With streaming services expanding and growing all the time, and the superhero genre showing no signs of stopping or slowing down in popularity, The Tick, exclusive to Amazon Prime Video, isn’t that surprising of a move from the shipping giant. For those that aren’t aware, The Tick was originally created by Ben Edlund at the age of 18 as a mascot for a comic book newsletter for a chain of New England comics. He eventually started creating independent comics featuring the character, and an entire universe of parody characters that lovingly poked fun at the superhero comics that Edlund was and still is a huge fan of. In 1994, The Tick really broke into mainstream popularity with an animated series on the popular Saturday morning Fox Kids block of programming, where I first encountered him. After a video game and a previous short-lived live action incarnation in 2001, The Tick has returned to live action. With how much superhero media has boomed, I actually think a live action release is more properly timed now than in the early 00s, when not many good superhero films and shows existed yet, so audiences maybe weren’t ready to see a parody of something that hadn’t reached its peak.
The perfect time has arrived now, however, and overall, The Tick is very funny, and sometimes gut-bustingly hilarious. The show is riddled with plenty of understated comedy and satire of the superheroes and the comic book genre, as well as a few nods and winks towards longtime fans of the character.
The two strongest things about the show are the writing and the cast. Edlund is not only an executive producer to quality control his characters, but is also part of the writing staff, so the dialogue situations and interactions of the characters all seem and feel authentic, especially to someone who loved the 94 cartoon.
Peter Serafinowicz completely commits to the character with a fantastic, over-the-top, Adam West Batman-inspired performance that glues the show together. The Tick is a character with a ton of enthusiasm and very little self-awareness, and you can’t make that work, or sustainable, if you don’t give it your all. Whether in loud, bombastic moments or quick remarks, Serafinowicz completely embodies the character and sets the tone for the entire show. Newcomer Griffin Newman does well as the neurotic Arthur, who is a little bit more toned down and realistic as opposed to his highly nerdy, barely functioning persona in the cartoon, which was probably a good choice for live action. He does well countering The Tick’s rampant loud-shouting heroics. Newman’s character arc is the strongest, and it’s what leads new viewers into the crazed world of the show. we also see great performances from Yara Martinez as Ms.Lint, and Watchmen veteran Jackie Earle Halley as The Terror, the lead villain of the show, who also appeared in the comics and cartoon briefly.
All of the other cast members do a great job as well, but it’s really Serafinowicz who ties everything together, I know I already mentioned that but as a fan of the cartoon, I was blown away by how well he was able to embody what this character is supposed to be, another actor or take on it would’ve left viewers feeling awkward. With Edlund’s dialogue supplying Serafinowicz (it’s getting tiring typing his name so many times, but that’s the price of liking the guy, I guess!) during absurdly heroic monologues, and his delivery of said lines, you have a winning combination. If you don’t like it immediately, it’s not going to get better or improve for you, and I’ll stand by that for the whole show. If you’re not a fan of superheroes or absurdist comedy, this simply isn’t for you.
The show features decent costuming, with the strongest being Arthur’s costume, The Terror, and after the pilot episode, The Tick himself. In the pilot, he looks completely different, and the next episode features a major improvement on his look after what must’ve been a suggestion from test audiences. The show even manages to slip in a nod towards the audience about this, and there’s a few other jokes and nods towards the characters either knowing they’re in fiction or almost pointing it out that are well done and add to the satirical element well. Newman and his sister, played by Valorie Curry, do well in the show’s few dramatic scenes that revolve around Arthur’s path in life, and the strain that his new career is going to put on himself and his family. The Tick never veers into trying to get too serious but features a lot of heart and a look at what’s going on with all sides of each character, even the villains.
With all of the positives mentioned, I’ll get into the flaws or things I felt the show could work on, and I kept in mind that this was one of Amazon Prime’s first big exclusive shows, as well as not having the budget of a Disney-partnered Marvel to work with.
