This reboot of The Tick sports strong comedic talent in Peter Serafanowicz and Griffin Newman, but doesn’t live up to its potential, says James McCann.
The first six episodes of The Tick reboot have just landed on Amazon Prime. The incomparable British sketch comedian Peter Serafinowicz stars as the titular hero, but at the centre of this new incarnation is stand-up comedian Griffin Newman, who plays reluctant sidekick Arthur. The new version of The Tick is, for the most part, a psychological-drama. You wouldn’t pick that from the trailers.
These action sequences and zany one-liners take a back seat during the actual show; Arthur spends more time fighting his inner demons (Is he hallucinating? Will he stop taking his anti-psychotic medication?) than actually fighting crime in his moth-themed super suit. The Tick is a melancholy meditation on the self, wrapped up in a wacky superhero story. Much like the tight blue suit Serafinowicz has squeezed into, it is an awkward fit.
For those unfamiliar, the big, blue satirical superhero was created in 1986 as a newsletter mascot for a chain of American comic book stores. From there, The Tick has appeared in comic books, a cartoon, and a short-lived live action series. Earlier incarnations have been rather more upbeat than the current one. Here, The Tick doesn’t know who he is, or where he comes from, or what, exactly, he’s supposed to be doing.
The Tick’s powers include the strength of “ten, perhaps twenty men… a crowded bus stop full of men,” and “nigh-invulnerability”, which might be better read as “vulnerability when the plot dictates”. His weakness? That he has the mind of a special-needs eight-year-old boy. He lacks nuance, and brain power, but his childlike love of justice sets him on the right path. Think Captain America, if Captain America was concussed.
As glorious as Serafinowicz is as a comedian, he doesn’t shine in The Tick. He’s stuck in the same gear in every scene, and there are few opportunities for him to showcase the scope of his comedic splendour.
The central character, Arthur, is an unstable accountant who desperately doesn’t want to be a hero. Over six episodes he is dragged, like a moth to light, toward his destiny. As with Serafinowicz, Newman doesn’t really get a chance to shine. Most episodes, he just mopes, trudges and complains. He is capable of much more — he can complain angrily too!
The first six episodes, which have been released simultaneously on Amazon Prime, run for less than three hours all up. When you consume the whole thing back-to-back, it feels like you’re watching a half-decent superhero piss-take. It’s like Deadpool, but without the gore, or the smut, or satisfying plot. Things pick up in the final episodes. The next six have been recorded, and will be released in the none too distant future.
Regardless of whether or not the show keeps getting better, it’ll could well be a commercial success. When superheroes are involved, a lack of quality doesn’t seem to deter audiences. No matter how bad the product ends up being (I’m looking at you, Suicide Squad) caped crusaders invariably win the day at the box office. For reference, a superhero movie hasn’t been considered ‘commercially unsuccessful’ since 2011’s Green Lantern, which only profited $20m.
It would be great if The Tick could, like it’s eponymous parasite, suck the mediocrity out of the genre. At the moment, however, it just kind of sucks.