That Batsuit must be awfully itchy. Since Adam West first started delivering pows on TV's "Batman" in 1966, at least eight high-profile actors have played the Caped Crusader. George Clooney still compares his turn at the Bat to being fitted for a straitjacket.
Women seem equally allergic to the costume. After just one season of starring in the CW's "Batwoman" (7 p.m. Sundays), actor Ruby Rose quit.
"Being the lead of a superhero show is tough," Rose told Entertainment Weekly in August. "Being the lead in anything is tough."
Replacing the dynamic Rose is even tougher.
Javicia Leslie, who took over in last week's season premiere, has the martial arts moves down pat; she's more than fierce enough.
But even Meryl Streep would have a hard time selling the improbable new story line: Original crime-fighter Kate Kane has perished in a plane crash. Leslie's Ryan Wilder discovers the suit in the wreckage before learning that Batwoman's archenemy (also Kate's twin sister) killed her beloved grandmother.
Before you can utter "Holy coincidences," Ryan is overcoming her fear of bats and tooling around town in the Batmobile.
During a virtual press conference this month, Leslie showed no signs of being intimidated by the awkward challenge.
"I think I would have felt differently if it was a recast, because then I'd have to meet the energy and everything else of the previous actress," Leslie said. "But I came in as a completely new character. It doesn't feel like I'm trying to live up to someone else's reputation, because no one else has played Ryan."
More daunting was the opportunity for a Black woman to join the superhero world.
"When I first put on the suit and I saw the bat across my chest, it felt surreal," she said. "It almost feels like make-believe until you actually start playing, and then you realize that this is your reality and will be your reality for a while."
Maybe. Ratings last week were 80% lower than for the series debut, due in large part to competition from an NFL playoff game.
Other shows have survived the early departure of their main star. "NYPD Blue" enjoyed a long run after David Caruso took off shortly after the first season. "Criminal Minds" survived for 12 years following Mandy Patinkin's exit.
If "Batwoman" is going to follow suit, it will have to conjure up a few more juicy villains. The vengeful sister, Alice, played to the hilt by Rachel Skarsten in the first season, is already starting to feel like a Real Housewife who's overstayed her welcome. And Ryan will have to do more than just learn how to use her new weapons to win us over.
Showrunner Caroline Dries was smart to give Ryan a completely different background than the life of privilege enjoyed by Kate Kane. Ryan was recently in prison (wrongly, of course) and struggles to pay the bills. She's also capable of cracking a joke, something that wasn't in Rose's arsenal.
"Javicia is funny and has really great comedic timing and so we just naturally write to that," Dries said. "We also wanted to add a little bit more fun into the show because it is so bleak and there's so much sadness coming into the season."
But Dries and her writing team need to move past the stock dialogue. At one point, Ryan borrows so heavily from Tom Joad's monologue in "The Grapes of Wrath," I thought John Steinbeck might show up in the credits.
Without more originality, Leslie could end up spending less time in the Batsuit than Clooney did.
Neal Justin • 612-673-7431 •
Njustin@startribune.com Twitter: @nealjustin