I have a confession.
There was a brief period of time where I faithfully watched Gotham. To make matters worse, I even tried to get other people to go against their better judgment and join me.
I’ve learned from my mistakes. Which is why I have major reservations about my fandom after hearing that HBOMax has plans to extend the universe created by Matt Reeves’ The Batman. The extension includes a series that focuses on the Gotham City Police Department.
Not only have we seen a version of this show before, but it should also be noted that Gotham City has one of the most corrupt and ineffective police precincts in all of fiction. Do we really want to see that, again?
I’m still not sure I do. So I wracked my brain to come up with a few ‘alternative stories’ about Gotham City’s inner workings that I’d rather see HBOMax—or any other outlet, really—explore before we get yet another show about the GCPD.
The road map to this approach has already been drawn out. Just follow the Dick Wolf method, similar to how Chicago Fire led to Chicago P.D. which begat Chicago Med, so on and so forth.
While these shows might not be about chasing down villains or daily interactions with Batman, the stories could still be compelling. I, for one, would love to see what it’s like for everyday Gothamites to function in a city where they could get kidnapped by a member of the Riddler’s gang at any given moment. Don’t you want to know how citizen’s lives are affected living in a constant state of chaos?
A series of vignettes set in Gotham General Hospital would give insight into what happens to people after Batman saves the day, but they still have to deal with the aftermath of the destruction. On Gotham Law, we would get a clear window into why their prison system has a revolving door and the history of what caused the city’s justice system to be so broken in the first place.
Huge pro: there’s so much room for cameos! From fan-favorite Batfamily staples in a new context to a launchpad for a bunch of new characters. Imagine watching a doctor race the clock to treat a ward full of victims of Joker’s laughing gas. Or following the career of a young, reckless upstart attorney who looked up to the great Harvey Dent, only to watch him turn into the thing he hates: a crime boss.
Arkham Horror Story: Asylum
This really writes itself. Placing a series within the walls of Arkham Asylum could take on any subgenre of TV and do well. I’m particularly fond of the idea of treating it like an anthology, where each episode hones in on the life of a different patient and the circumstances around their stay.
The stories could go from showcasing supervillains after a defeat by Batman or the life experiences of an orderly and how they manage to treat patients with a range of conditions and still maintain their own peace and sanity.
If you’re interested in stories with a darker twist, this could serve as a good opportunity to pull from the best parts of shows like American Horror Story: Asylum.
I’ve read and reviewed Batman comics for a few years now and come to the conclusion that the device of Batman is used best when he’s a secondary character. When his presence is felt but not seen, it helps establish the rules of the story but gives other more interesting characters room to shine.
This is one of the many reasons why I was a big fan of Robin War, a DC Comics event that happened in 2015-16 and told the story of an army of Robins taking up the fight in Batman’s stead.
This series balanced out bringing in heavy hitters like most of Batman’s primary sidekicks—Dick, Jason, Tim and Damian, in particular—and introducing a crop of new characters that they trained. One of which was none other than Duke Thomas, who came into the Batman story with all of the potential that I’m still waiting to see realized.
Speaking of Gotham City’s teenagers…
Gotham Academy ran from 2014 to 2017 and showed off a side of Gotham we haven’t yet seen. The series run took us into one of Gotham City’s most elite prep schools and offered a glimpse into what it’s like to come of age in the city without being an orphan who gets taken in by a millionaire with a bat obsession.
The main character of this series would be Olive Silverlock. Who’s ostracized herself from her friends after her mother, the villain Calamity, was thrown into Arkham Asylum after fighting Batman. Oh, and Arkham Asylum is right across the street.
As the series progresses, Olive and her classmates uncover secrets about their school, Gotham City and themselves as they dig deeper into the world around them.
That’s some quality television right there!
The Gotham Gazette
This pitch may just be a little bit of my own bias showing, but some of my favorite characters in stories are writers.
No, that’s not just me being a narcissist. I also feel that it’s pretty meta when you can have someone telling a story within a story.
But outside of that, following the operations of a newspaper in Gotham City serves as the perfect gateway into literally everything that happens there.
Think of it like the Ben Urich storyline in Netflix’s Daredevil or the fifth season of The Wire. Being rooted in a fictional version of The Baltimore Sun offered new perspective into the criminal underworld we’d already been following for four seasons.
Gotham City is ripe with stories worth following. Pulling one thread could very well lead to the kind of complex web that makes for compelling television with organized crime, corruption and other elements serving as a backdrop.