Volume 5, Issue 35!
“TV Review: The Tick (2016)”
After a stellar Fox Kids cartoon and a short-lived live action series in the early 00’s, you wouldn’t be wrong in asking “why?” after hearing about a new Tick series. But what’s old is new again, and Amazon has come along to try and give the big blue superhero another go. One of the Amazon Prime “Pilot Shows”, the Ben Edlund written pilot is an interesting take on the character and his world, but in the end, the 30 minute run time simply isn’t enough to cover all the ground Edlund wants to.
The Tick starts way back in the past, showing us the first superhero to make contact with humanity. While this is used to set up the premise of the world of The Tick, where superheroes have been a part of everyday life for decades, it’s dropped pretty quickly as the pilot focuses on Arthur (Griffin Newman), the accountant who will eventually become The Tick’s sidekick. In this reimagined universe, Arthur doesn’t have his moth costume (yet), and has a history of mental illness thanks to an encounter with The Terror (a kind of wasted Jackie Earl Haley) when he was a child. Now an adult, Arthur has been obsessing over the Terror, and believes that he’s in hiding somewhere in the city, despite the fact that he’s been dead for years.
How does The Tick fit into all of this? Well, Arthur runs into him while investigating some gangs on the City’s docks. Peter Serafinowicz doesn’t try to mimic Patrick Warburton or Townsend Coleman’s takes on the character (in fact, he kind of sounds more like he’s doing an Adam West impression more than anything else), but he is one of the bright spots of the pilot. Serafinowicz, best known as the “what a bunch of a-holes” guy from Guardians of the Galaxy, has a fun energy that he brings to his scenes. His Tick has a strong sense of justice, but still has the childlike wonder that the character is known for. One of the best scenes in the pilot is Tick walking through Arthur’s apartment, ripping items off the walls trying to find his “superhero hideout switch”, and even though this scene has been in every other adaptation of Ben Edlund’s comic series, it still works because of Serafinowicz’ performance.
Despite this performance, there’s still something “off” about The Tick. Like I said earlier, there’s simply too much world building and set up to fit into the 30 minute run time. Director Wally Pfister’s visuals make this look like a lot of the other superhero shows we’ve seen, so the intent is that The Tick sticks out like a big blue weirdo. That works really well, but even then it doesn’t entirely gel with the story Edlund and Pfister are trying to present. The superheroes look like classic Silver Age characters (think how Zack Snyder showed the older heroes in Watchmen), but when real world ideas like civilian casualties are jammed into the story, it doesn’t work quite as well as the creators want. Not to mention the fact that there’s only a handful of action scenes, and only one of them features the titular character.
The Tick pilot seemingly came out of nowhere, and for a Tick fan like me, being surprised in this way wasn’t great. Perhaps the hype was muted because of this being a pilot, but if the whole point of the Amazon Prime “Pilot Season” is to get people to vote on the shows they liked, wouldn’t you promote the crap out of it? After watching the pilot, I can see where Edlund wants to go, and hopefully if this does get picked up they can redo this opening episode and give it another go round. Right now it’s an interesting take on the world of The Tick, but it’s not better than the original cartoon or even the short-lived Patrick Warburton series. But if they get the chance to expand their world, it could be the exact show that we need with all the superhero projects exploding on our screens right now. For now though, it’s just an interesting, if flawed, new spin on the character.