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Who Watches the Justice League?
You should be, if you've got a lick of sense
By David Michael Wharton
July 04, 2005
JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED
Welcome back, and a happy Fourth of July to all my fellow crazy, explosives-happy Americans out there. I hope you're all enjoying yourselves as you float on lakes or guzzle alcohol or blow off various appendages with illegal fireworks. In the words of Parker and Stone, America: F&%# Yeah.
Also would like to take a moment to tip my hat in the general direction of jezuitx, whose comments I see tacked to the bottom of this column very nearly every week. He/she/it always has something interesting to add to the ongoing TV discussion, and it's always nice to see that somebody actually reads this damn thing. Thanks, jezuitx, keep it up.
In fact, last week's comments have convinced me to make a brief side trip with this week's column. I haven't discussed JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED
in a while, and it occurs to me that, baffling though it may be to consider, there might still be some of you out there who aren't watching hands-down some of the best adaptations of the DC universe ever. And so… Five Reasons You Should be Watching JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED1. Batman
- Folks have been understandably excited to see how well BATMAN BEGINS
hits the nail on the head as far as characterization, but let's not forget that the various personalities involved in the animated DC universe have been getting Batman right since 1992. With a cast as large as JLU
features, it's understood that some of the core seven team members will fade into the background so the newcomers can shine (Flash, for instance, has apparently been traveling at relativistic speeds for most of the season, since no one has seen a trace of him until the last few episodes). Batman clearly remains a writer favorite, which isn't surprising given that he's logged more airtime in this animated continuity than any other character. As such, his characterization is probably the most detailed and thorough of all his League teammates. With this animated Batman, the writers have given us a character that has become more in touch with his dark sense of humor as the show progresses and who is, as in the comics, a bit of an asshole at times. He's the guy who brought Green Arrow's much needed voice of contention into the Watchtower. He's the guy who gave Superman cash for his birthday. He's the guy who delivered a four-star rendition of "Am I Blue?" Plus, he gets all the best lines. Just a few of my favorites:"Those monsters you don't fight they tend to step on the little guys." Convincing Green Arrow to join the team."One: dating within the team always leads to disaster. Two: you're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kid with issues…lots of issues." Letting Wonder Woman down easy."We like him. He's…sunny." On Captain Marvel.
And my all-time top Batman quote:"Mine are bigger than yours." Effectively ending a pissing match with Cadmus' Amanda Waller.2. Characters You'll Never See Anywhere Else
- Outside the comics, that is. Even ignoring the dozens of DC veterans seen in the background during Watchtower scenes or large-scale battles, this show has given speaking roles (and often entire episodes) to characters like Booster Gold, Elongated Man, Huntress, and Captain Marvel. These are characters that fanboys such as myself have hoped to see given life off the page for years. While the characterization the JLU
writers choose isn't always the one I'd prefer (I would have liked to see Ralph "Elongated Man" Dibny portrayed a little less comic relief-y), their choices are always interesting. I also find it hard to fault a show that has not only brought Green Arrow into the continuity, but put him front and center for several episodes, and nailed his relationship with Black Canary to boot. And since the latest incarnation of the WATCHMEN
movie seems to have collapsed, The Question may be the closest we ever come to seeing Rorschach onscreen.3. Continuity
- Over the past 15 years, the people in charge of steering DC's animated destiny have stitched together a vast universe nearly as rich and detailed as the print universe it rose from. From the various incarnations of Batman and Superman's adventures, to the future of BATMAN BEYOND
