Justice League of America: the Pilot

In 1997, CBS produced a pilot for a Justice League of America TV show. It was apparently never aired in the US, which is probably one of the main reasons I only just recently even learned about it. I managed to get a copy of it and watched it last night.

Boy, am I glad it was never picked up as show!

To be fair, it’s not nearly as bad as I worried it would be. There are some nice bits to it, and all of the actors do a good enough job with what they’re given. But overall, it’s really, really bad, showing very little understanding of the Justice League, the original comics characters, or even superhero stories at all.

The Good:

  • John Kassir is great as Ray Palmer. You could say I think that just because he wears glasses and bow ties, but no, Kassir plays Palmer as a sweet, earnest nerd and does a great job of it.
  • David Ogden Stiers is good as J’onn J’onzz. No, his physique isn’t really, um, superheroic, especially around the middle. And the make-up he has to wear is…not good. But Stiers is one of those actors who could read the phonebook and make it sound incredibly compelling.
  • Michelle Hurd and Matthew Settle are pretty good as Fire and Green Lantern, and I liked their interplay as once-involved-now-just-friends. OK, so the Guy Gardner in here is nothing like Guy in the comics (more like Kyle Rayner), so it’s beyond me why they called him Guy Gardner, but Settle makes him likeable.
  • The overall plot isn’t all that bad, and the “Super Friends” take kind of works. It’s interesting, at least. It would’ve worked better if it weren’t the Justice League, though.

The Bad:

  • The costumes suck hard, especially the Atom’s and the Flash’s. The Atom looks like a football quarterback in an outfit designed by Playskool. The Flash just looks like an idiot.
  • Barry Allen as a jobless Joey Tribbiani really doesn’t work, and the actor (Kenny Johnston) doesn’t help by doing a lackluster job.
  • It seems like the heroes mostly just save people from natural disasters (when not fighting Miguel Ferrer), which is really lame. They’re the Justice League! Why not show them actually fighting crime? Why not give them actual costumed supervillains to fight? As a villain, the “Weatherman” is lamer than lame. He’s no real threat to superheroes, except that the script keeps him away from the heroes until the very end (and then only Green Lantern goes up against him, in an exceptionally lame bit of “confronting the bad guy”).
  • While the plot isn’t bad (except for a few massive holes), the show as a whole doesn’t even begin to live up to the history and potential of the Justice League. The old Batman show was camp, but at least it had style and vision. This is just a watered down version of what Hollywood imagines superhero comics are like.

Really, this pilot is tragic. It could’ve been quite good, but was utterly ruined by some incredibly boneheaded decisions. I took a bullet for you all by watching it. You can thank me with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.


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