New police procedural drama set in the years before Batman
Gotham is probably the most famous city in the world of comics. An even darker, crime infested version of New York, home to the Batman and his rogues gallery of nefarious villains. New TV series Gotham takes you onto the city's dangerous streets several years before the Bat. The opening episode starts with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne shot dead in front of their young son Bruce (David Mazouz). And of course we all know Bruce's future career path as the Caped Crusader.
However our main protagonist is the future Commissioner Gordon, who will eventually become Batman's most trusted ally, played by Ben McKenzie (The OC). He's a principled young police officer swimming in a sea of corruption. His new partner, the world weary Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), may have his hands in cookie jar but he's tough and knows the city's underworld.
The structure over the first two episodes sets up a 'crime of the week' (the Wayne's murder followed by child snatchers, guest starring Lili Taylor) while there are several ongoing developing plot strands. The most obvious being young master Wayne and his path to donning the cowl.
Even if you'd never seen a Batman movie or read a single comic book you wouldn't feel lost. However the real joy is the nods to those in the know. Teenage runaway Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) grows up to be Catwoman; was that a fleeting glimpse of a young Poison Ivy (Clare Foley)? Will that stand-up comic become the Joker? Following the comics lead they wisely populate Gotham with a colourful cast of criminals. Robin Lord Taylor brings real menace to the fledgling Penguin and even Jada Pinkett Smith is tolerable as ambitious cold hearted crime boss Fish Mooney.
Gotham desperately wants to inhabit the same universe as Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight but is far too glossy to capture the grit and complexity of the superlative big screen trilogy. McKenzie is suitably brooding but a little blank however Logue brings a richer depth to conflicted dirty cop Bullock. Gotham has more in common with CSI or Law and Order than Batman Begins but is still a pretty watchable police procedural drama.
Channel 5, weekly Mon from 13 Oct.