, to the League's adventures today, we've explored corners of this universe we never expected. Most importantly, because the writers have shown a real dedication to respecting the continuity of this universe (and by extension, respecting those of us who have been watching from the beginning), it all feels like one giant, epic, ongoing story. Rather than ignoring what came before in order to take the story wherever they'd like to go now, the writers have progressively built on top of the foundation laid by all the previous shows. While I certainly don't believe they had all these years planned out in advance when BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
premiered in 1992, it often feels as if they had. These characters have a history with each other, old rivalries and jealousies and disputes that trace back over the years and affect their actions in the here and now. The seeds of distrust that Cadmus has been playing upon were planted in the final episodes of SUPERMAN
's show, when he became an unwitting servant of Darkseid and nearly conquered the earth. We've followed Lex Luthor from the highpoint of his life as the billionaire tyrant of Metropolis to the current manipulative criminal genius that is pulling Cadmus' strings. Even more than the comics themselves, this feels like one coherent world. 4. They've Made This Universe Their Own
- As I said, the way the writers choose to portray these characters isn't always the way you might expect if you've been following the comics for years. But I wouldn't want it any other way. It would be simple enough to adapt the decades of stories DC has sitting around in the archives, but JUSTICE LEAGUE
has, for the most part, gone its own way. It maintains that crucial element of surprise from a writing standpoint, because even if we've seen stories thisclose
to what's happening onscreen, we have no guarantee that things will turn out the same way they did on the page. The writers have given us their own unique take on the characters, from Thanagarian invasions and Cadmus subterfuge. The writers aren't afraid to experiment with the characters, to take them to odd or unexpected places, from the buddy comedy of Booster Gold and Skeets to the inspired silliness of the Junior Justice League in "Kid Stuff." Plus, any series that takes an in-joke about the Super Friends ("Ultimatum") and turns it into a season-ending menace that threatens to destroy the League (this week's "Panic in the Sky") is clearly worth your valuable time.5. Flawed Heroes
- Last but not least, JLU
has progressively played upon the age-old warning about absolute power corrupting absolutely. The past two seasons have shown us a League that seems increasingly disconnected from the people they're supposed to be protecting, increasingly aloof to the fact that their way might not be the right way. In "Clash", Superman was so determined to prove that Luthor hadn't changed his stripes that he demolished an entire housing project, heedless of the civilians in the area or the fact that he might actually be mistaken. Batman told Green Arrow that he wanted him on the team precisely because
he was an outsider and didn't fit in with the big guns of the team, because he would "keep us honest." Recent episodes have proven Batman to be just as prescient as ever. While Cadmus seems reactionary and shortsighted in their attempts to destroy the League, we can't help but admit that they have some valid points when it comes to the threat the League could pose. Never mind that they've got a giant freakin' death ray mounted on their satellite. Several of the core seven members could single-handedly render most of the earth uninhabitable, and the League's membership now boasts some ten times their founding numbers. We don't need the dark mirror of the "evil League" Justice Lords to realize that the League has become something they surely never intended…frightening.
Alright, that's it for this week, folks. Next week I'll be making my annual pilgrimage to San Diego for Comic-Con International, and Cinescape's own TV review master extraordinaire, Jason Davis, will be filling in for me while I'm gone. Since I'm too much of a glutton for punishment to just relax and enjoy my vacation, I'll be filing daily reports from the Con, so check back on July 13 16 for those. Happy Fourth! The Week Rerun There's a Head joke to be made here, but I'll abstain
- Hit or miss though its track record may be, at least the Sci-Fi Channel has some interesting properties in development. One of the more out-there projects is THE AMAZING SCREW-TOP HEAD
, based on a comic by HELLBOY
's Mike Mignola. The story follows a U.S. secret agent who fights evil by screwing his head onto other people's bodies. It's a premise that could be a (if you'll forgive me) screwball delight, or it could just be godawful. At any rate, it's certainly moving in the right direction thanks to some stellar casting
