Watching the new superhero show “Naomi” about teenage girl who finds out she’s an alien superhero like Superman.  OK, I’m not the target demo.  But still, the writing feels mighty half-assed and poorly conceived.

Most of the other superhero shows have the advantage of featuring a cultural icon that comes with some measure of prior awareness.  If you’re going to make a new superhero, you’re starting at a disadvantage, so you’ve gotta come strong.  You need a hook.

That isn’t as hard as it sounds.  You might not go with the very first thing that comes to mind, might take a few minutes to hit something good.  Maybe a few days if you’re having a bad time.  The hook isn’t the same thing as the fabled “idea” that will make your story the next big thing.  This is just a basic entry point for the narrative, one compelling situation or mystery to get people invested.

Black Lightning had a good one.  What happens when a rusty superhero is tempted to come out of retirement because the crime in his community affects his family?  There’s the appeal of seeing a busted old dude recover a measure of his youth (relatable for busted old dudes, lots of movies about that theme), the current fight itself, the mystery of why he fell off in the first place, and a half dozen compelling character relationships hitting the screen in the same episode.

If we’re going to give it the benefit of a doubt, let’s say Naomi has a slow burn.  We’ll find out about the hook gradually, parting veils of little mysteries along the way.  Feels like a terrible way to start.  Let’s look at the mysteries.  Naomi is adopted – but it’s cool, family is nice.  Naomi has a health problem and is fainting sometimes, but nobody’s worried enough to take her to a neurologist.

Naomi likes Superman and there was a sighting downtown that she missed.  Superman is a fictional character or cryptid in this world so she’s investigating it on the assumption it was a “stunt” somebody staged.  Basically the most exciting thing to happen in the show is a non-thing that the hero wasn’t even there for.

Let’s look at the relationships.  Naomi’s adoptive parents?  Nice.  Not compelling.  People in town are all on a first name basis, which is a bit weird, but they don’t know each other all that well, so…  Not compelling.  There are spooky guys that run a car dealership and a tattoo parlor.  Ooh.  Naomi has like three different friends who want to date her.  Whaaat?

kaci walfall as naomi

all my friends are hot for me

That could be interesting, if a bit insulting to the dignity of the suitors.  But since she isn’t going for any of them, they could go for anyone else at any time without it having any emotional stakes for her.  What if they fight each other, like when Odysseus trashed all those bozos?  No, two of them are kinda terse with each other and the third never interacts with the other two.  What if the suitors cause her strife?  No, she’s just sorta awkward friends with all of them.

By the time it’s revealed in episode two she’s an alien with superpowers, it feels like, eh, whatever.  Her BFF takes the news like NBD and that feels reasonable, tho by now her own mild excitement in no way mirrors that of the audience.

I’ve written stuff this tepid before and I’ll probably do it again.  I’ve got this approach to writing where I ask myself questions and answer them.  That can be good, or it can produce something as rote as a job interview.  This feels like the result of that process.

Naomi wasn’t a story somebody wrote because of inspiration, it was written to order for a project – or off a pitch with no actual story ideas behind it that got greenlit.  I understand it’s a comic adaptation, maybe the original comic was like that.  Or maybe the adaptation eschewed enough of the original story that it was written from scratch in this way.

I don’t know how it worked in this particular writer’s room.  Probably their process was kneecapped by time constraints, or interference, or budget?  But there’s a lot of ways to prevent this.  They mostly amount to the same thing.  Don’t go with your first answer, your first impulse.  Think about it – is this really entertaining? – or get input from somebody else, or do some kind of activities to stimulate a genuine feeling of inspiration and look at that story again.

Another problem which is bad, though less fundamentally bad, is that there are a lot of situations and scenes that strain credulity or just make zero sense, or seem like they’re only happening because shit like that happens in TV shows.

The most extreme example in episode two has Naomi and all her little suitors and friends in a spooky abandoned mill when the scary car dealership man shows up and says, “We gotta talk Naomi, I know your scoobies broke and entered my car dealership.  That’s a misdemeanor.”  She says, “If I talk will you let let my scoobies go?”  The scoobies are like, “If Naomi says that’s a good idea we should all just go along with it, for reasons.”  You might be wondering by now why car dealership man is scary, and the answer is mostly the way the camera frames him.  This show is a sad mess.

cranston johnson as zumbado

i’m so scary that my suit don’t fit

I’ll probably watch more anyways.  I’m watching the new Superman show for which I am *really* not the intended demographic either (namely people who want desperately to believe conservatives have redeeming qualities and can be reasoned with).  I don’t have any streaming services and not much else to do in these interstitial moments.  I’ll post on it again if it gets any better.


  1. says

    You hip to comics? You know how well the comic did or is doing? I knew it had been a comic but I’ve never heard of it. I would imagine anyone basing a TV show on a comic would have been motivated by that comic’s success, but the way the industry works, who knows?

  2. says

    I am so sick of superheroes. Basically, it’s endless messaging, “sit back and let Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos run the planet and maybe god will help you if you don’t rock the boat.” Even the superhero shoes that try to be edgy about it and deconstruct the notion of superheroism wind up… with ta-da: more superheroes (because only a superhero can take out a superhero) I want some normal people. Or was Ho Chi Fucking Minh a superhero too? Was Mao a superhero? JFK wasn’t. Argggh let me just crawl into a hole.

  3. says

    episode 4 had a moment where they acted like hawkmans would feel bad about being served chicken because it would be bird cannibalism. there was an escape room in the episode which is a hobby created by people like mystery novel and horror video game enthusiasts who are used to things being arbitrarily mysterious in a way that never happens irl, and it emphasized for me that the mystery the characters were investigating was just that hokey and unreasonably elaborate. shows are all full of tropes and shoddy artifice, why does this show feel thinner than most?

  4. says

    the fakeness makes me think weirdly. like when everyone speaks in cliches it makes me think about how irl people often speak in cliches – look at the word for word commonalities between facebook eulogies for antivax jackoffs. so maybe cliche dialogue is realistic? but it also makes me think about how words are units of phrases, that entire sentences become symbols within language like what is language even? i heard in czech there are a lot of words that are unique and stand in for an entire sentence worth of meaning, like you’d have a word to mean “this soup is too hot” which would be short, unlike the big german compound words. like cliches are a step on a path that could ultimately lead to something like that in a language’s future. but it’s silly – thoughtless writing making me think too much.

    bad guy gets run off, teleporting away. after the commercial break, hawkman says “i searched the whole school. he’s gone. you’re safe.” like dude can teleport how would u know where he is. he left, he didn’t die, so he could come back at any moment. as long as he’s out there you’ll never be safe unless his plot is concluded in some way. but for the episode u need everyone to feel ok enuf to continue their little story arcs so yes, whatever. another uncontested ridiculous assertion.

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