Warning: This review contains minor spoilers from the pilot episode of The Tick.
No matter where you look, it’s not hard to find superheroes on our screens. Marvel has shows on ABC, Netflix, and one developing on Hulu. DC Comics has had TV shows on CBS, Fox, NBC, and the CW, which now hosts five shows in the same universe. Even FX is getting in on the action.
And that’s not counting the dozens of movies made and released in the past few years—and the many films scheduled in the future. And now, thanks to Amazon Studios’ resurrecting The Tick as an original TV series, did we really need another one?
If the premiere episode—which was released Friday as part of Amazon’s latest pilot program—is any indication, that is a resounding yes.
The original Tick premiered in November 2001, starring Seinfeld’s Patrick Warburton and based on Ben Edlund’s creation. It came at a time when superhero shows and films were far less prevalent than they are now. We were only one X-Men movie in, one Blade movie in, Smallville had only been on for a month, and Spider-Man wouldn’t swing into theaters until months later, so while The Tick’s clever, nuanced superhero satire sitcom gained a cult following, it didn’t stick around very long; Fox canceled it after eight episodes. As some have said, The Tick was ahead of its time.
But now superheroes are more popular than ever. And now is the perfect time to bring in a show that can easily serve as a commentary for comic book shows and films. This iteration of The Tick is “a little darker and a little edgier” than its original (although not so dark that you can’t see what’s going on).
The 30-minute pilot introduces us to Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman), a sidekick in the making who’s convinced that a supervillain long believed to be dead is actually alive and more dangerous than ever—one he had a traumatizing encounter with the day his father died.
In most stories, that would be enough to set Arthur on a path to become a hero in his own right hellbent on revenge. With The Tick, Arthur’s obsession—mostly through pinned detective work and some plausibly attainable tech—is enough to cause his sister, Dot, (Valorie Curry) to be concerned that he’s not on his meds. He’s got a paper trail going back 20 years that leads to a famous photo. And before he knows it, the Tick (Peter Serafinowicz) enters his life and turns it upside down because “when destiny speaks, she speaks to me.” (Destiny also says hello.)
Self-aware, clever, and not too over the top, The Tick’s pilot sets up high stakes and turns superhero tropes on its head while trying to set up its sidekick origin story. Its larger than life titular character shines without hogging the spotlight entirely, which is particularly impressive given the shadow Warburton left on the Tick. The Terror’s (Jackie Earle Haley) brief appearance is delightfully campy, Arthur’s portrayal captures the subtleties of the character. And Dot, more in a parental role in the pilot episode, shows promise. The wit in the original comic shines through to newcomers and diehard fans alike. You don’t need to be a comic book or Tick fan to enjoy it, but it certainly helps.
Before the show’s end, The Tick manages to poke fun at one conspiracy that might have fans theorizing before long. Less self-containing than most half-hour comedies, The Tick clearly has a story to tell. But how will it go? If you take it from the Tick himself, “It’s supposed to be dangerous. And interesting.”
The Tick is currently streaming on Amazon Video.