Binge or Purge?: The Tick
The Tick is a meandering, nonsensical affair without the charm or wit of its predecessors.
It’s that time of year when new television series get trotted out to everyone not watching football. I’m going to poke around some of the new series and let you know whether to pull up a couch or run for the hills.
First up, the Amazon Original series The Tick. I had watched the pilot episode for this show back when Amazon rolled out its first Prime Pilot Season. While I gave top marks to John Claude Van Johnson, The Tick had enough going for it to pique my interest. Now it’s finally here, and lets see if this tick can turn an acute infection into a chronic obsession.
The Tick (2017)
Arthur is a troubled young man in a world that has had super-powered people running around in it for quite some time. When he was a child, Arthur had a double dose of trauma: The Terror, earth’s greatest super-villain, killed Arthur’s favorite super-team directly in front of him… by dropping their ship on his father. The Terror is eventually defeated by this world’s version of Superman, and everything returns to normalcy… for everyone but Arthur. In addition to having a super-dose of PTSD, Arthur grows up with an obsession: to prove to the world that The Terror is still alive, and is still a threat to mankind.
Arthur’s detective work nets him two prizes: a moth-themed super suit; and the attention a large, buffoonish superhero named The Tick. The Tick needs some brains to go along with his considerable brawn, and he hounds Arthur relentlessly. The Tick isn’t the only unwanted attention that Arthur has attracted, however. A cadre of mobsters, mercenaries, and a super baddy with ties to The Terror want the super suit, and they are plenty willing to make Arthur’s life hell to get it.
What’s The Deal?
Both the animated and previous live action versions of The Tick were comedies. A very specific style of comedy at that. The Tick was very much in the vein of Seinfeld: day to day absurdities with a set cast of wacky characters. The Tick just added technicolor body suits and ramped the zaniness up to 11.
This new version of The Tick has no clue what it wants to be, but it does seem to know that it doesn’t want to be Super-Friends-Seinfeld. If I had to guess, I’d say the show is trying for dark humor, but it doesn’t do anything well enough to really matter. Any interest I had in Arthur’s personal tragedy quickly gets jettisoned by what a sniveling jerk he is. The villains aren’t nearly silly nor serious enough, and come across as weak parody. Each episode wanders around in circles, doing an exhausting “Will He? Won’t He?” dance around Arthur’s acceptance of his super-suit. In fact, the show should just be called Arthur, not The Tick. Speaking of which, how does this version of the blue galloot stack up?
Not so good. Peter Serafinowicz’s Tick comes across as a watered down Patrick Warburton (the first live action Tick). The Tick has always been a tone-deaf buffoon, inserting himself into every situation and steamrolling conversations with his “Adam West as Batman” banter. His charm lies in how confident he is in his insanity. Bullets bounce off Superman; logic bounces off The Tick. As such, he has to be played with both gusto and charm. Serafinowicz does a decent job providing the gusto, but the writers don’t provide any of the charm. Every time he shows up, I got as annoyed as Arthur does. He’s a pushy, clingy nuisance.
I watched the first four episodes (five, if you count the pilot) of The Tick. The season isn’t finished yet. Well, it is to me. At the end of every episode I was left with exactly the same two thoughts: “What? It’s over?” and “Thank God it’s over, maybe the next episode will be good.”. There are way too many shows out there to lug a bad one around like some fixer-upper relationship. I gave you a few hours of my life, and you couldn’t bother to entertain me. So we’re done: pack your shit and leave.
I am sick to death of writers using “Binge Watch Culture” as a crutch. If I have to watch every single episode of your show to get any semblance of satisfaction, then you’ve failed. I’m tired of the “well, the second half of the season really picks up” defense. Watching television isn’t homework. Stop making it feel like it is. Binge watching originally came about because some series were so good you couldn’t stop watching them; something that the newly arrived streaming services allowed you to do easily. It wasn’t a con-job for poorly planned, sloppily executed mini-series to exploit.
This go around with The Tick is an example of every mistake that could be made both with reboots and with a streaming series. The Tick doesn’t seem to feel any need to get fired up, and it didn’t know what direction it was going to fire in anyway. It doesn’t reinterpret a classic story so much as crap on the previous version(s). It is neither serious nor funny; neither hot nor cold. Spit it out.