Deadline is reporting that FOX has handed a put-pilot commitment to The Punisher, a series based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. The series is from ABC Studios and (former Criminal Minds showrunner) Ed Bernero and marks the first time that Disney has ever sold a Marvel Comics series to anyone but Disney-owned ABC. We think we know why. As much as we hate to say it, this is going to suck and we’ll explain why.
The Punisher is described as an hour-long procedural with a Marvel signature and a new take on one of the comic book giant’s iconic characters, 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.
And there it is… the reason this show will not work.
First, let’s be clear, this is not a new take on The Punisher. This is the nearly the same premise as the 1989 film, The Punisher (and to a lesser extent the 2004 film of the same title where The Punisher is former Delta Force and currently an undercover FBI agent), starring Dolph Lundgren that is possibly one of the worst films ever made. The major difference is that there is nothing to indicate that his family has been murdered by the mafia (wha???) and that in this bizarre universe, The Punisher actually keeps his day job of being a detective and goes out at night to fight crime, i.e., he’s every other comic book hero. Now, is the fact that the general premise is the same in and of itself what makes this “new” concept for television so bad? Nope, the problem is that Frank Castle (a.k.a., The Punisher) does not work as a cop for numerous reasons, especially an active-duty cop.
Frank Castle is a metaphor for the everyman. He was originally an enlisted, highly decorated and patriotic soldier who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when his family was gunned down after witnessing a mob hit. He was never in a position of authority or power, and that’s why the character has had the appeal it has had for the last 37 years. He’s one of us. He’s the husband and father that was able to strike back against the criminals of the world and get the kind of retribution and justice that we would all seek if we had the ability and gestational fortitude. To put it simply, he’s NOT ‘The Man’ and a cop is ‘The Man.’
The truth is that people want their police officers to be police officers and their vigilantes to be their vigilantes. That’s true with comic book readers, television audiences and just people in general. Is it any coincidence that Bernhard Goetz still has supporters to this day? Is it any coincidence that a show like Person of Interest continues to find success on CBS or how even twenty years ago The Equalizer found similar success.
That being said, we may appreciate our citizen-vigilantes, but there has always been something very unsettling with the idea of a police officer taking the law into his own hands, even fictionally. American audiences don’t like corrupt cops, even if they are doing it for a greater good because we are brutally aware that any one of us on any given day could be at the other end of the actions of a corrupt police officers. We’ve recently gotten hooked on AMC’s Breaking Bad and in the third season, Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), a DEA agent, viciously assaults Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and there isn’t a person who’s seen that scene that doesn’t cringe with the notion of a police officer abusing their power in such a manner and even Hank himself takes full responsibility for what he has done and says, “We have to be better than that.”
So, the point is that there isn’t anyone that wants to see a cop as a vigilante on television, nevertheless the brutally vicious Frank Castle. Below, is what the The Punisher is all about and that ain’t gonna work with the title “rising-star detective.”
WARNING: NSFW!!! BRUTALLY GRAPHIC!