The CW schedule is filled with shows using comic books as source material (“Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Riverdale”), but its latest offering, “Black Lightning,” may be its most relevant.
Based on a DC Comics character created by Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden, the series, which premieres at 8 p.m. Tuesday, focuses on issues of race and social justice — extremely timely at a time when events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Charleston, South Carolina, have garnered headlines.
The premiere includes a scene of a tuxedoed high school principal — Black Lightning’s secret identity — in a car with his daughters when he’s pulled over by white police officers because he’s, well, black. The police suspect him of a store robbery and handcuff him without any explanation, which pushes Black Lightning over the edge.
The superhero had left his crime-fighting days behind him nine years earlier when it began to take a toll on his personal life. Now he’s back, unable to ignore a rampant rise of racism, corruption and gang terror in his community. Enough is enough.
“Black Lightning” comes from Greg Berlanti, the executive producer behind The CW’s other superhero shows, and the husband-and-wife team of Salim and Mara Brock Akil. It stars Cress Williams, who played Mayor Lavon Hayes for four seasons (2011-15) on The CW’s “Hart of Dixie,” as Black Lightning.
The main storyline involves a nefarious crime lord, played by Marvin “Krondon” Jones III, whose gang, The 100, is terrifying the city, but it's “Black Lightning’s” journey into social issues — the character quotes Martin Luther King Jr. at one point in the premiere — that separates him from the rest of the superhero pack. Grade: B.
News and notes
* Six new shows — five scripted, one reality — have been renewed for second seasons. “Orville,” the space comedy starring Seth MacFarlane, and Marvel’s “The Gifted,” will return to Fox, while “Young Sheldon,” not surprisingly, will be back at CBS. “Young Sheldon” is TV’s No. 1 new comedy and second overall to “The Big Bang Theory.” Hulu renewed Marvel’s “Runaways” and “Future Man,” and NBC picked up Ellen DeGeneres’s game show “Ellen’s Game of Games.”
It appears “The Mayor,” however, is done, possibly for good. ABC pulled the new comedy from its schedule with four new episodes left to air. ABC president Channing Dungey told TV critics at last week’s winter press tour that she felt like the show “arrived on the scene at a time when people were feeling a little bit fatigued about anything that had to do with politics.”
* Gillian Anderson told TV critics last week this is her last season playing Scully on “The X-Files,” which may signal an end to the Fox sci-fi series. Creator Chris Carter has said he won’t do “X-Files” unless Scully and Mulder (David Duchovny) are both on board. Anderson also said she will not be a part of the second season of “American Gods,” the second high-profile exit from the Starz series. Showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green also left the show over creative differences with the producer. Anderson played the pop culture god, Media.
* HBO announced “Game of Thrones” won’t return until 2019, but hasn’t set a specific date yet. The eighth and final season of the Emmy-winning series will be six episodes.
* “Face the Nation’s” John Dickerson has replaced Charlie Rose as co-host of “CBS This Morning.” He’ll co-host alongside Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell. CBS dismissed Rose in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against him.