While shows like Arrow and Riverdale aired their season finales this week, next season is already in the planning stages at the networks, who presented their fall schedules to advertisers this week in New York. The decisions made are devastating to fans of Lucifer, which has been canceled at Fox, and somewhat disappointing to viewers of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which has been renewed with a huge caveat. On networks, the overall number of television shows based on comic books will decrease in the coming fall season, but it is still a huge aspect of broadcast television. Just take a look at what the fall 2018 will bring for comics on TV:
Having withstood the move from CBS to The CW and the scheduling snafu with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl faces its toughest challenge yet: anchoring a new night. After three years holding Monday at 8 p.m. — and hovering at an overall 94% on the Tomatometer — the show will move to The CW’s new Sunday night programming block alongside the reboot Charmed.
Considering the challenge Sunday nights present with cable juggernauts like The Walking Dead and streamers like Star Trek: Discovery, moving the show — which stars Melissa Benoist, Chris Wood, Chyler Leigh, David Harewood, Mehcad Brooks, Jeremy Jordan, and Katie McGrath — to the network’s first real attempt to court Sunday night viewers is a mark of confidence in the show. But with the immovable Walkers grinding other shows to dust, Supergirl faces a future as tough as any fictional threat the characters may take on next year.
With Supergirl leaving Monday night, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow takes up the 8 p.m. post, which it held this past winter to make room for Black Lightning’s debut. When it returns, Matt Ryan will join the show as fan-favorite John Constantine on a permanent basis. “Each time I thought this character was dead for me, I keep coming back [and] it’s a different challenge at each point,” said Ryan at WonderCon this past March. And though he’s played the character as a lead and as a guest character, the challenge this time will be integrating him into the show’s ensemble of misfits, habitual snackers, thieves, and Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh).
Ryan may also be the shot-in-the-arm to grow its audience and reputation. It is the lowest rated of the four CW superhero shows on the Tomatometer (78%) despite finding a confident tone that replicates the feel of the best comic book teams. The love affair viewers have with Ryan as Constantine will definitely bring viewers back, but will they appreciate the show’s goofier take on CW superheroics?
But in the biggest move in the network’s schedule – apart from the two new non-comic book related shows debuting in the fall – Arrow will be moving from its Thursday 9 p.m. perch to Monday as Legends’ lead-out.
When it returns for its seventh season, the cast will be significantly altered with original castmembers Willa Holland and Paul Blackthorne moving on. But the sixth year will also see the return of Colton Haynes as a season regular. “I’m not sure how he’s coming back yet,” said co-star David Ramsey at a recent convention appearance. “I’m interested in the writing and what they’re going to do there. But just having Colton’s presence there is fantastic.” In his most recent appearance, Roy left with Thea (Holland) on a mission to destroy the Lazarus Pits discovered by her father Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman). It remains to be seen why he returns to Star City.
Behind the scenes, co-showrunners Wendy Mericle and Marc Guggenheim will step aside for the incoming Beth Schwartz. The change could not come soon enough with season 6 stumbling as Oliver (Stephen Amell) broke up the team only to find he really needed them — just like the previous two times Arrow used this plot.
Meanwhile on Fox, the only comic book–inspired TV show to air in the fall will be its superlative X-Men adaptation The Gifted. When it returns, the Strucker parents (Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker) and the Mutant Underground will face the reborn Hellfire Club, which counts former ally Polaris (Emma Dumont) and their son Andy (Percy Hynes White) in their number. And that’s on top of the threat posed by Sentinel Services and whatever Agent Turner (Coby Bell) cooks up in the wake of Polaris’ assassination of Dr. Campbell (Garret Dillahunt) and Senator Montez (David Norona).
While the critical opinion was favorable, the first season topped out at 72% on the Tomatometer. As Fox’s last comic book show standing, it still has a lot to prove. By moving it against The Flash at the 8 p.m. Tuesday slot, the network is showing some belief in the program. And considering The Flash’s rough fourth season, the Merry Marvel Mutants may prove to be the toughest of opponents.
