Friday, January 30, 2009

The Tick—A Superhero Show About Nothing

I'm not sure when exactly The Tick came out on DVD but I've been watching it recently. Based on a successful comic and children's cartoon, it was an ideal, if unsuccessful (it only lasted nine episodes) vehicle, for Seinfeld's Patrick Warburton whose clueless alpha male persona is perfect for the role of an indestructible but dimwitted superhero. Despite having been a relatively short-lived sitcom, The Tick in many respects fits quite neatly into the zeitgeist of it's day with a similar feel to that of more successful 90s sitcoms like Seinfeld and Friends. You rarely saw its superheros doing anything heroic, they would usually just sit around at a restaurant talking about their lives, their relationships, and their jobs. (How exactly do you fill out a report explaining that you had to stop a fifty foot cow with flaming teats by throwing a dump truck at it?)

Perhaps this is the reason why this show was so short-lived—most viewers would expect to see superheros actually performing acts of heroism. But the show also had other problems. It could be uneven at times with some episodes trying unsuccessfully to use superheroes and their sidekicks as a metaphor for something else like homosexuality or relationships. But the show ultimately worked best for me when it really explored its premise—the mundane side of being a superhero.

My favorite episode, The Tick vs Justice, did this very well. This episode follows the trial of "Destroyo," a super villain captured by The Tick and Arthur. The preternaturally dense Tick is quickly found to be in contempt by the judge and put in jail. This leaves Arthur who has no super powers beyond the ability to fly with his winged suit vulnerable to Destroyo's henchman with no one except Bat Manuel (who is really only into the superhero thing because chicks dig the suit) to protect him. Destroyo meanwhile takes advantage of attorney client privilege to brag about his crimes and tries to convince his guards to commit suicide. But Destroyo meets his match in Captain Liberty, a needy super heroine who sees his psychological manipulations as a way of scoring some free therapy for herself. But ultimately Destroyo is foiled not by the Tick's super strength or by the justice system but by Arthur who uses his past as a doughy ballet dancer to get him to confess his crimes in open court. When Destroyo is freaked out by Arthur's taunts of "dance, fat boy, dance" it makes for a hilarious climax to the episode.

Overall, The Tick is hardly a classic TV show but it was an enjoyable little comedy that was always watchable and entertaining.

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