One of the great disappointments of the 2001-02 broadcast television season was Fox’s bungling of “The Tick,” a live-action adaptation of Ben Edlund’s cult comic-book saga about an bombastic crime fighter clad in a big blue bug costume.
With Patrick Warburton absolutely nailing the title role, “The Tick” was a hilarious and visually dazzling parody of superhero tropes. It was also stuffed with kooky one-liners that fans (including my family) instantly committed to memory.
In a TV landscape not yet populated by caped crusaders, “The Tick” stood out as something bright and bold and defiantly daffy.
But Fox executives, clearly failing to appreciate the gem that it had, scheduled the show against stiff competition and didn’t give it much promotional oomph. Alas, “The Tick” produced only nine episodes before Fox administered the deadly insecticide.
Fortunately, “The Tick,” which also had a run as an animated series in the early ‘90s, is making a comeback with an all-new cast debuting Friday on Amazon Prime. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessor.
Edlund is still involved and Warburton has stayed on as a producer. But now the cobalt suit is inhabited by Peter Serafinowicz, who brings a little more naive sweetness to the role and a little less bombastic swagger. Still, Serafinowicz exudes the requisite doofiness as he spews inane lines like, “I am the wild blue yonder.”
Fate brings The Tick together with Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman), a diminutive and mild-mannered accountant who obsessively tracks his city’s super villains, including The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley) and Miss Lint (Yara Martinez). Overbearingly persuasive, The Tick recruits Arthur to be his sidekick. His costume? A moth suit with retractable wings. Together, they’re quite the odd couple.
It probably isn’t fair to compare this latest version to the 2001 series, but I can’t help myself. That show is still wedged in my brain, along with its colorful cast of supporting characters: Arthur (David Burke), and the side-splitting, crime-fighting duo of Captain Liberty and (Liz Vassey) and Batmanuel (Nestor Carbonell).
For this incarnation, Edlund and his collaborators have made a questionable call to go a little darker and more sullen. Arthur has been “scarred by tragedy” and his trauma is woven into the narrative. Consequently, this series while still amusing, isn’t exactly a laugh machine.
It also is slower moving as the opening episodes take a little too much time to build some traction.
But maybe slow and steady (and more grounded) will ultimately prove to be the right approach. And maybe this “Tick” will be able to stick around a little while longer.
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