Sometimes the special effects and settings look a bit cheap, with some of the character’s costumes obviously not as focused upon as the main character’s. The fact that The Tick is a comedy saves this from being a larger problem, if it was expected to be taken seriously, lack of budget or no, it couldn’t look like this and be show-ready. In comparison to the bustling and soulful setting of the Netflix Marvel characters, The Tick’s sets and locations are sometimes very bland, with the need to save money being very apparent, with some very generic looking suburban neighborhoods and parks being used for major moments in the show at some points, it’s simply not visually interesting. The show handles The Tick’s super-strength well for the most part, but they seemed to know that the strong-point of the show is in the writing and acting, as Arthur’s flying and some of the other character’s abilities do sometimes look a bit off.
The writing while solid overall, has a few moments in the 6 episode mini-season that make it feel longer, and not always in a good way, some situations could develop and be resolved quicker, a faster pace for a superhero comedy seems right. This isn’t always an issue, and when the show moves, it’s great. One other complaint I have that’s usually not an issue with me is the occasional profanity in the show. I’m fine with profanity and it’s in some of my favorite movies and shows, but The Tick, while a satire, is still generally very good-natured in tone, and when the characters drop occasional F-bombs, it took me out of it. The show is family and kid-appropriate except for literally this one aspect, so I don’t quite understand it. Even Daredevil and Jessica Jones didn’t have much actual hardcore swearing, and the situations they were dealing with were a thousand times more intense than what’s seen in this show. It could also be that because I was first exposed to the character from Saturday morning cartoons that it just seems out of place, and I don’t think the show needs it, it’s funny enough from the characters and situations, however I do also realize the original comics were more adult in tone, so maybe Edlund wanted this to nod back to his older material. Either way, it doesn’t work, but it’s not a major issue.
The last big critique I have might even be addressed in later seasons, and really only comes from the fact that I was such a huge fan of the 90’s cartoon, so I know this point is colored with a bit of my bias, but I miss the side characters The Tick dealt with on the original show. This was one of the main flaws of the Patrick Warburton version in the early 00’s also.
After doing some research, I found that because Disney inherited much of the Fox Kids programming, that some portions of The Tick and the characters are now Disney trademarks instead, which is why fan favorites like Die Fledermaus, a Batman parody, Sewer Urchin, a foul-smelling hero, and American Maid, a hilarious shoe-throwing, star-spangled cleaning lady, weren’t featured in the first live-action attempt, and although I don’t know for sure if Disney still owns those characters, I wouldn’t be surprised if those trademarks still hold, and keep Amazon from showing off some of the expanded cast. It’s a shame, because the way The Tick and Arthur interacted with them and some of the other characters, who were all clever nods towards Marvel and DC characters, was absolute gold from the cartoon. The other heroes in this version aren’t bad, but because Edlund has some of his funniest parody creations owned by another studio, sometimes you get the vibe that some of the minor characters and heroes that show up are his second or third string ideas, and his best aren’t accessible to him. That’s not entirely his or the show’s fault. I had to remedy this by going back and watching some old episodes of the original cartoon after completing the Amazon series, and yes, it’s still funny as an adult. It’s probably also owned by Disney as well, but the cartoon’s original absurd big-band, jazzy melody is much better than the jazz-inspired theme the Amazon version has, which is clearly a wink towards the original.
In general, the show is great. Watch it for the performances and jokes, and don’t’ take a moment of it seriously. I would say that fans of The Tick are going to slip into this very easily and enjoy it, as well as fans of serious superhero material, but if you’re a fan of neither, it may take you a few episodes to warm up to. If you’re not familiar with Adam West’s Batman, for example, you might not know how great of impression Serafinowicz is doing. It’s definitely enhanced if you have knowledge of superhero culture. That said, I think if you’re a new viewer, you can definitely appreciate the comedy still, and with hero films being more popular than ever, it’s the right time for The Tick.
The Tick on Amazon Prime Video Gets:
4 MFs out of 5.
+Acting is on point
+Perfect timing for the series to reemerge
+ Costume redesign sufficient
+ Great music
-Disney may still own some rights to favorite characters in the series
-Budgeting means some environments could use some work
Anybody remember The Tick’s battle cry? Spoooooooooon!!!