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Review: ‘Supergirl’ takes flight on CBS

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STORY WRITTEN BY CHUCK BARNEY
cbarney@bayareanewsgroup.com

The people behind “Supergirl” are convinced that America really needs a kick-butt female action hero right now — besides Ronda Rousey, that is.

So bring on “Supergirl,” with charming “Glee” alum Melissa Benoist in the title role. This CBS drama, inspired by the DC Comics character, shouldn’t feel all that new or revolutionary — especially at a time when pop culture is practically drowning in caped and masked crusaders. The show  premieres Monday, Oct. 26 on CBS.

 Believe it or not, you’d have to go all the way back to “Wonder Woman” (1975-79) to find a show about a female comic-book superhero airing on a major broadcast network.
Way to bust up the boys club, Kara Zor-El.

Chyler Leigh, Melissa Benoist and David Harewood in "Supergirl." (Photo courtesy CBS/TNS)

Chyler Leigh, Melissa Benoist and David Harewood in “Supergirl.” (Photo courtesy CBS/TNS)

Kara is the Kryptonian cousin of you-know-who and basically possesses the same awesome skills. But while Superman puts the beat-down on bad guys and makes headlines in Metropolis, Kara has spent her 12 years on Earth living in anonymity as a low-level assistant for media mogul Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). In order to keep her identity a secret, she hasn’t used even a smidgen of her powers — and it’s starting to bum her out.

All that changes, however, when Kara learns that her adoptive sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) is a passenger on an airplane that appears to be doomed. Naturally, she soars to the rescue, and this heroic mission turns out to be a great big rush for Kara. Now she’s finally ready to rock on and do her Supergirl thing.

Benoist, who pretty much went to waste on “Glee,” isn’t the kind of commanding force of nature you might have envisioned in the role, but she grows on you. In the workplace, her Kara is endearingly awkward as she fiddles with her glasses and stammers a bit. On the other hand, she’s also a gathering storm, and it’s good to see that, when it’s time to be fierce and glorious, Benoist can bring it.

As for Monday’s pilot, “Supergirl” pretty much hits the beats you expect it to hit. There are rollicking battles enhanced by lots of digital trickery. There are hints of sinister threats to come, and some plot twists probably aren’t as surprising as the writers think.Still, “Supergirl” is made with style and assurance, and it does enough to keep things interesting. It’s good to see, for example, that the show has a sense of humor. An energetic montage in which Kara hones her skills to the strains of “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” made me smile. And Flockhart is a real hoot as a blunt and demanding boss who channels Meryl Streep from “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Melissa Benoist plays the title role in "Supergirl." (Photo courtesy CBS/TNS)

Melissa Benoist plays the title role in “Supergirl.” (Photo courtesy CBS/TNS)

CBS, which had not succumbed to the superhero craze until now, clearly hopes the show will enjoy mass appeal. But the network has gone out of its way to especially emphasize its female-empowerment attributes to young girls.

To that end, we’re told that Kara’s muscle-bound cousin might be referenced now and then, but he will remain off-screen. This is Supergirl’s show, after all, and she doesn’t need to lean on any man to save the world.

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