CBS' Supergirl proved itself a hit right from the start: its pilot episode, which aired two weeks ago, scored the highest rating for season premieres this fall.
Most impressively, though, this happened on a network mostly known for its police procedural television shows.
That means that Supergirl's success is all but guaranteed, and that success is important, particularly in the grand scheme of things. Supergirl paves the way for future superhero-related shows and changes the entertainment industry in many ways.
Supergirl is the first female-led superhero show since the 1970s
Supergirl is the first female superhero to grace television sets as a lead character since Linda Carter's version of Wonder Woman left TV in 1979. After that, networks stayed far away from female-led superhero TV shows because they were afraid that such shows weren't good enough to attract audiences. In 2011, there was a failed Wonder Woman pilot, which kept the networks convinced that female superheroes just wouldn't bring in the viewers.
Supergirl's success, however, proves that audiences like female-led superheroes, perhaps even more than male superheroes. That paves the way for other female-led superhero TV series, particularly considering that CBS is not known for genre TV, but still managed to knock Supergirl out of the park in its ratings.
Other networks will see Supergirl's success and, hopefully, take on female superhero-based shows of their own. Expect to see series based on other female superheroes turn up soon on other networks.
Supergirl will also affect the film industry
After movies like Elektra and Catwoman flopped at the box office, Hollywood took that as a sign that female-led superhero films were not something movie viewers wanted to see. Of course, anyone who has seen those films can attest to the problem with those movies not being the characters, but that the films themselves just weren't that good. However, Hollywood still decided to keep women superheroes off the big screen and instead, delegated female superheroes as sidekicks in the big-budget DC and Marvel movies.
However, the success of Supergirl should open some eyes in the film industry, especially when it comes to putting female superheroes front and center in movies. With films such as Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel now in the planning stages, those studios can breathe easier knowing that a female-led superhero film is exactly what audiences want: because those are the same audiences watching Supergirl.
Supergirl brings more diversity to television
Not only does Supergirl bring a female lead as a superhero to broadcast television, but it also re-introduces a few familiar characters in the Superman universe in a new and diverse way. Jimmy Olsen (Mehcad Brooks) was cast as African-American on the TV series. This is important, because all too often, especially in comic books, superheroes and their friends are generally white, which really isn't very indicative of the U.S. viewing audience.
"Growing up as a kid, I didn't have anybody to look to," said Brooks to Hypable. "One time I dressed up as Superman, and one of my friend's parents told me, 'Oh you can't be Superman! You're black.' I'm 10 years old, 9 years old. I'm like, well he's from Krypton, so he's probably not white either really. He's an alien."
Of course, this was a risky move, but it's paid off, at least as seen in Supergirl's ratings. Wouldn't it make sense that Superman and Supergirl would actually have at least one friend of color? In Supergirl, there are two, including British actor David Harewood as Hank Henshaw. Here's hoping the series expands on that and includes even more diversity in its cast.
Supergirl is a good role model
The beauty of the Supergirl series is that it shows Kara as a young woman living in a complicated world. She will make moral decisions, as well as struggle with her own identity, much like every other young woman living in today's modern world. She serves as a good role model for girls and young women, teaching them that, by embracing who they are, perhaps they, too, can change the world.
This sort of positive role model for girls is necessary, especially when many television and movies paint superheroes in a darker and more morally-ambiguous light.
"How I approach it, every day, is that as long as Kara and Supergirl are enjoying themselves and are finding the joy in being a hero and the joy in finally using her powers after so long, everything stems from that," said actress Melissa Benoist, who portrays Kara, aka Supergirl, to CNN. "I just always keep in mind her bravery, her hope, her positivity and her strength. I think that it will be hard for girls not to look up to that."
However, it doesn't matter that Supergirl is a girl, although that's been the message for the series in the first few episodes. Supergirl is for everyone and shows what it means when you finally decide to embrace who you are.
"It doesn't matter that she's a girl," Benoist said to Entertainment Tonight. "That's not what you're going to remember her for. She's so brave, and inspiring, and hopeful and that's what is most important."
Supergirl is a win for CBS
When television viewers think of genre TV — science fiction, superheroes, fantasy, etc. — it doesn't necessarily think of CBS. The network hasn't made a name for itself with those kinds of series, but still decided to take a chance on Supergirl, although many thought the series a better fit with a network like The CW.
However, the success of Supergirl brings CBS a new generation of viewers (most of its audience tends to fall in the more mature categories) and sets up the network for other genre television shows, such as the new Star Trek series that the network recently announced.
This means that CBS is officially a big player and new home for fans of genre television, and it finally pulls the network into the modern century. The success of one such show just means the network will want to invest in other similar series.
Supergirl airs on CBS on Mondays.