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Inhumans vs. The Gifted: Which New Marvel Show is Worth Watching?

This fall, we are seeing television catch the tail of what has been happening in movies for awhile now. It feels like this is peak superhero television from the Marvel standpoint. What is interesting is that while Marvel is launching some of the these efforts (Runaways on Hulu, Marvel’s Inhumans on ABC), some of the their properties are being used in other ways, most notably Fox launching the mutant related series The Gifted.

Inhumans vs. The Gifted: Which New Marvel Show is Worth Watching?

First, ABC and Marvel seemed to be supremely confident in The Inhumans. Originally touted as a movie for the third wave of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at some point a shift was made. Instead, Marvel’s The Inhumans was launched in IMAX movie theaters over Labor Day weekend and then repeated a few weeks later on ABC proper.

After the initial preview was met with some angst among critics and fans alike, we got the now popular “Showrunner/Director world tour explaining that the network/people who edited the preview didn’t really understand the property” world media tour. (This tour’s evil twin brother is the “We cut a trailer that doesn’t work at all like the movie but the buzz was so good on the trailer, we are rushing to refilm and edit the movie” tour. See Suicide Squad for how well that works.)

And it turns out…the previews were right. The Inhumans is awful. And not in the sense that someone is being really ambitious and failing mightily. Instead it is more along the lines of “I have no idea what this is supposed to be.”

Honestly, the elevator pitch probably included Game of Thrones (royal family focused), Lost (Hawaii setting) and a large teleporting dog. Incidentally, the large teleporting dog is the best part of the show by far. (Side note: I wish I could bet on when the ratings are so dismal on this show that the showrunners pull the stunt of having the CGI dog talk for the first time. And if that voice isn’t John Goodman then why make this show at all?!?)

Genuinely, how Inhumans isn’t a bad syndicated 1990s Saturday afternoon show versus a 2017 network television show is beyond me. The only good thing about this may be that ABC and Marvel will realize that Agents of SHIELD is doing just fine and can continue past this year.

You can’t just put a red wig on a turd of a show, call it a superhero show and expect people to line up and watch. Especially on Friday nights. I just feel awful for the people who paid their good hard money to see this thing on an IMAX screen. Having now watched 3 episodes of it, I just don’t feel compelled by the story at all. It feels more like set pieces that they are trying to merge together into a show instead of an actual show.

Inhumans vs. The Gifted: Which New Marvel Show is Worth Watching?

However, over at Fox, for the first time, we have a genuine attempt at a mutant based series on a major network. While last year’s Legion falls into the category of a weird, arthouse style movie with an unreliable narrator, The Gifted is pretty straight ahead. And it surprised me at how directly and straight on it was.

First, The Gifted doesn’t dance around the X-men connection; it just calls it out. At some point, either in reality or rumor, there was both the Brotherhood (inferring the “of Evil Mutants” part) and the X-men but they have long gone away or vanished or something. (Here’s a full cast list.)

From there we learn that mutants are hunted and we get an upclose look at it via the Strucker family, whose father is a lead prosecutor against mutants but suddenly has to deal with the reality that his daughter and son are both mutants. That knowledge triggers the end of the pilot, which seems to launch the show forward.

Second, they are using less than iconic characters. Polaris aka Lorna Dane is there. Thunderbird lasts longer than he does in his original comic book appearance, Eclipse shows up, and we get Blink, who was briefly in one of the recent X-men movies but they largely ignore that.

They seem to be at varying levels of power and control so, immediately we have a sense of how characters can grow and change over time. The Strucker name and brother/sister duo signals to this old Marvel fan the twin duo Fenris and it makes me wonder if they are going to play with that idea or do something different with it.

They cast the show well. No one seems to be a primetime player, except I love Amy Acker, who shows up as the family’s mom. My concern: when you focus the show on younger characters, it could very easily drift into CW-land, full of agnst and rage and heartbreak and A&R record companies paying for their current acoustic phenom to get his/her record over a sappy closing montage each week. (Curse you, later seasons of Dawson’s Creek.)

Third, they are willing to tweak the ideas around the mutantdom mythos. Sentinel is the name of the government agency that is hunting them, who also deploy terrifying (at least in bad warehouse lighting) little robots that hunt the mutants. That is the kind of thoughtful shift that could distinguish this show moving forward; being willing to play on the edges of something great helps create something new that is entirely different in its own right.

Marvel’s The Inhumans would have gotten 1 Nerd but then I remembered we didn’t get a third season of Agent Carter so it gets zero. Fox’s The Gifted gets a solid 8 out of 10 Nerds for its debut with the hope and promise that the show could grow into something more. (And honestly, it looks so good compared to its fall competition, I may be inflating it some.)

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