Amazon has released its annual run of pilot episodes from potential full-season series – as is the tradition with the retailer-cum-entertainment-producer, however, only those pilots that score well enough with viewers will move forth with a series order. While Amazon has had some decidedly-hotly-anticipated pilots in the past – anyone else remember watching that ‘Zombieland‘ episode and being a little weirded out? – the front-runner of this year’s must-see episodes for pop-culture fans is decidedly the new take on classic quirky underground comic-book and twice-former TV Fox series, ‘The Tick.’
Full disclosure here: I’m a big Tick fan, and have been ever since I managed to wander across a First Printing of the run of ‘The Tick’ original comic series shortly after its release in the late 1980s. In the sea of the 1990s superhero glut on the printed page, the big blue quirky idiot with his meager sidekick and profoundly odd take on life and justice was a welcome respite. When the 1994 animated series came along from Fox, the unique feel of the series translated very well to the goofy Saturday-morning vibe, and audiences ate it up for a few seasons before the novelty wore off for the average viewer. In 2001, The Tick was given new life as, remarkably, a live-action series, but it was criminally misunderstood and underrated, getting the ax from Fox after a measly nine episodes aired. In print form, ‘The Tick’ has continued to live on in sporadic publishing bursts, while creator Ben Edlund kept himself busy by writing episodes of other hit TV shows like ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Gotham.’
So now we find ourselves here, in 2016, with a new incarnation of ‘The Tick’ finding its way into homes – at least one episode, anyhow. And, as one would expect from a character with a history such as The Tick has, it’s a very… different kind of episode. Gone is the heavy focus on goofy gags, ridiculous one-liners, and general buffoonery from most (if not all) characters. There is still humor to be found, so fear not – but almost all of it is in the form of Tick-speak and dry observations on life by the other characters. The rest of the show plays things fairly straight – a curious choice for a property like ‘The Tick,’ one that’s made its living off of lampooning the mundane and satirizing the “normal.”
The plot of the episode uses lots of existing character and universe references that fans will easily recognize. Instead of The Tick, Arthur is the main focus of the story, as we see the man who is destined to become The Tick’s somewhat-unwilling sidekick battle with more inner evils than outer ones: he suffers from delusions and obsessions, likely tied to his childhood “origin story” of seeing his father get accidentally killed by uber-villain The Terror during a fight with other superheroes. Arthur’s sister, Dot, tries to help him along as best she can, but Arthur is dead-set in his belief that The Terror is still alive and pulling the strings on criminal activity in The City, even though the rest of the world believes the villain dead, killed at the hands of Hyperion, who fills the Superman-but-not-Superman-due-to-copyright-issues role.
The overall feel of the episode is much “darker” than anything Tick-related I’ve seen before. This, of course, is likely a product of the industry as it stands today. Peter Serafinowicz is pretty good as the Tick, although it will be forever difficult, at least for this reviewer, to shake the mental image of Patrick Warburton in live-action molded blue rubber. Jackie Earle Haley was phenomenal in his one scene as supervillain The Terror – if anything, this series should get an order simply to see more of the bad guy! Griffin Newman playing Arthur seemed a little “basic” for me, but with a character as bland as Arthur, that’s probably exactly what the creative team was going for.
All in all, ‘The Tick’ presents its first episode as slightly uneven and with a clear eye on a long run to continue to work the character development put into play here, but I must admit it’s an intriguing concept that I’d like to see more of. Hopefully, we’ll get the chance!
‘The Tick’ pilot is available for free on Amazon Prime.
Tony Schaab is bad, and that’s good. He will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one he’d rather be than he! A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Facebook and Twitter to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.