There’s something that’s stronger than kryptonite when it comes to “Supergirl”: TV ratings.
The comic book-inspired TV show opened with almost 13 million viewers in October. But that number has dropped in half, though it did see a slight bump up last week.
The competition is only going to get tougher. Fox is bringing back its popular comic book-inspired series, “Gotham,” on Monday, Feb. 29, to go head-to-head with the young woman of steel. If the fans prefer the pre-Batman stories to Supergirl’s exploits, the bold experiment by CBS may end after one year.
It didn’t take a brainiac to see that a show such as “Supergirl” was a gamble for CBS, which has an older average viewer. “Supergirl” always seemed a better fit for the CBS sister station, the CW, that already airs the comic book shows “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Legends of Tomorrow” and “iZombie.”
Despite the sagging ratings, the cast and crew are as happy as Jimmy Olsen with a new camera about the show. The one positive that doesn’t come across in the ratings is how much response the character gets from young women.
“I feel an incredible amount of pride for what we’re doing. I feel that people were ready to see a strong female heroine, the way that Supergirl is,” says Melissa Benoist, who plays the character. “I get to experience that every time a little girl comes on set, or just any child, really.”
Anytime I’m in the suit, people notice. It’s something. It’s kind of indescribable.
The show’s team is pulling out all the stops to get more than those too young to register in the Nielsen ratings to watch. They have already introduced multiple characters from DC Comics, including Red Tornado, J’onn J’onzz, Bizarro, Master Jailer, Indigo and Livewire. They have also tried to create links to past super projects, including having Helen Slater, who played Supergirl in the 1984 film, and Dean Cain, who was the lead in “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” play Supergirl’s adopted parents. Even the casting of Laura Vendervoort harks back to when the actress played Supergirl on “Smallville.”
It’s also been announced that there will be a crossover from the CW series “The Flash” when Grant Guston takes his role as the scarlet speedster to “Supergirl” on March. It’s a big move since it’s not just two TV shows sharing actors – but two networks.
All of these cameos make for great promotions. But the producers have to be careful that the series doesn’t just become about the guest star of the week.
Writer Andrew Kreisberg, one of the “Supergirl” producers, is also on the team behind “The Flash,” “Arrow” and Legends of Tomorrow.” The team is taking the same approach to bringing in characters from the DC Universe to “Supergirl” as they did with the other productions.
“We always start with what does this episode mean to Kara. Just like on ‘Arrow,’ it’s what does it mean to Oliver, and on ‘Flash,’ what does it mean to Barry, and then subsequently, what does it also mean to all the side characters,” Kreisberg says. “What is the idea or the issue or the topic that we want to explore this week? Whoever the villain is, that’s the icing on the cake.”
The creative team is also willing to mine storylines from comic books. One of Kreisberg’s favorite stories is one Alan Moore wrote. It’s what would happen if Supergirl woke one day to find out she was back on Krypton and it had never exploded. That episode aired Monday, Feb. 8.
As for the decline in the ratings, the “Supergirl” team has seen how even strong shows can get off to a slow start.
“But, eventually, they all start to find their way. As the show progresses and as it starts to unfold and evolve, you start to find more of these combinations,” Kreisberg says. “And that, more than anything, is what tells you what your series is. It’s not your pilot, it’s those first 10 episodes where you see what’s working and what isn’t.”
The Monday, Feb. 15, offering is Episode 14.
- 8 p.m. Mondays, CBS (KGPE, Channel 47.1)