‘Gotham’: DC super-villain prequel launches tonight on Fox

Promo banner for new Fox TV
Promo banner for new Fox TV "Gotham" series debuting tonight.

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2014 – Network TV’s fall season rollout begins in earnest tonight as hopeful new series entries vie for audience (and Nielsen) attention while old series try to keep their existing audiences happy and loyal.

Arguably, Fox has the most to win and lose this fall, after its dismal 2013-2014 season. Even that perennial Fox favorite, “American Idol,” began to lose giant chunks of audience share, like some globally warmed glacier shedding walls of ice. The disastrous season roiled Fox’s back office, forcing the once high-flying network to rethink what it’s doing in primetime.

Now clearly in a transition year, the network is pinning the bulk of its comeback hopes on its new series, “Gotham,” a sort of mega-prequel with young Bruce Wayne mostly in background and a young, rookie detective named James Gordon up front and center.

As “Gotham” follows the development of Gordon’s career, we’re also promised a ringside seat for following the secret origins of a number of Batman’s eventual foes, including legendary DC Comics super-villains like Catwoman, Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face, the Joker and maybe more.

Detective Gordon is portrayed in the new series by former “Southland” and “The O.C.” star Ben McKenzie who quickly begins to learn the hard truth about solving crimes amidst worsening big city government corruption. (Shades of Baltimore in “The Wire.”)

Gordon has a love interest, too, fiancée Barbara Kean, played by Erin Richards, formerly of “Open Grave” and “Breaking In.”

Gordon is teamed with veteran cop Harvey Bullock, portrayed here by “Sons of Anarchy’s” Donal Logue, also a veteran of “Vikings” and BBC-Canada’s “Copper.”

The pair’s first case? How did you know? The senseless murder of billionaire couple Thomas and Martha Wayne, whose traumatized, orphaned kid is – oh, you get the picture. 12-year-old son, Bruce Wayne is portrayed by young David Mazouz in the series.

As he navigates Gotham City’s dark underbelly, Gordon will eventually be encountering mobsters including a Mafia-style godfather type named Carmine Falcone (John Doman, speaking of “The Wire,” not to mention his recent turn as the corrupt Pope Alexander VI in the rough European “Borgia” maxi-miniseries). The young detective will also have to confront another crime boss, this one a member of the not-so-gentle sex who goes by the moniker of Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith’s better half).

But, of course, Gordon will also be running across the villainous main events of the Gotham That Is To Come, including teenager newcomer Camren Bicondova’s Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman); newcomer Cory Michael Smith’s Edward Nygma (The Riddler—E-NIGMA, get it?); and weird, eccentric Oswald Cobblepot, later the Penguin, played by “Walking Dead’s” Robin Lord Taylor.

As he walks those mean Gotham streets, Gordon will gradually befriend young Bruce Wayne, who’s being looked after now by the his late parents’ devoted butler Alfred Pennyworth. Alfred is portrayed in this series by veteran British actor Sean Pertwee, whose late father Jon (1919-1996) was the Third Doctor Who back when the long-running British sci-fi fave was still done primarily on a sound stage.

Bruce Wayne, organized crime, those still developing super-villains, and the usual bevy of hardboiled, eccentric police precinct types promise to keep Detective Gordon busy. Busy enough, Fox hopes, that they’ll be approving new seasons for this show for many years to come.

We’ll get a chance to find out tonight at 8 p.m. EDT on Fox. The show will lead in to the 9 p.m. Season 2 premiere of Fox’s reasonably successful supernatural mystery show “Sleepy Hollow,” loosely based on the famous Washington Irving tale of the Headless Horseman. Given ISIS’ murderous antics over the past month or so, it will be interesting to see if this stylish series alters some of its plotlines.

Stay tuned to TV Den for more highlights and previews of the 2014 fall TV season.

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