While we're somewhat... unexcited about the possibilities thrown up by newly-announced CW pilot The Graysons, there's one thing about the "It's Robin - before he's Robin!" project that everyone seems to be overlooking. Namely, the fact that we're probably never going to see The Graysons on television. Why? Because we've been here before, and it didn't work last time; has the world really forgotten legendary failed Aquaman pilot Mercy Reef?
Originally planned as a Smallville companion series by that show's creators Miles Millar and Al Gough in 2005, Mercy Reef (also known as both Tempest Keys and just plain Aquaman at various points in its development) followed the template of both Clark Kent's series and the planned Graysons pilot: Young version of DC Comics superhero faces both the forces of evil as well as the forces of growing up as he slowly changes from an annoyingly selfish/stupid/dickish character into the hero that we know and love. Like the lead in The Graysons, Aquaman's alter-ego was also given a "cooler" initialled version of his name to try and cover up his age (DJ Grayson, AC Curry).
But where The Graysons offers carnie courage and hi-jinks on the highwire, Mercy Reef had much more up its conceptual sleeve (Arguably, even more than Smallville); instead of just being destined to one day watch his parents be killed and team up with a psychopathic, violent detective with a rodent fetish, Mercy Reef's AC had a mysterious past - What had happened to his mother when she disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle when he was a child? - as well as a grander destiny as future king of Atlantis to face up to... and a cast list that was both impressive and crappy to help him do so (Ving Rhames and Lou Diamond Philips were both onboard should the show get picked up). The pilot didn't get picked up, although it did get released - retitled as Aquaman - on iTunes (where it was the most successful TV show for awhile, surreally) and as a Best Buy-exclusive freebie for the poor deluded fans who thought that it was worth picking up the sixth season of Smallville on DVD in 2007. The actor who played AC, Justin Hartley, graduated from the pilot to become Smallville's Green Arrow (That show, of course, already had its own Aquaman), and the idea of a companion series to Smallville went away... until this week. So, while I'm unconvinced that The Graysons is anything other than a way of trying to cash in on the success of The Dark Knight without stepping on Christopher Nolan's toes, I'm not that worried about it turning out to be another Birds of Prey, either; after all, history has shown that a pilot order means little, and that calmer heads at the CW have a way of prevailing when it comes to trying to create another Smallville. Of course, I'm also someone who actually enjoys Smallville, so you may want to take everything I say with a pinch of salt.