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'Gotham' Wraps Midseason with Mixed Results
November 30, 2015  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments

Fox’s Gotham, which underwent major surgery for its second season, wraps up the first half of that season Monday night at 8, and the results are mixed.

Good for Fox and its advertisers.

For viewers, so far, maybe not so much. 

Happily for Fox, and therefore the show, the good news is exactly where they want it most.

While the show’s total audience hovers around half the 8 million who watched the much-hyped premiere last fall, this year’s audience seems to have held steady, suggesting the revamped Gotham has found a loyal core fan base. Better yet, that loyal core includes a healthy number of 18-to 49-year-olds, which is who advertisers want.  

More specifically, live viewership this fall has settled around 4-4.5 million, growing to around 7 million with delayed viewing.

If you could give Fox execs truth serum, they’d probably admit they had hoped for more – that Gotham would become a marquee show reaching beyond Batman and comic adaptation fans.

But comic fans aren’t a bad core audience. Factor in the show’s popularity in overseas markets and the potential for syndication and it’s pretty much a lock for a season 3 and probably beyond.

So this season’s reset has worked, at least as a rescue operation, and that’s impressive. Once a show starts losing viewers the way Gotham did in season one, it’s fiendishly difficult to get them back, or even stabilize.

If we think of it as trying to put the air back in a balloon, Gotham at least seems to have found a patch preventing further leakage.  

Now it needs to work on the television drama part.

The first season had several significant problems, starting with clutter. It tried to tell so many stories in each episode that characters and subplots seemed to stop and start almost at random. As a result, few central threads developed as they could or should have.  

The show had already taken a gamble by revolving around a central character, Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie, top), who was less colorful than almost everyone around him, starting with the Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) and Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith).

Compounding the problem, one of Jim’s main fellow good guys was the young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz). Mazouz is fine, but young teenagers, even rich heirs whose parents were murdered, haven’t developed enough dimension to make them personally all that interesting

Whatever the issues, there was clearly a decision to turn season two into season 2.0.

Fish Mooney was sent to swim with the fishes. Jim Gordon got a new boss, Nathaniel Barnes (Michael Chiklis, above). James Frain blew in as Theo Galavan, the new Big Bad.

There were still crosscurrents and subplots, but not so many that our heads spin. That’s good. Unfortunately, this has also meant less rather than more time for Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), a potentially fascinating character who was already underutilized last year.

The creators have also tried to juice up Jim’s character through 1) a hot relationship with knockout medical examiner Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin, right), 2) an increasingly crazed whipsaw of emotions, not all of which seem logical, and 3) that old favorite, constant peril.

Almost every week, it seems, some new and even more evil villain declares that he or she will now kill Jim Gordon. Almost every week, he or she almost does, only to have Jim miraculously escape.

That’s consistent with a general overall escalation in the violence of Gotham. While the show was never a rom-com, this year it seems to be putting a sharper point on brutal violence.

All this isn’t to suggest Gotham has plunged into the Hudson River. It tells some tales well and has drawn some good characters, notably including The Penguin.

It’s also, very likely, still a work in progress. But even this year’s drastic reset hasn’t yet realized the pilot’s promise of stylish, cinematic drama that will captivate even those who don’t know Bruce Wayne from Bruce Springsteen.

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I'm one of the lost viewers from season 1. Really only found the Penguin as an interesting and entertaining character. Bullock was okay because his integrity waivered back and forth. Had high hopes for Gotham.......

Over the last few years, I've stopped watching network dramas because of interruptions unless a network bills the drama as being consecutively broadcasted like ABC's season 1 of "Agent Carter." I like HBO, AMC, FX, BBC, Syfy, TNT, etc. because they broadcast their dramas w/o interruptions.

Give me 10-12 consecutively aired episodes (thanks Orphan Black, TWD, The Last Ship, Dark Matter, & Z Nation) rather than 20-24 episodes randomly scattered over 7-10 months........................
Dec 1, 2015   |  Reply
Bob Lamm
It's definitely a reset when you introduce new bad guys who've needed SEVEN CENTURIES to get revenge. Imagine needing seven centuries just to have your final triumph by killing Bruce Wayne. Which of course they couldn't do. But there's hope: if GOTHAM can last for another century, maybe these bad guys can have a reset and bump off Bruce Wayne's great-grandson or great-granddaughter.
Dec 1, 2015   |  Reply
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