Amazon Pilot Season is here! What does that mean and why the hell should I care? It appears to be Amazon’s slightly weasely means of getting out of putting its weight and money behind a variety of shows catering to different interests by backing the pilot episodes of three different shows and letting the public decide which show is worth the most money. In my opinion, the other two shows look just awful, so The Tick gets my vote for simply being the most immediately clever and colorful show. For perspective’s sake, I liked the old cartoon show, did not like the old live-action show, and I never read the comics. The Tick, as a character, is best not when engaging in visual gags like his contemporaries Freakazoid! or Earthworm Jim, characters known for their engaging encounters with their villains but in exchanging wacky, almost-mundane dialogue with his sidekick Arthur. This is probably the reason that the original live-action show seemed like a solid idea. Which it was. I just take extremely petty issue with their execution.
So how’s the pilot to the new Tick? God help me I have no idea. I understand what a risky thing this is to say for a reviewer, but hear me out.
The Tick, again, in contrast to Freakazoid, The Mask, or Earthworm Jim, has always been a parody: every aspect of it is ingrained in being a twist on the conventional formula. The Tick himself being an idiot is a joke on both the ridiculous degrees of heroism displayed by normal superheroes and something of a performance gag based on his ludicrously muscular appearance. The Terror being geriatric is a gag based on the concept of the elder space-villain, and his age having an effect on his performance as a villain is consistently funny. Arthur being both a mockery and kind of a dweeb is a play on the sidekick’s usual resignation to "the brains" to the hero’s "brawn." Freakazoid’s a freak because being a freak is funny, but the joke doesn’t rely on pre-established knowledge like The Tick does.
That being established, I cannot tell, for the life of me, how much of this new Tick is a joke. A shocking amount of time is given to the character of Arthur and his tragic backstory: spaceship lands on his father and the superheroes inside are blinded by space-syphilis and shot to death. Attempting to play that angle straight to any degree seems like a joke in itself, but lo and behold, characters take genuine pity on him and his sister takes a deeply personal interest in making sure that her brother is healthy. These scenes are played with equal parts silence and somber music. The degree to which it appears to be sincere is difficult to explain because explaining it sounds like the show is trying to be funny about it.
I’m not convinced that it is trying to be funny about it, though. It’s as if this show is literally trying to make my job harder on me.
The Tick himself takes up about 30% of the screen-time in this pilot and what I can say is that his presence is a genuine delight. Save for the dodgy CGI that surrounds his scenes and a suit that’s not totally visually appealing; The Tick is written as masterfully as he ever was and Peter Serafinowicz is a phenomenal actor, doing an amazing job with the part. The Tick's pilot would have been served much better by not focusing on Arthur's development before becoming a superhero but rather his development as a superhero. I understand this to be a pilot, and its efforts are in making sure everything is in place, but this pilot is also trying to sell the show as a whole to both its producers and audience. Spending so much time away from the show's main draw was always going to be risky, and I don't think it paid off this time.
This review is tough because while 30% of the show is funny and compelling, I can't tell how much the other 70% of the show is. If it isn't kidding, then the makers aren't phenomenal at character building and can only advise that they spend as much time on The Tick as possible, whether in or out of his suit a la Deadpool. If it is, I advise they spend more of their time on better, funnier jokes in the future.
This is assuming The Tick has a future. I will say I genuinely hope it does if nothing but to see what little character development we are given pay off and to see "average" fulfill its promises of being "good."
[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
The Tick - Pilot Director: Wally Pfister Writer: Ben Edlund Studio: Amazon Studios