Arrow: good show, badly delayed

20:56, May 13 2013

Arrow started last night on TV2 (and continues in its regular time slot on Wednesday, 9.45pm). It might be the best superhero show in nearly a decade - a span of time that has included three unnecessary seasons of Heroes, most of Smallville, two seasons of Alphas, single seasons of No Ordinary Family and The Cape, regular cast upheaval on Misfits, and an (apparently) atrocious Wonder Woman pilot.

I'm not sure why superhero shows are so hard to pull off. Most suffer from unfavourable comparisons to the big screen; its hard to achieve the spectacle of a blockbuster film on a television budget, and I suspect most viewers just aren't willing to accept a second-rate product.

Fortunately, Arrow does a good job under the circumstances. Stephen Amell isn't the greatest actor ever, but he has the requisite screen presence to play Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, he has a nice six-pack and he can pull off the action scenes as well as Vin Diesel or Jason Statham. The supporting cast isn't quite at that level, but they'll do.

The show also has a nice vibe about it, probably due to the superhero and sci-fi experience among producers Greg Berlanti (No Ordinary Family, Green Lantern), Marc Guggenheim (comic book writer), and Andrew Kreisberg (Warehouse 13, Fringe), who have fashioned a continuing story arc that will keep viewers tuning in every week.

In fact, my only concern about the show is whether enough people will tune in to keep it on the air.

We've talked a lot over the years about programming delays and how much they affect ratings. Sometimes it seems that might be a problem; some shows that succeed overseas fail to grab as hefty an audience here - for example, New Girl's first season was less popular for Four than it was for Fox (and as if to hammer home the point, New Girl has rated better since being fast-tracked from the USA as part of the Fast Four campaign).


It makes sense that shows which skew toward younger audiences would be the most downloaded, and Arrow certainly qualifies. I wouldn't be surprised if it performs badly - or, at least, rates lower - than expected. And of course, the answer would be to fast-track it, to get it on the air here a day or two after the USA.

To be fair to TV2, Arrow is a better quality show - and has performed better in the US - than anyone was expecting. It's easy to say TV2 should have done things differently in hindsight. After all, not every show needs to be fast-tracked in order to rate well; My Kitchen Rules is a force of nature, even though it finished in Australia last month. I'm not sure I would've fast-tracked it if I was in TV2's programmers' shoes.

But it is possible the ratings will be lower because of downloading. And if the numbers are lower, that would be a shame. Arrow is a pretty good show. It deserves an audience to match.

The programmers do have a chance to avoid making the same mistake twice though. Agents of SHIELD, a small-screen entry in Marvel's cinematic universe, starring Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson*, is coming this year, around September. TV2 (who will probably have rights to the series through a deal with ABC Studios) should definitely fast-track it - because, if they don't, people will download the hell out of it.**

It's just that kind of show; the people who would be interested in a show like Agents Of SHIELD are the same people who know where to get it online and avoid missing out.

Anyway, I've rambled on enough - the first episode of Arrow was great, an interesting introduction to its world (and I can tell you the second episode, airing on Wednesday, is just as good). This is a show that I'll be watching every week. I just wonder how many other people will be watching it on TV2. So, I'm wondering ...

Did you watch Arrow on TV2 last night? What did you think? Or did you download the show, watching it in time with the USA? And will you download Agents Of SHIELD if it isn't fast-tracked?


(**) If you guessed that this blog post is just an excuse to beg TV2 to fast-track Agents Of SHIELD then ... you're right. I'm not the only person who thinks they should: @tenani suggested it yesterday as well, on Twitter.

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