BIRDS OF PREY. A female Terrific Trio succeeds the male Dynamic Duo in New
Gotham crime fighting. DC Comics meets The WB in flashy action mixed with
identity angst. Series premiere tonight at 9 on WPIX/11.
The WB's new "Birds of Prey" wastes no time tonight in setting up either
its hot young action heroines or its slick style of fantastical visuals and
quippy butt-kicking. Give them 15 minutes, they'll give you their world.
Complicated it may be, but it's also clear and clever. The titular New
Gotham trio (based on DC Comics characters) form sort of a "Gotham's Angels,"
brave babes busily "saving the city from some apocalyptic bad-guy plan" under
the cover of the secret identities everybody has in a show like this. Girls
just wanna have fun, "fighting crime lords and supervillains."
Hard to relate? Nah. Between colorful crime-busting vignettes, they're
everyday pals squabbling over groceries and neuroses. "I'm as broody and
romantically self-destructive as the next girl," claims Barbara Gordon (Dina
Meyer), the former Batgirl, now a schoolteacher in a wheelchair keeping
cybertabs on the field adventures of her prot�g�e. Helena's reluctant Huntress
(Ashley Scott) ranges the night to satisfy her Batman-Catwoman lineage, when
she isn't tending bar and bemoaning their avocation's "lousy hours, nonexistent
pay, no recognition."
Before long, teen new girl in town Dinah (Rachel Skarsten) adds her gift of
"metahuman" mind reading, despite the Huntress' vexed objection that "we don't
have an opening for junior supergirl."
Tonight's moving-right-along premiere not only pulls us in but promises
plenty. Although last season's WB super-hour "Smallville" made a bang-up pilot
(from the same Tollin/Robbins Productions team), the series quickly settled
into unlikely Superpower of the Week scenarios among the tiny burg's
asteroid-struck denizens. Seems rural high schoolers couldn't truly exploit the
The "Prey" chicks benefit from a whole urban landscape in which to play and
a host of comic book baddies to battle, plus a deeper well of broader identity
issues and psycho-entanglements derived from different DC series. Barbara
mourns her lost movement, Dinah explores her new independence and Helena
addresses her ancestry anguish under the care of a sneaky shrink (Mia Sara).
Meantime, the complex connections among the three different-age heroines set up
explorations of modern female relationships. Good-looking guy characters get
to have issues, too, popping up at school and on the street, as co-workers and
What, you weren't expecting pretty? Yes, it's a WB drama. Like its net-
mates, "Birds of Prey" boasts sharp casting of little-known performers whose
personalities prove as feistily engaging as their exquisite looks. And, of
course, they're smart talkers. The Huntress doesn't just physically whup bad
guys, she skewers 'em verbally: "I hate a man with no endurance. Really, what's
Barbara vividly relives how she used to "race across rooftops under the
moon." Even the requisite ever- present police detective (Shemar Moore) gets
lines like "Myths are just the truth a fewgenerations later." Those Gilmore
Girls have nothing on this Shakespeare- spouting crew.
Visual effects are no less striking, though this is the kind of pilot hour
that's so juiced- up, you have to wonder whether next week's "regular" episode
can match the gothic austerity meant to mirror Frank Miller's Dark Knight
comics. Barbara's computer lair envelops her in virtual reality action, while
Dinah's "sight"-seeing and Helena's mind trips come to life in sleek
black-and-white. Throughout all the flying leaps and urban warfare, Helena's
lipstick stays fresh, her flowing cape perfectly pressed. She does, however,
admit it's "hell on your nails." See how ordinary these girls are?