The Tick pilot review
The reward of drama
Jumping from the pages of New England Comics and 90s nostalgia into Amazon Instant Streaming’s comedy pilot season is the City’s bravest superhero, The Tick. “The Tick” hits the small screen eight months into a year overflowing with superheroes in pop culture. Taking a cue from February’s Deadpool, “The Tick” never takes itself seriously and offers audiences a lighter approach to the genre—just like the comic book series. Unlike any other superhero movie or series, “The Tick” follows an ordinary person for a protagonist and makes its titular character a mysterious, yet uproarious, figure. Competing against other comedies like “Jean-Claude Van Johnson” and “I Love Dick,” “The Tick” arrives dealing his trademark “drama” to criminals in a world where “evil wears every possible mitten,” as put by the hero himself.
Griffin Newman (“Vinyl,” Draft Day) stars as Arthur Everest, a concerned citizen with a dark, tragic past. In a world where super powers originated from the 1908 Tunguska event, Arthur remembers superheroes like “Superian” fighting super-villains like “The Terror” from his childhood. His tragic childhood memories spill into the present, where a poorly-adjusted adult Arthur spends his evenings surveilling gangs to determine whether or not the long-thought-dead The Terror still runs The City behind the scenes under the cover of his gangs. Newman performs admirably as the straight man in this comedy series, allowing his Arthur’s nervous demeanor to play well off of the Tick’s general nonsense/ good nature. His eye twitching contrasts hilariously to the Tick’s over-confidence. During a time in Arthur’s life when his sister and everybody else insists that he’s off his meds, the Tick arrives to assure him, “You’re going sane in a crazy world.”
Character/ world-class voice actor Peter Serafinowicz (Spy, Shaun of the Dead) plays the titular hero. As The Tick, Serafinowicz clearly revels in his new role of a superhero with a childlike approach to everything, making nonsensical ramblings with grand cadence. “You’ve got the brains, I’ve got the everything else,” The Tick tells Arthur, apparently aware of what he lacks in brainpower. Serafinowicz only has a handful of scenes in the pilot, but it’s more than sufficient to cement him as a solid lead for the series with his never-ending quips and upbeat attitude. The pilot’s closing monologue from The Tick features the absurd brand of humor to expect should Amazon pick up the series for a full order.
Unlike the comic and former Fox television series, “The Tick” doesn’t feature the titular hero’s crew of unlikely superheroes, as writer/ Tick creator Ben Edlund (“Gotham,” “Firefly”) chooses to focus on Arthur first, with the Tick entering and exiting when evil/ danger lurks. Director Wally Pfister’s (Transcendence, “Flaked”) does great work creating “The City,” establishing a Eastern Seaboard-type metropolis with plenty of work to be done at street level. If “The Tick” wins Amazon’s comedy pilot season, the following episodes will certainly feel more coherent because of the pilot’s attention to setting and plot.
Despite a few lacking special effects and a cast full of unknowns, save for Serafinowicz, “The Tick” faces steep competition as one of the three comedy series Amazon currently contemplates picking up for its viewers. “Jean-Claude Van Johnson” and “I Love Dick” star more-established performers like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kevin Bacon, and Kathryn Hahn, so “The Tick” will have to get by on a solid narrative structure and above-average comedy, which appears to be in capable Edlund’s wheelhouse. Fans of the comic book, cartoon, or first live-action incarnations of The Tick will definitely want to check out the half-hour pilot that captures everything about the comedic hero that makes the character so well-loved.