.Stare too long into the abyss, and Fox cancels you
- Sad news from Tim "Can Someone Please Tell Me Why I Keep Taking Jobs With Fox" Minear. It seems that THE INSIDE
has met with the same fate as…well, as every other Tim Minear Fox program: early cancellation
. Well, as he explains, it's not "officially" cancelled, but I hope you kept the receipt for that batch of "Congrats on Season Two, Tim!" t-shirts you had printed up. It's a shame (isn't it always), but after last week's episode featuring a precocious young girl who spends her free-time disemboweling her playmates, I was fairly certain this show was not long for the network world. If you'll excuse me, I'll be pre-ordering the inevitable DVD set on Amazon…Tune in this FREQUENCY
- If you're as net-savvy as I imagine most of you are, you're probably already aware of the sad tale of GLOBAL FREQUENCY
. For those who aren't, here's the short version: last season, screenwriter John Rogers (whose actual scripts are far, far better than his produced bibliography
would have you believe) oversaw an adaptation of Warren Ellis' comic series GLOBAL FREQUENCY
into a TV pilot. The potential series attracted some top-notch talent, including some Whedonverse veterans and even BABYLON 5
's J. Michael Straczynski
, but alas, it was not to be. The WB didn't pick the show up, and that was that. Or was it? As always happens in this age of internet wonderment, somebody leaked the pilot online. And then things got really interesting. Interesting as in, Rogers is now in talks with various shadowy powers about the possibility of reviving the show in some form or another. It will most likely end up amounting to nothing, as so many save-our-show campaigns have, but then again… we do live in a world where FAMILY GUY
is back on the air and FIREFLY
will soon have its resurrection on the big screen. If GLOBAL FREQUENCY
actually does return in some form, then we have officially entered the undiscovered country. And I couldn't be more thrilled. Rogers has stated that his most realistic goal is to lobby Warners to release the pilot as a one-off DVD, and if sales for that merit a second look, then who knows? In the meantime, Wired
has done a solid job summarizing the events and their import, and you can always keep up with the latest via Rogers' always entertaining blog
. Send all questions, comments, and speculations as to which Jack could kick the other's ass to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you at Comic-Con! Keep your head and hands inside the television, folks…MONDAY, JULY 4THE TWILIGHT ZONE
(All day long, Sci-Fi) Assuming you're not distracted by fireworks or barbecues, you can spend all day long in another dimension with Rod Serling.NICK & JESSICA'S TOUR OF DUTY
(7 PM CST, ABC) If this means they're going to drop Nick and Jessica into the middle of a combat zone, I'm in.WINDTALKERS
(7 PM CST, A&E) John Woo's look at WWII Navajo code-talkers bombed at the box office, but here's your chance to see it for free.SIX FEET UNDER
(8 PM CST, HBO) "Eat a Peach." In honor of George Romero's new flick, all the dead bodies at the funeral home rise from the dead and shuffle off in search of human flesh.PENN & TELLER: BULLS&%T!
(9 PM CST, Showtime) "Conspiracy Theories." Put on your tinfoil hat and watch as Penn and Teller engage in debunkery.PENN & TELLER: BULLS&%T!
(9 PM CST, Showtime) "Environmental Hysteria." The Vegas magicians examine everything from global warming to Greenpeace.TUESDAY, JULY 5THE ABYSS
(6 PM CST, Sci-Fi) Still my favorite Cameron movie ever.AVERAGE JOE: THE JOES STRIKE BACK
(7 PM CST, NBC) A field trip to Sea World ends in tragedy when three of the geeks are nosed to death by a pack of overexcited elephant seals.WATCH THE SKIES!
(7 PM CST, TCM) This new documentary traces the history of sci-fi cinema, from the early silent days to today's mega-budget blockbusters.TROY
(7 PM CST, HBO) It's got more than its share of flaws, but damned if that Achilles/Hector fight isn't cool.I WANT TO BE A HILTON
(8 PM CST, NBC) Eager to live up to the show's name, Paris' mom constructs a new hotel entirely from the vivisected bodies of the contestants.THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD
(8 PM CST, TCM) Only appropriate that this should air after the 7:00 documentary. Keep watching the skies!EMPIRE
(8 PM CST, ABC) "Arkham." Octavius goes to Gotham, one presumes.FIRE ME…PLEASE
(8 PM CST, CBS) The contestants final challenge sees them taking on the profession of human cannonball, where they are hired and fired the same day. (Sorry about that.)RESCUE ME
