After the smash success of the episode “Aqua” in Smallville’s fifth season which showcased a Smallville-version of Aquaman (played by Will Toale). Producers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar pitched an Aquaman spin-off to the WB. The series would be similiar to Smallville in that it would take the DC character of Aquaman, tell his origin and then slowly uncover his powers and his Atlantean heritage as the series went.
The original title for the series was to be Mercy Reef which would be the smalltown that Arthur Curry grew up in among humans.
The network was reluctant to continue with Will Toale as Aquaman so they looked to soap heartthrob Justin Hartley to take the lead. Hartley had the right charisma, physique and wit to charm both the ladies and the boys. After Hartley was cast the producers turned to veteran actor Ving Rhames to play Hartley’s mentor, McCaffrey, who holds an Atlantean secret of his own. To play Hartley’s dad on the show they needed an actor who was part adventurer, part hard-boiled cop. So after his successful run on Numb3rs, Lou Diamond Phillips was cast as the dad.
Hartley’s Arthur Curry (aka Aquaman) was a smart-ass, debonaire and quick to pull the trigger. He was toned down a lot from the eco-revolutionary portrayed in the Smallville episode. We did get that side though as in the opening minutes of the show he arrested for freeing dolphins. But the more the pilot went on there were more sides of the character than we realized.
The pilot was full of high adventure and 20-something angst. It was very WB and got off to a great start just like the premiere of Smallville. I thought Hartley was perfectly cast as “the king of the seven seas” and I did laugh really hard when I saw him in his orange and green outfits.
I really think Aquaman could have been a great show given the potential shown in the pilot. I am glad that Hartley’s performance in Aquaman did land him the Green Arrow gig in Smallville. I just kind of wish they would have went for his Aquaman instead.
I do hope when Samllville finally has its swansong that they doo look to Hartley again for another spin-off. If we do get a Green Arrow spin-off I hope it goes in the vein of Mike Grell’s The Longbow Hunters and the cast a much sexier Black Canary.
Pilot Score: 4 out of 5.
So Says the Soothsayer
Note: The Aquaman pilot is still available on Youtube.