Could an hour-long television show based on the ultimate comic book anti-hero work? There's reason for hope.

So, Russ Fischer at Slashfilm is reporting that "The Punisher" comic book is being adapted into a television series as a "procedural cop drama." Before you have visions of CSI with machine guns listen to the synopsis: "Frank Castle, a rising star detective with the New York Police Department who moonlights as the vigilante Punisher, seeking justice for those the system has failed."

For those not familiar with the character in the comics he's the ultimate vigilante. His family was killed by mobsters and he set out to kill every criminal within fifty yeards of him. He does not arrest. He kills. He does not investigate. He kills. He has an arsenal of weapons that would have made Saddam Hussein blush and he doesn't use it for show. He kills.

Now, this is not a televison show. It's just a pilot. In fact, it's what's called a "Put Pilot." It basically means even if the pilot sucks rocks the network has to put it on the air or they have to pay "substantial penalties."

Before we get all riled up we should keep in mind that the Wonder Woman pilot never made it to the air. The same thing could happen with this project. But, assuming that we do get to see it there are some good things going for it.

Executive producer Edward Allen Bernero has a history of good procedural cop dramas. "Third Watch" for NBC with John Wells and CBS' "Criminal Minds." Both shows are going strong, so if he's able to give the show a sense of realism it may take off with non-comic book fans.

Bernero spent ten years as a night shift beat cop with the Chicago Police Department. If there's anyone who's spent time with the criminal dregs of the city, it's him. Night shift is when the streets get really dirty. No doubt a few times he thought about taking matters into his own hands with some low-life child abuser. Maybe for a second.

The Punisher's already had three failed movie attempts. The first in the 90s with Dolph Lundgren. In 2004 with Thomas Jane and again in 2008 with Ray Stevenson in the title role. All three stunk up the box office. But, that doesn't mean it's doomed to fail. There are a few shows that did OK in the theaters, but worked on television. Think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Fox made Human Target into a television show and completely abandoned the original rip-roaring idea of a superhero who literally tranforms himself into his client to smoke out the killer in favor of a ho-hum bodyguard drama. It made it to a second season but barely. This could work against it, or it could work in it's favor. Maybe they learned their lesson from the show.

Overall, I'm in agreement with Josh Wigler at SplashPage.
Hire someone with some weight and experience to play Frank — I hear former "SVU" star Chris Meloni is available these days, or maybe Tom Jane can even take another crack if his "Hung" schedule allows — get Garth Ennis on the team as a writer and consultant, and aim for a tone that's in line with early days "24." That's a network "Punisher" show I'd watch.

Will it be faithful to the comic book? I doubt it, but since I'm not a huge "Punisher" fan it doesn't make much difference to me.

Will it be a good show? It just might.

So, what do you think? Could a Punisher television show work?
[Image source: Scene-Stealers]
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Michael Offutt said...

I want to see the Wonder Woman pilot. This show sounds like a good fit for those that like Dexter.

Alex J Cavanaugh said...

If they are sticking to the feel of the comic book, they'll have to push TV's ratings to the limit. I did like Human Target. Don't think it got a fair shake.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Michael, you're right. If the Punisher's like Dexter it could work.

Maurice Mitchell said...

It would be tough to do as on network TV. I thought "Human Target" was great till I read the comic. It paled in comparison in terms of complexity and human drama. Still fun though.


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