Sunday, February 19, 2012

5 Best Super Hero Shows (Live Action) of All Time

In honor of TV Day Monday (we're declaring it TV Day, much more worth celebrating than elected officials), we've made our selection for the five best super hero (live action) TV shows of all time.

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1) Batman (1966 to 1968). This classic half-hour series starred Adam West and Burt Ward for all three seasons as well as Yvonne Craig for season three. Half hour? Yes, it managed to pack a punch, provide jokes and advance the storyline all in 30 minutes. Something to remember the next time you suffer through a never-ending hour long episode of a live action super hero series. It was pop art and camp and, when you catch the show as a child, you may not appreciate that and just take the stories straight. But those two aspects are part of what makes it remain so enjoyable once you've seen the episodes over and over. Though the Batcave was very cool, season three featured Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) changing into her costume "secret walls, hidden rooms"at a desk in her apartment and then she emerges as a piece of her apartment's exterior wall comes down to allow her to drive off on her motorcycle. Boasting probably the best guest stars as villians including Julie, Newmar, Eartha Kitt, Vincent Price, Joan Collins, Victor Buono, Burgess Meredith, Tallulah Bankhead, Cesar Romero, Liberace, Shelley Winters, Frank Gorshin, Ida Lupino, Roddy McDowall, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Our vote for best single episode? Season three's "The Unkindest Tut of All." Best multi-part episodes? Season three's "The Londinium Larcenies," "The Foggiest Notion" and "The Bloody Tower" which find Batman, Robin and Batgirl in London (with Alfred).

1bionic woman
2) The Bionic Woman (1976 - 1978). Jamie Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) was already featured in two Six Million Dollar Man two-parters (1975). The first one found her dead at the end but the character was too popular to kill off. So they brought her back the following and then they gave Jamie her own show. On a top twenty list, The Six Million Dollar Man (starring Lee Majors) would surely place. But The Bionic Woman was the far better show because it had storylines and moments that resonated. Majors and his character of Steve Austin could be rigid to the point of stiff whereas Wagner kept Jamie more fluid with reactions similar to what the audience might have. This is most obvious in the Bigfoot crossover storyline between the two shows. And while Steve thought nothing of killing various bad guys, Wagner didn't want that kind of show and insisted on more humor and a lighter touch. Jamie also had a sense of humanity that was missing in The Six Million Dollar Man. Confronted again with Lisa (con-artist and crook who is made to look like Jamie via plastic surgery) in the two-parter Deadly Ringer, Jamie stops Oscar from sending in agents, states "she's a human being" and enters the carriage house to confront (and hopefully reach) Lisa all by herself. This is a thread throughout the series and includes Jamie breaking Max (the bionic dog) out of the lab at the start of season three because he's gong to be put down as well as the entire last episode ("On the Run"). Some of us saw this show when it aired in real time, some of us caught it in syndication and learned of Jamie (and Steve) via the three bionic TV movies. But with season three of The Bionic Woman now on DVD, there's a whole new chance to appreciate the show and the amazingly real character Wagner created. In terms of the historic DC vs. Marvel approach to characters, you could call Jamie Sommers TV's first live action Marvel character.

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3) The Incredible Hulk (1978 - 1982). Scientist David Banner (Bill Bixby) is haunted by the death of his wife and, after treating himself with gamma radiation, he transforms into the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) whenever he is angry. Like Batman, The Incredible Hulk had many name guest stars including Mackenzie Phillips, Loni Anderson, Scatman Crothers, June Allyson, Esther Rolle, Lewis Arquette, Rick Springfiled, Sherman Hemsley, Sally Kirkland, Ernie Hudson, Pat Morita and Debbi Morgan. Like The Bionic Woman, it offered a lead character you could identify with and root for, one who was even more alienated than Jamie in season three. It's the quality that no one else potraying the role of Dr. Banner has yet been able to pull off but maybe Mark Ruffalo will manage to in this summer's Avengers.

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4) Dark Angel (2000 - 2002). Titanic might have made James Cameron King of the World, but it didn't make him king of TV. He was a creator and producer of this show which starred Jessica Alba as a genetically enchaned soldier trained by the government since childhood to be a killer. Visually stunning and fast paced, the show also offered a nice sexual tension between Max (Alba) and Logan (Michael Weatherly). Alba's strongest performance thus far is in this series. When watching all the fights Max gets into, you realize what a mistake they made on the Fantastic Four films by sidelining her and refusing to utilize her for the action scenes. If Alba were really smart, she'd be talking up a Dark Angel movie to studio heads.

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5) The Cape (2011). Police detective Vince Faraday (David Lyons) is burned by a dirty cop and framed for murder. He's also wrongly thought dead. He assumes the identity of The Cape while hoping to one day be able to return to his wife and son. But for that to happen, he will need to bring down ARK (think Blackwater) and its CEO Peter Fleming. Among those helping him are Max (Keith David) who runs a circus and Orwell (Summer Glau) an anonymous blogger who is also the daughter of Peter Fleming. Some elements of the show were still coming together when NBC decided to air the season (and series) finale on the web only but Lyons, David and Glau were already a formidable team. Like the other shows on our list, The Cape got the axe just as it was hitting its stride. Which says a great deal about what the networks really want from super heroes.
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