Reporting from the 30th Annual PaleyFest: The William S. Paley Television Festival
One of the cool things the Paley Center staff has done for the festival is to begin each panel with an archival clip that is somehow related to the show being discussed. For The Newsroom, they played a clip from Aaron Sorkin’s series Sports Night. For Parenthood, they dug up a clip from the early late ’80s iteration of the show that featured a young Leonardo diCaprio. For last night’s panel featuring the CW’s series Arrow, they played a Robin Hood-themed clip from a 1979 episode of The Muppet Show. It was pretty cool.
This was, by far, the smallest panel of the fest so far, but geeks would be jazzed to know that Geoff Johns, the Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, was the moderator. He was joined by series creators and executive producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg. Cast members Stephen Amell, Susanna Thompson, Katie Cassidy, and David Ramsey rounded out the honored guests.
Early discussion centered on how Arrow went from comic book page to screen and the care that had to be taken in order to adapt the material for television. Wildly different pop culture touchstones helped to realize the style and tone of the show. One of those was Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Batman trilogy of films. The showrunners wanted Arrow to exist in a tangible real world just as Nolan’s films had. As such, Arrow is a show in which nobody has superpowers. The creators were also inspired by shows like Brothers and Sisters, which is a show as far from genre material as is imaginable. They wanted Arrow to have the same kind of character dynamic as that show’s family saga drama. Also referenced in the creation of the show were The Longbow Hunters and the Green Arrow: Year One runs of the comics, both of which helped modernize the material.
Of all the DC characters that could be adapted for the small screen, Green Arrow stood out to the creative team. Oliver Queen is a crusader for social justice and had an origin story that could be told in flashback over several seasons. They were also drawn to him existing in our world. He is one of us and, therefore, could be more easily relatable.
They show has been built to accommodate both hardcore comic geeks and people who don’t know Clark Kent from Clark Griswold. For instance, a restaurant on the show is the Big Belly Burger, a reference DC fans will immediately know but isn’t necessary for the uninitiated to get in order to make sense of what’s going on.
Series star Stephen Amell said his favorite aspect of playing Oliver Queen is the flashback stuff set on the island. He said he enjoys the little shifts in character that occur over time.
The creative time also praised the John Diggle character, played by David Ramsey. Diggle is one of the inventions of the show; he doesn’t appear in DC canon at all. The writers knew that Oliver Queen had to have a supporting cast, so several characters were drawn specifically for Green Arrow to work as a series.
When the audience was invited to ask questions, one lady was amazed that the hood Amell wears in action scenes doesn’t fall off with all the running around he does. If anything, he said, it falls down too far over his eyes.
At just under and hour and 15 minutes, this was by far the shortest panel of the festival so far, but fans of Arrow seemed more than satisfied with the event.