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Why Does TV Like Green Arrow So Much?

The news that the CW’s Arrow performed surprisingly well in the ratings for the CW last night – earning its best weekday night viewing figures for three years – is just the capper on a slowly-emerging fact that seems somewhat nonsensical to comic book fans. Namely: Green Arrow seems to be really rather popular with mainstream audiences.

After all, it’s not as if Arrow is the character’s first success outside of comic books. Just in the last few years, he was essentially a second lead in the CW’s Smallville, with a section of that show’s fan base seemingly holding the opinion that he was a more interesting and charismatic frontman than Tom Welling’s Clark Kent, and also one of the more familiar guest-stars in the animated Batman: The Brave and The Bold series, just slightly below Aquaman in terms of likelihood to appear without notice. Clearly, everything’s coming up Oliver Queen these days, but what is it about Green Arrow that seems to click with audiences and creators alike?

It’s tempting to say that his down-to-earth qualities help. Not that he’s an everyman character – He is, depending on what incarnation you’re paying attention to, a millionaire businessman who is irresistible to the ladies to some degree or another, as well as a master archer and major Robin Hood fan – but he doesn’t have any super powers, which makes him far easier to empathize with that, say, the Man of Steel, the Flash or Green Lantern (Sorry, Ryan Reynolds). It also makes his adventures far easier to film, requiring few special effects – unless a trick arrow is in use, of course – beyond hiring someone who knows how to shoot a bow and arrow well, and we know how much producers like saving money on unnecessary effects shots.

Perhaps also helpful: He’s the Batman who smiles. Green Arrow – especially the versions from Smallville and Arrow, devoid of the comic book character’s politics and goatee – has enough of the Bruce Wayne appeal (Millionaire playboy with hidden heroic and moral side) to seem familiar to audiences, but not so much (No tragic parent deaths, no flying rodent fetish) to seem off-putingly so. Instead, he’s all the fun parts of Batman – Okay, maybe not the fun costume, but still – without the sturm-und-drang that we’ve all come to expect from that character.

And, of course, it helps that he shoots arrows. As the Doctor might put it, arrows are cool now, thanks to The Hunger Games‘ Katniss and Avengers‘ Hawkeye (who is, of course, just a cut-rate Green Arrow in many ways – Oh, pop cultural irony). Whether by accident or design, Arrow debuts after a summer that’s given us a Batman and a Hawkeye movie to help us get comfortable with the character in advance, without our even knowing it.

Now that Arrow has convinced people to check it out through all those factors, though, the hard part begins. It’s one thing for a show to have enough echoes of things we know we like so that we tune in the first time; the trick will be seeing if we come back for more. How will the show’s second episode perform, next Wednesday, and the episodes beyond that? Now that you’ve had a chance to check out Arrow, are you planning on sticking around to see what happens?


  • sandwich eater

    If Hawkeye is a “cut-rate Green Arrow,” then Green Arrow or “Arrow” is a cut-rate Robin Hood.

  • matt

    In Westchester County New York (just outside of NYC) Cablevision (who is the primary cable provider for this county) is in a huge dispute with WB so we haven’t had the channel in a month. So no Supernatural, Arrow, or Vampire diaries. The dispute is basically forcing me to torrent the episodes and or watch them online 

  • Argo Plummer

    I have DVR’d Arrow–planning to watch this weekend, but my mother, who is 62, called me last night after it aired where she lived to tell me how much she enjoyed the show and wanting to know how accurate the story was to the comics she has watched her son read for almost 40 years.  I think they are doing something right.

  • Pee Bee

    I think he said that because Green Arrow came about 20 years before Hawkeye. Trick arrows and all.

  • Pee Bee

    Not to mention having a female martial arts partner named after a bird (Black Canary) in the comics well before Hawkeye and his female martial arts partner named after a bird (Mockingbird).

  • mel

    he needs the goatee

  • coalminds

    To be fair, my dead dog’s ashes are also more charismatic than Tom Welling’s Clark Kent.

  • Elias Algorithm

    It was surprisingly good and admittedly the whole “well, I was banging **** ******, but I can change” part is textbook Ollie.

  • Esteban Pedreros

    I wasn’t terrible impressed.
    Beyond the lack of logic of the action sequences, I had a hard time with two thing:

    – For a guy who kills a man and shouts “nobody must know my secret”, he does an awful lot to appear weird and misterious, and therefore attract attention.
    – The Green Paint on his eyes is taken directly from the GA: Year One miniseries, but in that comic it didn’t really matter if people knew who he was. Nobody survived that story but him (almost). Here he looks in the eye the guy he asks to hand him 40 millions dollars, and he doesn’t recognize the famous long lost playboy, son of the guy who “built the city”?

    There are a lot of other minor problems with the first episode, but I’ll watch the second one

  • Omegasaga

    Why Does TV Like Green Arrow So Much?— because its audience is GIRLS in their teens & 20s.