(9 PM CST, FX) "Balls." Tommy's chance to return to the station hinges on a unanimous vote by his former crew. Probably should have been less of an ass to them then, huh?BOOGIE NIGHTS
(9 PM CST, Cinemax) Rollergirl!MAKING OF 'WEDDING CRASHERS'
(9:45 PM CST, HBO) Vaughn and Wilson work their respective oddball magic.WEDNESDAY, JULY 6THE INSIDE
(7 PM CST, FOX) "The Loneliest Number." One may be the loneliest number, but tonight you get two INSIDE
eps for the price of one. In the first, the team investigates a series of murders made to look like suicides. Enjoy it while it lasts.BEAUTY AND THE GEEK
(7 PM CST, WB) Last episode, and if people-skills pariah Richard wins, I'd say that pretty much shoots a big, gaping hole in this show's stated mission to make the geeks less awkward.THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN
(7 PM CST, CMT) Despite the title, this film features a distinct lack of android equestrians.THE INSIDE
(8 PM CST, FOX) "Thief of Hearts." The resolution of Paul's first big case falls into doubt when a copycat killer springs up.RAISING ARIZONA
(8 PM CST, IFC) You'll almost certainly find this movie funny, assuming you think round is funny. 30 DAYS
(9 PM CST, FX) "Straight/Gay." A conservative straight fella moves in with a gay roommate for one month. A half-dozen sitcoms spontaneously materialize.THURSDAY, JULY 7REIGN OF FIRE
(7 PM CST, ABC) Batman and Dirk Pitt grow scruffy facial hair and battle dragons in the near future.X-MEN
(7 PM CST, FX) Revel in one of the good X-MEN
movies before X3
comes along and destroys all your good will toward the franchise.CHARLEY VARRICK
(7 PM CST, TCM) Walter Mathau: Bank Robber.NEVADA SMITH
(9:45 PM CST, AMC) Steve McQueen sets out to avenge the murders of his parents in as rugged and manly a way as possible.FRIDAY, JULY 8JOY RIDE
(7 PM CST, FOX) A psychotic trucker sadly fails to kill Paul Walker.THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE
(7 PM CST, TCM) That's funny, he always just emails me.TIMELINE
(7 PM CST, Showtime) An excursion through time to the 14th century sadly fails to kill Paul Walker.INTO THE WEST
(9 PM CST, TNT) "Hell on Wheels." The construction of the Transcontinental Railroad stirs up tensions between westward-bound settlers and Native Americans and sadly fails to kill Paul Walker.MONK
(9 PM CST, USA) "Mr. Monk and the Other Detective." Jason Alexander guests as a competing detective who works Monk's last nerve while solving a jewel robbery.SCARFACE
(9 PM CST, TCM) Say hello to his little friend (which sadly fails to kill Paul Walker).SATURDAY, JULY 9PI
(7 PM CST, IFC) Great Moments in Creative Drill Usage.THE BATMAN
(7:30 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "The Bat in the Belfry." Batman fights Rastafarian Joker. JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED
(8 PM CST, Cartoon Network) "Panic in the Sky." The Super Friends beat the ever-loving crap out of the League.ATTACK OF THE SABRETOOTH
(8 PM CST, Sci-Fi) Not the X-Men villain.MAKING OF 'THE ISLAND'
(8:45 PM CST, HBO) Nothing to do with LOST
(9 PM CST, TNT) Which is the only way to explain Sean Connery's presence. Well, that and Catherine Zeta Jones' ass.I, ROBOT
(9 PM CST, Cinemax) This wasn't a bad flick, but I still wish we'd seen Harlan Ellison's screenplay up on the big screen.SUNDAY, JULY 10THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH
(7 PM CST, Spike) If you're Jonesing for Christmas Jones, here's your chance to indulge. Also, if you're Jonesing for Christmas Jones, you're not invited to any more of my parties.DARK ART OF INTERROGATION
(7 PM CST, History Channel) You can bet the 24
writing staff will be taking notes.AIRPLANE!
(7 PM CST, AMC) I realize that the SCARY MOVIE
franchise has more or less permanently killed this style of humor, but I miss the golden days of Abrahams, Zucker, and Zucker.PRINCES OF MALIBU
(7:30 PM CST, FOX) A pair of spoiled rich kids are forced to get jobs. Call it the "Paris Hilton Factor." (Series premiere)HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES
(7:30 PM CST, Cinemax) I actually counted only 997 corpses. Rob Zombie should fire his accountant.FAMILY GUY
(8 PM CST, FOX) "8 Simple Rules for Buying My Teenage Daughter." Peter sells Meg to his pharmacist in order to clear his tab.THE 4400
(8 PM CST, USA) "As Fate Would Have It." Maia has a vision of Collier's death, leading to a hunt for his would-be killer.THE DEAD ZONE
(9 PM CST, USA) "Still Life." A painting sets off a vision in Johnny that suggests the artist's long-missing daughter may still be alive.
This concludes our broadcast.