM

Can someone please tell me why we can no longer give a series a chance to hit its stride?
I, personally, am sick of people bitching out a show 1, 2, 3 episodes in.
The X-Files and Buffy didn’t hit their stride until the 2nd and 3rd seasons. Then they took off.
The Cape looks interesting.

Every time we start bitching about how a single episode is horrible or how we give up on a series because of ONE episode, is a path to a potentially good show’s demise.
No one cares about letting a show develop any more.
And no one seems to get that every stinkin’ episode isn’t going to be the Best Episode Ever, no arc is going to appeal to everyone, and that sometimes the network puts its grubby hands into the mix despite the wishes of the showrunner and/or the fans

January 8, 2011 at 6:11 AM

I’m sure by the end of Sunday night I will have a pretty good idea as to whether I will like (and watch) The Cape. If it’s a drama with great characters and intricate plot . . . I’ll likely pass.

If it’s lighter fare with explosions and bad guys losing, I’ll likely watch.

If there is a lot of angst . . . I’ll likely pass.

If there is humor, explosions and bad guys losing, I’ll likely watch.

If it aims to explore the darker side of life . . . I will likely pass.

I have watched the trailers for the show . . . I’m hoping the wife and kid don’t get in the way, but so far that is my only concern.

January 11, 2011 at 5:01 PM

love love love it all my children were loveing it. Something new is allway’s good. My son’s 7,10,12,14 really loved it they found a new super hero. it’s more of what we need.they recorded it and even whachted it again and again.Remmber it’s not only adult’s whaching also kid’s my kid’s so thank you for putting up something different something that my kid’s enjoyed.hopefully those who think different eaither don’t have kid’s or are not a kid at heart. Remmber batman,spiderman,superman, what ever happend to those super hero’s it’s about time we seen a new one.

January 11, 2011 at 5:10 PM

I did watch The Cape and I thought it was very well done. The first hour moved at a very good pace. Lots of things needed to be established. The second hour was a bit slower – as expected – and lent itself to developing the major players. I thought the casting was fantastic. A good mix of old and new and I liked the fact the casting included minorities and – don’t laugh – a midget other than Vern Troyer. There was plenty of action, laughs, cars, magic and that fat guy from BORAT even had a role and one of the best lines in the two-hour show

January 11, 2011 at 5:32 PM

I actually loved it. I am a big comic fan so maybe I am partial to it, but I liked it very much. I think the script was good and things were explained properly…
I like the guy and I like the fact that this is not targeting some retarded 15 years old audience…. which seems to be the primary concern to everybody else nowadays…

January 15, 2011 at 11:35 AM

I think he looks cool like Enzo from Assassin’s Creed 2.

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