Welcome to the new Golden Age of television. This is a time where quality and quantity meet to serve viewers — show after show, series after series — with riveting, unique, and incredibly pleasing eye candy. Or, at least that’s what people would like us to think. From New York Times columnists to Hollywood legends like Kevin Spacey, people are making it abundantly clear that we are seeing an entertainment boom that’s capturing audiences in a way not seen since the 1950s. And TV shows like Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and The Walking Dead make this nearly impossible to refute. The draw of television is so strong that it’s becoming a battleground of proportions that have, in recent years, been found primarily on the silver screen.
Much in the same way sitcoms used to dominate television in the past, superhero flicks have been powerhouses of the film industry in the last decade and a half. That relationship, however, seems to be becoming less and less exclusive as superhero properties make the transition from the big screen to the home screen. This switch in medium is best exemplified by the upcoming Marvel Studios property Daredevil, to be released exclusively as a Netflix Original Series (all episodes are set to be released on the streaming Internet service on April 10, 2015).
An argument could be made that Daredevil’s move to television (albeit a web-based format) is a result of the utter failure that was 20th Century Fox’s 2003 film adaptation. While the 36% audience score from Rotten Tomatoes is surely nothing to be proud of, it makes for poor evidence to explain the upcoming television series. A much better argument is made by the already existing superhero shows that are proving extremely successful, primarily Arrow and The Flash on the CW network. Their popularity and existence (along with Fox’s Gotham) are proving that prime time is an extremely viable medium to be taken advantage of by the superhero genre. Marvel Studios has already taken note of this and attempted to gain a foothold with its television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and recent spin-off Agent Carter) on ABC.
But now Marvel Studios is taking it a step further. With the push for content on Netflix, a move toward quality comes along with it. Netflix Original Series have proven to be held to a higher standard than broadcast television, similar to subscription-based networks like Showtime and HBO. Shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are exemplary of this as they continue to keep pace, critically, with what the cable heavy-hitters are putting out.
One major act that is setting Daredevil apart from its other superhero TV competitors is the budget attached to the project. It has been reported by Variety that Marvel Studios has committed $200 million to filming alone for Daredevil and three other superhero series also to air on Netflix. The amount is historic; it stands as “the biggest TV or film production commitment in the history of New York State, officials said.”
While money isn’t everything, it will certainly help the upcoming Marvel series lose the sometimes campy, or low-end, special effects that have plagued shows like Smallville, Arrow, The Flash, and even Marvel’s own Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Along with the large budget, the very medium of a subscription-based web service will give much more freedom to Daredevil than its network television competitors. Trying to portray a dark and gritty atmosphere while still adhering to FCC guidelines and restrictions can be difficult to accomplish. It isn’t that gratuitous violence or obscene language are completely necessary to maintain a certain atmosphere, but it certainly helps ensure a mature tone that keeps a series grounded enough to resonate with audiences (try to imagine Game of Thrones airing on ABC or Breaking Bad at an 8 p.m. time slot).
A large scale budget and an intrinsically more mature medium are two major factors that are allowing Marvel Studios and Netflix to portray the superhero genre in a way that has never been seen before. On top of this, the upcoming Netflix Original Series are going to be attached to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This means that anything that happens in Daredevil can have consequences that can be seen in any future Marvel Phase III movies, and vice versa.
This crossover between television and cinema is further proof of Marvel’s complex and fully invested plans for its superhero universe and is a testament to the quality audiences can expect for the upcoming releases and adaptations. Plus, the interplay between television and cinema means that audiences may very well see Daredevil and the rest of The Defenders take part in the all-or-nothing Infinity War when that hits the big screen in May of 2018 and 2019. While there is a chance for Daredevil lead Charlie Cox to see the big screen as The Man Without Fear, the same can’t be said for Arrow and The Flash stars Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin. In fact, another actor, Ezra Miller, has already been cast to appear as The Flash in an upcoming DC film centered around the character.
The potential for Daredevil is great, but not guaranteed. Audiences will have the chance to judge for themselves what the show may do for the superhero genre when it is released in its entirety by Netflix on April 10, 2015. Be thankful that date is a Friday, as it might be a good idea to cancel any other plans for that weekend, just in case.