And speaking of The Flash, it remains in the Tuesday 8 p.m. timeslot it has held its entire existence. Which means it is still successful for The CW and the fans still enjoy it, even if this season has not be the best in its history (though its 88% Tomatometer score is an uptick from season 3’s 83%).
While it is currently unknown who Barry (Grant Gustin) will be facing next year or if anyone new will be joining Team Flash on a permanent basis, the show will host Batwoman, who makes her live-action debut during the 2018 Arrowverse crossover. The special event will also introduce Gotham City into the Arrowverse, though it is currently unclear if it will exist on The Flash’s Earth-1 or Supergirl’s Earth-38.
But with the show hobbling to a fourth season finish line, the crossover might be the most interesting about The Flash going into year five.
Debuting as a mid-season show, Black Lightning joins the fall ranks and stays in its Tuesday 9 p.m. timeslot. It is unclear if the show will stick with a 13-episode season or expand to 23 episodes like The Flash and Arrow, but it will continue to explore government conspiracies against inner city neighborhoods, the role of fathers in raising superpowered children, and showcase the acting talents of star Cress Williams.
As the freshest of the five CW superhero shows based on DC Comics characters, it had a strong first season (97% on the Tomatometer), but it remains to be seen if it can hold onto that level of appreciation as executive producer Salim Akil intends to expand its scope beyond Freeland.
It is also unclear if that expansion will allow room for the characters to participate in the Arrowverse crossover. Separated on its own Earth – and its very different look at powered heroism – a Black Lightning episode dedicated to the wackiness of a Crisis on Earth-X style story may not be the best choice for the series. At the same time, it would be weird for Jefferson (Williams), Anissa (Nafessa Williams), and Jennifer (China Anne McClain) to never meet the other heroes on the network.
With its latest mystery resolved, Riverdale goes into the summer hiatus knowing its future and Wednesday 8 p.m. timeslot are secure. Like The Flash, no major staffing or cast changes are anticipated, clearing the way for the Riverdale Four – Archie (KJ Apa), Betty (Lili Reinhart), Jughead (Cole Sprouse), and Veronica (Camila Mendes) to take on her father Hiram (Mark Consuelos) for the soul of the town.
The show remains strong with fans even as it made a few slips this year with the Black Hood mystery and the aborted swerve into Single White Female territory with Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch). The plot cul-de-sacs led to 2% drop on the Tomatometer to land at 86% for Season 2. Nonetheless, it seems the show will continue to inspire passionate devotion when it returns in the fall.
For a moment, it seemed Gotham would join Lucifer in cancellationland, but a last-minute reprieve means the show will be back for one final 13-episode season in 2019. According to Fox, the final Gotham story will complete Bruce Wayne’s (David Mazouz) journey to becoming the Bat-Man. What this means for Jim (Ben McKenzie) and his corrupted soul remains to be seen.
Though show opened rough (though it was Certified Fresh at 78% in its first year), it found its voice and earned additional esteem along the way. And after entertaining viewers with its unique take on villains like Mr. Freeze, Solomon Grundy, and more, capping it all off with Batman’s debut seems appropriate. Especially if a Batman: Year One style story becomes it sole focus.
Like Gotham, the sixth season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be held until late in the 2018-2019 season — the summer of 2019 actually. That suggests the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe is going on pause until the resolution of the Avengers: Infinity War storyline — well, presuming all of the Netflix shows take also place before that film. When it finally returns, it will also be a shorter-than-usual 13-episode season. But ABC president Channing Dungey maintains the network is dedicated to S.H.I.E.L.D., and has no reason to suspect the show is looking at its last episodes. “I feel the season we just had was creatively the strongest yet,” she said. “By putting it on the summer we feel we can super-serve the show’s audience and possibly have it on the air longer.”
Nonetheless, renewal seemed unlikely at one point with executive producers Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon writing this week’s season finale as a series finale just in case. Creatively, the show has never been stronger as it learned to plot itself in 13-episode increments. The shorter order may give it additional focus and, should it be the final end, offer it the opportunity to go out as a great series.