The first episode of "Gotham," Fox's forthcoming live-action origin of the world made popular in DC Comics' Batman franchise, is a visual yearbook of Bat-players--Poison Ivy, Riddler, Penguin, Cat Woman, all make their doe-eyed debut.
During a screening of the pilot episode Monday in Westwood, creator Bruno Heller ("The Mentalist") said it was a "fine balance" in figuring out how much was too much to introduce in the opener.
"When it's this big of a brand and a franchise, from a purely business point of view, you don't want to hide your light under a bushel," the English TV show maker said. "We want the big names out there to bring people into the tent. Once they're there, then things will get much more controlled."
He continued: "The deal with TV shows as opposed to movies is it's like theater, you can see what people are liking, what they're not liking; what you should do more of, what you should do less of. So we'll adjust as we go along."
Despite the super villains and vigilantes, the drama is more in line with a crime procedural tinted with comic book paraphernalia. The Bruce Wayne of this world is just 10 years old. The death of Bruce's parents sets things in motion in the pilot--and will help push much of the series forward.
"It's a grown-up show about grown-up issues," Heller said. "He's there, but when he's there, he's a kid dealing with adult issues. We're telling the real story of Bruce Wayne, which is really a story of a kid traumatized, damaged by what happened. And we know he doesn't come out of it OK."
Heller worked closely with "CSI" veteran Danny Cannon, who was tapped to direct the "Gotham" pilot, in creating the appearance of the everyplace city. The dark tone mirrors the feel created by Christopher Nolan on the big screen.
"We wanted it to look like late '70s, early '80s New York City," Cannon said. "A city in transition, facing problems and corruption. We wanted Gotham to feel like it was spiraling downwards. But we also wanted it to feel real. I didn't want to create a city that looked artificial. We only doctored things slightly, just enough to make you feel like you're in another world."
Already the most buzzy of the network pilots--and receiving a series order--the expectations are set among the franchise's built-in loyal and fervent audience. The trailer has received more than 7.5 million views on YouTube--and some are already wagging their finger.
"We've both been in the business for a long time," Heller said. "And this is larger expectations than most--but every time you do something on a screen or on a stage, there's expectations and there's always the possibility that people will throw tomatoes. That's just how it is."
"Gotham" is set to air Mondays in the fall at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.