How 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' Wrote and Shot That Epic Crossover

Credit: CW
The CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths is an unprecedented television event, blending five network shows into one epic crossover. So how does a showrunner deal with all this stuff? 

Crisis on Infinite Earths was one of my favorite DC comics growing up, so seeing it come to television is a dream come true. 

When I heard it was announced as the CW's next crossover event, I wondered: How the hell will they pull that off? If you told me we'd have five successful superhero television shows on the air when I was just a tike watching Smallville, I'd have slapped you silly. 

That's why I was so excited to read about the process of bringing Crisis to life. 

Rolling Stone did an in-depth interview with the showrunner, Marc Guggenheim, who is helping put it all together. 

We pulled some of the best quotes to show you how it's all done. 

How to Create a TV Event That Features the Casts of 5 Different Shows?

Right off the bat, the main question lots of people ask is "Why?" And Guggenheim gives the ultimate answer: “We want to do it because it’s cool.”

The cool factor is apparent. CW has revamped its network with shows like Arrow and Supergirl. Instead of trying to run from this success, they're embracing it big time. There's a danger in listening to the fans too much, but the team here concentrated their efforts into delivering something that pushes the boundaries of television. 

So how do you even start to bring an idea like this together? 

Guggenheim explained they use each show to create the crossover event of the decade. The basic idea is to give one hour of the story to each show, and have it air during the normal broadcast time. 

While that's not ideal for an international audience, it's the network's plan.  

“I’ve always been of the philosophy that the bingeing cart can’t drag the broadcast horse... These things are conceived and produced for the CW. I leave it up to Warner Bros. Home Video to figure out how they live on past their broadcast date.... If I controlled Hollywood, we would cut together all five hours into a single, big movie that would live on in Blu-ray. But I’ve been told repeatedly that that isn’t going to happen.”

Aside from the network, there are so many other things to consider. 

First of all, the actor availability across five shows is tricky to schedule. Brandon Routh plays Atom, but would be needed to play a version of Superman inspired by the comic Kingdom Come. And the other actors have to keep producing their own episodes while filming this special five-hour event. (In fact, the cast get paid more for these episodes than their usual standard episode fee.)

Next, the productions have to get all the shows to agree on what happens story-wise in the special because it could drastically change their story arcs of the individual series moving forward. 

So costs are high, and the planning is demanding. That's before anyone puts on a suit or uses VFX. 

Then, you need to get the studio to commit to the cost, the network to commit to the airing plans, and also get DC on board with the conceit.  

Guggenheim says: “There’s a lot of email diplomacy that goes on. And then I had to have a creative conversation with Brandon, to see if this was something he was interested in doing. I didn’t have to twist Brandon’s arm. But I presented DC with a wish list of characters and concepts that we wanted to reference, [and] we worked it out. Certainly, this is the broadest we’ve gotten into the greater DC Universe.”

Lucky for the viewer, this stuff all was taken care of one at a time. 

And what about the writing? 

It was very important that the five leads each had an emotional story that took you all the way from hour one to hour five," Guggenheim revealed. 

The first episode of Crisis on Infinite Earths aired last night, December 8, and it continues across the CW on Dec. 9 and 10. The crossover wraps up Jan. 14, 2020, on Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow.

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