Superhero live-action television series

Superhero live-action television series

Superhero live-action television series are television series which feature the adventures of superhero characters, typically adapted from their original comic book roots, applied in a live action format. This often requires considerable modification in contrast to the animated series translation of superheroes. Live action series featuring superheroes have been featured on TV almost since the beginning of the comic book medium and continue today in varying degrees. Such programs are typically action, science fiction, and adventure oriented.


Limited budgets and oddball writing hampered many early superhero series. The 1950s "Adventures of Superman" series starring George Reeves - an extension of the popular movie serials - featured very limited and unconvincing special effects but was hugely popular.

The live action "Batman" series of the late 1960s, starring Adam West and Burt Ward, made playful use of many of the conventions of superhero comics, including colorful costumes, visual sound effects, implausible escapes, and heavily expository dialog. The series helped sell color televisions and introduced the characters to millions of viewers. It reflected and reinforced the popular perception of superheroes as childish entertainment and made Batman a household name.

"Batman" led to imitators like "Captain Nice" and "Mr. Terrific" but only "The Green Hornet" starring Van Williams as the Hornet and a young Bruce Lee as his sidekick Kato approached the popularity of "Batman".

By the late 1970s, superhero-like series, such as "The Six Million Dollar Man" and its spin-off, "The Bionic Woman," found success. This led to series which were explicitly superhero shows, predominantly on CBS, such as "Wonder Woman" starring Lynda Carter, which, like the previous decades’ "Batman" was a huge hit and continues to be a cult classic despite an overhanging campiness.

There were also abortive attempts at live action adaptations of Spider-Man, Captain America, and Doctor Strange which fans complained failed to adequately emulate the character's stories' action and spirit. In the end, all of these adaptations would fall victim to CBS's desire to avoid being identified as "the superhero network."

The other major superhero series of this era, "The Incredible Hulk" starring Bill Bixby as David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, took a more thoughtful and dramatic approach. The show focused on Banner’s nomadic lifestyle and the curse that the Hulk had placed upon him, as typified by the classic closing image of Banner hitchhiking alone to the music of a quiet piano piece, "The Lonely Man." The series was a ratings success, survived the TV superhero purge of the time and has proven to be the most durable of this period.

Meanwhile, superhero shows aimed at children, such as "The Shazam!/Isis Hour" and "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl" prospered. In addition, the PBS educational series, "The Electric Company", also prominently featured "Spider-Man" stories, as well as its own creation, Letterman, in its premise while "Sesame Street" occasionally uses the character, Grover, as Super Grover, both examples of educational superheroes.

The 1980s saw the launch of various live-action superhero series that did not have their origins in comic book lore, but only "The Greatest American Hero", a series with a humorous yet respectful tone about a superhero who could barely control his powers, lasted for more than a few episodes.The 1990s saw a resurgence in superhero series, beginning with the short lived live adaptation of "The Flash" which had the misfortune of being scheduled against the television powerhouses, "The Simpsons" and "The Cosby Show". In 1993, the ABC Network had a success with "," which reformatted the Superman mythos as a romantic/action drama. This led to several non-traditional approaches to superheroes in live action shows aimed at older audiences. The most successful were "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", featuring a dyed-in-the-wool idealist superhero who exists within a consciously humorous take on the horror genre, and "Smallville," another Superman reincarnation, which portrayed the hero’s early years in a teen drama format. Other recent TV superhero or superhero-like series enjoying varying degrees of success include: "Angel", "Alias", "Dark Angel", "Mutant X" and "Heroes".

Tokusatsu superheroes

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, shows such as "Ultraman," "Spectreman " "Kamen Rider" defined the Japanese tokusatsu style of action/science fiction/superhero shows. These series rivaled the American model in campiness but differed in that the superheroes could often grow or transform, fought monsters and robots as often as traditional supervillains and the shows were more violent, albeit in a stylized fashion. These shows found a wide audience in Japan and many other parts of the world but gained only a sizable cult following in the U.S. Every year, Japan changes superheroes.

In 1993 "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," based on Japan’s "Super Sentai," became the first adaptation of a tokusatsu show to become a widespread hit in the Western world. Since then, the Power Rangers franchise has continued to maintain a young Western audience with its many different incarnations.

External links

* [ Superheroes Lives]
* [ Superhero TV]

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