The road from Capeside in Dawson’s Creek to Central City in The Flash may not sound like an obvious route to become a television super-producer, but that is the road Greg Berlanti took to become one of the biggest names working on television today.
With this season underway on American television, Berlanti is about to set the record for the most number of scripted television shows in a single season bearing his name. Six of them are on The CW and based on comic books, but make no mistake, Berlanti is no one-genre pony; he is someone who is involved in work that is multi-genre, and some of which is the best American network television has to offer.
Beginning his career as writer on Dawson’s Creek and working his way up to executive producer, Berlanti became a key name on The WB network (which eventually merged with UPN to become The CW, now the home to many of Berlanti’s projects), creating his own series in the lovely and enjoyable shape of Everwood, as well as co-creating Jack and Bobby, a superb drama focusing on the younger days of two brothers, one of whom will go onto become the President of the United States in the future.
For years a creator and executive producer on many a glossy, but intelligently scripted, character drama, Berlanti would go onto lend his name to shows such as Brothers and Sisters, Dirty Sexy Money, Eli Stone and Political Animals. Not all his shows were massive commercial successes, but the commercial failings of some of his shows have not stopped his ascent as one of American television’s most powerful names, an ascent that would skyrocket in 2012 when Berlanti would co-create Arrow, a Christopher Nolan/Dark Knight inspired take on DC Comics famed Emerald Archer.
Although the character of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow had appeared on Smallville, itself a WB/CW show, lasting for a record-breaking ten seasons and which an Aquaman spin-off had went to pilot stage, Berlanti, alongside Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, instead opted to chart their own course with the character. Berlanti and Guggenheim had previously worked on the script for the Green Lantern movie, which received a somewhat mixed reaction, but second time around Berlanti got it right with a DC character and would end up launching a universe made up of DC Comics characters that would prove less divisive, and earn more audience and critical acclaim than some instalments of their big screen equivalents.
The first spin-off out of the gate would be The Flash, itself one of the best comic book inspired television shows on the air, and then later Legends of Tomorrow, which took its first season to figure out what it was, but which would settle nicely by its second year. They would eventually be joined by Supergirl. Although debuting on CBS, who co-own The CW network, the series would join ranks on The CW for its second season and all four would soon be crossing over.
Whilst also producing shows based on comic book characters, Berlanti would also put his name to the NBC thriller Blindspot and crime procedural The Mysteries of Laura, whilst also bringing a modern, more edgy version of Archie Comics to the screen with Riverdale. Whilst his television work for the most part pulls in good numbers and reviews, success on the silver screen has proven more illusive. Green Lantern is still regarded as something of a failure, whilst big budget Peter Pan prequel Pan was also considered a failure.
Television is where his magic touch is most apparent. While Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman received very negative reviews, the Berlanti-DC Television Universe is very popular and diverse. With their liberal attitudes to gender, sexuality and race, the series have become firm favourites with comic book fans and mainstream television audiences. Best of all they’re fun in comparison to the works of Zack Snyder and David Ayer (we’ll leave Wonder Woman out of this as it was really good).
Berlanti’s ability to write, produce and mix genres has made him a formidable force on American television. Not since the days of David E Kelley, Steven Bochco and Aaron Spelling has one name become so synonymous with a style, class and form of quality. While some shows have been better than others, the ones that have been hits have hit massively. Arrow is about to enter its sixth season, whilst next year will see Black Lightning, another DC character premiering on the CW network, albeit this time not in the same universe as Oliver Queen or Barry Allen, although neither is Kara Danvers and hasn’t stopped Supergirl from joining ranks with the other shows.
Of course, I haven’t even mentioned Teen Titans for DC’s new streaming service as well, or his forthcoming crime procedural Deception. Or the Booster Gold movie which is in development. In terms of pop culture he is probably the busiest writer/producer working today, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
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