'Legends of Tomorrow': Is CW the network to beat for superhero TV programming?

'Tomorrow' is the third superhero TV show produced by the CW and stars Victor Garber and Wentworth Miller. The CW is also the home of 'Arrow' and 'The Flash.'

Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
'Legends of Tomorrow' actor Brandon Routh attends a CW 2016 Winter Television Critics Association event.

“Legends of Tomorrow,” the CW’s third superhero TV show, premiered on Jan. 21.

Like the CW’s hit shows “Arrow” and “The Flash,” “Legends” is based off DC Comic book characters. The program involves some characters who “Arrow” and “Flash” viewers are most likely already familiar with such as Firestorm (Victor Garber) and Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller). 

Reviews for the beginning of “Legends” have tended toward the negative. But the fact that the previous CW superhero shows, “Arrow” and “The Flash,” are doing well enough that the network felt confident enough to launch a third show set in this universe is noteworthy in itself. 

Multiple superhero stories are far from new at the multiplex. Leading the pack are the movies released by Marvel Studios, which launched its first official film, “Iron Man,” in 2008 and has since released 11 movies set in the Marvel comic book universe. Several more are planned, with the studio having announced a calendar of release dates that will involve at least two or three movies coming out a year through the next several years. 

But the CW currently leads the pack in terms of having established a successful enough TV franchise that it can launch a third show. Others aren’t far behind – ABC, which like Marvel Studios is owned by Disney, launched its second superhero TV show, “Agent Carter,” last year after having brought “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” to the small screen, while Netflix recently launched its second superhero show as well, “Jessica Jones.” (The Netflix programs are also set in the Marvel universe.) 

“Legends” will have to shake off those negative reviews in order to stand alongside “Arrow” and “Flash,” both of which got mostly positive reviews from critics. And Netflix is probably the network most likely to threaten the CW’s current status as the superhero TV frontrunner, with critics having been especially won over by Netflix’s “Daredevil” and “Jessica.” 

But the CW has made its mark with its superhero TV programming. Wired writer Adam Rogers wrote of the CW’s current superhero programming slate, “The writing team has been careful and smart about how the shows integrate,” while Variety writer Cynthia Littleton wrote of one of the creators behind the trio of CW shows, “prolific producer Greg Berlanti is approaching superhero status himself on the WB lot for his success in steering the DC-derived series… that have turned around the fortunes of the CW… [these shows] have become the backbone of a network that had been flagging and rudderless.”

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