Over the last few years, movies and television series based on comic books have proven to be hugely popular -and big money bringers – all around the world. On the big screen, films like The Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America franchises have been racking up both viewer and critical acclaim alike. Indeed, in 2014, six of the top ten grossing films of the year were actually linked to a graphic novel.
When it comes to TV shows, you’re equally spoilt for choice. If you’re keen to make sure you’re not missing any of the coolest comic-book based TV shows available, read on for three of the best you should know about.
While the 2003 Daredevil movie starring Ben Affleck didn’t generate rave reviews from critics or fans, the new Marvel’s Daredevil television series is proving more popular. The latest take on the Marvel hero premiered in April on Netflix. The show is a collaboration between Marvel and Netflix, and is actually only the first in a line-up of four that are planned to date.
Marvel’s Daredevil revolves around the character of Matt Murdock, also known as the Daredevil, who was introduced in the Marvel comic books and has been a popular figure ever since. Murdock is a blind defence attorney who uses his enhanced remaining senses – phenomenal hearing, in particular – to act as a crime fighting vigilante each night, going up against the many bad guys in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, where he resides.
This Daredevil series has a dark, realistic, and gritty edge (much like the recent Gotham TV show). Since the hero doesn’t have flashy super powers or come from outer space, like many other superheroes, the show doesn’t need to rely on a huge number of special effects. Indeed, since it began airing, the series has garnered rave reviews for the intimate, realistic, and often one-take fight scenes that are so well suited to the television screen.
Matt Murdock is played by Englishman Charlie Cox in the series. His is a face that TV viewers might recognise from the second and third seasons of HBO’s popular Boardwalk Empire show, or from the lead role in fantasy/action film Stardust. The actor is now set to reprise his role playing the Marvel superhero next year, as the show has already been renewed for a second season that will air in 2016.
If you prefer your lead characters to be of the un-dead variety, make sure you check out the new iZombie series. The show is produced by The CW network (popular with hip young adults for series like The Originals and The Vampire Diaries) and created by Rob Thomas, the man behind the well-regarded Veronica Mars TV show.
‘ iZombie is loosely based on a DC Comic, and focuses on the life of Olivia Moore, played by Rose McIver, a New Zealand actress best known for her debut in The Lovely Bones film. Olivia – or “Liv” as she’s called by her friends and family – is a promising young doctor until she’s turned into a zombie and becomes un-dead.
Liv Moore (a cheeky play on words considering she can’t “live” more at all now that she has zombie status) has to live her new life eating brains for sustenance. She also has to deal with colour-challenged skin and hair, and the occasional onset of “full on zombie mode” where she’s liable to kill or injure people.
The zombie works at a local coroner’s office in order to utilise her medical skills while also obtaining easy access to brains. In addition, she devotes a significant portion of her time to helping a police detective solve crimes, via flashes of memory she receives from the brains of the dead people she eats.
Another popular new show from The CW is The Flash. A spin-off from the Arrow TV series, The Flash debuted late last year and features Barry Allen: The Fastest Man Alive. Played by Grant Gustin, who brings a definite likability to the role, Allen is turned into The Flash after being hit by a supercharged bolt of lightning that gives him his superpower: incredible speed.
Like most costumed crusaders, Barry’s past features tragedy too. He saw his mother die in a strange way when he was young, and his father wrongfully imprisoned for her murder. The mystery of his mother’s death led him into forensic science, and his day job (when he’s not running around saving people) is helping to solve crimes through the scientific analysis of evidence. Like all superheroes, he has plenty of villains to fight, along with help from some sidekicks.
Daredevil logo by Marvel Studios / Netflix on Wikimedia commons.
iZombie logo by The Cw, Warner Bros Television, Dc Comics on Wikimedia commons.
The Flash logo by The CW on Wikimedia commons.
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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