‘Supergirl’ Review: CBS’ ‘Superman’ Spinoff Fails to Take Flight

An intriguing debut is marred by silly missteps, rough dialogue

Despite the current glut of superhero shows on television, there was still reason to question what a “Supergirl” TV series — or even just a superhero show on CBS — would look like. Aping the biggest of big-budget blockbusters on the small screen is a tricky business, but the more successful entries — “Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.,” the CW’s one-two punch of “Arrow” and “The Flash” — have embraced their chintziness. Maybe that’s what “Supergirl” is trying to do, or maybe that’s just giving it too much credit.

Right off the bat, the series answers a lot of questions. How much does this tie into the movie version? Very much! Though the creators go out of their way to hide Superman’s face, the suit and small references suggest this is the same world as “Man of Steel” — though a lot sunnier. And how into fan-friendly Easter eggs is the creative team, which includes veteran DC Comics superhero-show executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg? Very! Hey look, it’s Dean Cain in a silent cameo as Kara’s adoptive father!

We get some quick back story exposition about how Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) is actually older than cousin Kal-El and was sent from Krypton to keep an eye on him, but the planet’s destruction knocked her off course into the Phantom Zone and she arrived 24 years late, still a child while he was all grown up.

Then there’s the here and now. Superman is off being Superman, and Kara has grown up to embrace her Clark Kent side. For some reason that’s never properly explained — aside from a quick “Earth already had a superhero” — she has ignored her powers and tried to live a normal life. A normal life as a clumsy, bespectacled magazine assistant right out of dozens of “The Devil Wears Prada” knock-offs. She even has a cut-rate Miranda Priestley-style boss played by Calista Flockhart, who is just trying too hard. (And her zingers don’t even make sense: “I couldn’t hear you over the loud color of your cheap pants,” she says when Kara is wearing pretty dark trousers but a very loud shirt. That’s just lazy.)

Kara eventually has to break her vow of un-super-ness to save a slowly crashing plane that’s carrying her adoptive sister — the moment where she uses her super vision to make sure her sister is on board before springing into action is more than a little questionable — and from then on she’s exploring life as a superhero just as clumsily as she did as a fake human.

Kara’s alter-ego is also a total Superman fangirl, which makes little sense if she’s he’s cousin. What also makes little sense is the stunned reaction of the citizens of National City to a superhero, as this is a world where Superman is already a thing. But they get over it pretty quickly. Also, while they make a big deal about the cape for her costume, they never really explain why her suit needs a skirt. Anyway, clumsy start aside, it will be interesting to see where Supergirl and her far too large cast of supporting characters go from here, skirt or no skirt.