    The loosers who applauded smallvilles madeup continuity & watered down cheap eastereggs are going to keep this UNFAITHFULL show on the air.

    I just hope they make a Batman TV show for the WB. 
    Call it just  THE BAT. 
     Bruce Wayne can be a blonde and not have a costume. Just a black  outfit with Black trench coat ( cause that would be more realistic).
    Alfred can be a hot cougar who just happends to be the daughter of Comissioner Gordon.

    It would be accepted because every once in a while they can have street signs named after artists & writers from the comics.

  • Sarah

    Arrow never reach the success of Smallville both in duration than in valore.Smallville had an average of 1.1 / 4 with the final episodes of 1.4 / 5. Amell st beginning at age 31, Welling was 23 years old.

    Annulla modifiche! do not like Stephen Amell is not a good actor (piece of Wood)

  • jennifer slewoski

    I don’t care why it did well, just that it did. have listened to fanboys for years now berate Green Arrow as being a second tier character. So to see mainstream audience embracing this so far, is wonderful. And for me, the show is pulling from the old history of the DCU for Ollie. It has disheartened me with the direction the new DCU has gone. So at least with this show, i can have some of my old Green Arrow back.

  • Macwjackson

    Pleasantly surprised by arrow. I hope it keeps getting better and better. I plan to talk about it on The Never Gets Old Podcast at
    Let me know what you think:)

  • Lujan_welch

    Can’t wait for episode 2 next week!  I’m so glad this show is a success, seriously.  Green Arrow is one of my favorite super heroes of the DC universe!

  • Yanks5179

    I really don’t think much can be made of the ratings for the first episode as it’s not entirely surprising that during a period of superhero movies doing so well in the box office that a superhero show in its debut did well.  How it does in a few weeks is where you really see whether it’s a big deal or not.  Saying it’s CW’s highest rated show in three years isn’t exactly saying much; it’s like saying Soriano was one of the best players on the Cubs.

  • Dean_Winchester

    Unfaithful to what? DC reboots their comics every few years.  This show is no different than that.  And based on your comments I doubt you even watched the show.  The action was good and they kicked off several different plot threads that have the potential to be very interesting.  Yes CW like to have young pretty people in its shows, but many of them are very smartly written (see Nakita and Supernatural ).  Its actually quite brilliant of CW.  It allows them to pull in the demo that like to watch pretty people AND the demo that likes interesting story and characters.

  • GeminiJED

    I NEED to watch this but cablevision dropped CW 11 in my area (NY/NJ).  Can I maybe get the eps on Hulu???  I also need my Gossip Girl fix…thats right, I said it!!!

  • Nina

    No no i do not like Arrow!

  • Lyle

    As to why Green Arrow works on television: Less baggage than Batman so its possible to do more with him, low amount of special effects since he just uses a bow and arrow, and a costume that seems to translate well in live action without just being a black leather outfit.
    As to what I thought of Arrow: I liked it for the most part. It was fast paced and never bored me. The only problems I had with it are minor: 1) It bugs me that the city is called Starling City instead of Star City. Really, who do they think they are servicing here by making that change? The mundanes probably wouldn’t care and this alienates the real fans. It would be live calling Metropolis Metropolisville. 2) Though I think Steven Arnell is fine for the role, Justin Hartley was great, and it is a little bit hard for me to get past that. Still, I hear that Justin Hartley will be showing up for an episode, and it would be fun to see what he could play. 3) I accept the ‘no super powers’ rule for a little while, but I hope the producers don’t keep to that rule throughout like Smallville kept to the ‘no flying, no costume’ rule. After a while, Smallville just became ridiculous with how they had to keep to that rule, even when it was making the show less credible. Having a super hero show without super powers just seems silly to me, and I really would love to see Green Arrow fight Count Vertigo down the line. 

  • Matthew S Pulido

    Show got a lot wrong, but enough right. I’ll give it a second episode easily. 

  • JAV

    The title of the article is a little loaded, don’t you think? Sure it had high ratings, but it shared similar numbers with other shows like “Animal Practice” and “Guys with Kids”. Are those shows “liked” so much?
    Arrow is riding the coat tails of a hot comic book movie summer. Plus adding the CW fans who miss Smallville and you got your pilot numbers. Not to mention the revamp of the DC comics universe with the New52 and their audience.
    The true test will be its longevity. Can it last a year and get renewed? The it will be liked so much.  

  • todd

    yeah Im with pee bee, hawkeye would be cut-rate because he is a blatant rip-off of green arrow, just a different orgin story, each comic monolith had a multitude of characters thats was first, which resulted in the others ripping off the idea

    Black canary- mockingbird, Deathstroke-deadpool, thing-adomination, spawn-nightwatch, killer croc- lizard

    keep in mind these are not in chronological order nor order of comic brand, just general idea that were ripped off

  • todd

    uh, smallville is so horrible I dont care what the ratings or watch levels where, the only reason it was popular is because of people wanting to say their geeks and teenagers, technically logistically and historically arrow already surpases smallville which was garbage