He is the wild blue yonder.
There have been many comic book movie adaptations, yet one medium that seems ignored for your basic superhero is television. In the fall of 2001, a little goofy comic book character named The Tick tried to change all that. Filling in for the live action version of the popular blue hero was actor Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld), fighting crime alongside his sidekick Arthur (David Burke, Party of Five), the stunning and dangerous Captain Liberty (Liz Vassey, Push, Nevada), and the sexual dynamo Batmanuel (the indispensable Nestor Carbonell, Suddenly Susan). Cancelled after only eight episodes, The Tick makes its return to your TV screen in a two-disc set, The Tick: The Entire Series, care of Columbia Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
When danger is imminent, he's there. When right is being wronged, he'll lend a hand. And when things get too complex…well, The Tick just doesn't have a clue. Patrick Warburton stars as the giant blue bug of justice, a crime fighting super machine that's long on muscle and short on brainpower. After befriending a meek accountant-turned-superhero named Arthur (he's a moth, not a bunny), The Tick quickly finds his home among a group of crime fighters that have funny looking suits and even funnier names: Captain Liberty (Captain America's cousin, perhaps?) and Batmanuel, a third rate Batman-wannabe whose super power appears to be fawning over his female conquests (including Miss Liberty). As we follow along on The Tick and Company's adventures we're privy to their secret lives and intimate problems, including attempting to get dates, dry cleaning their super suits, and getting stuck inside the rear ends of large villainous robots. It's all in a day's work for The Tick.
Included on this disc are nine episodes from the TV show (from liner card):
"The Pilot": Cosmic forces have forged The Tick and Arthur into a righteous sandwich of justice! But can they cut the mustard in time to save Jimmy Carter from the deadly clutches of cold war villain The Red Scare?
"The Terror": Earth's oldest and most dangerous super criminal, The Terror, awakens from his geriatric slumber to unleash his "terror gas" upon The Tick's domain. Do our heroes have what it takes to beat up and old man and save The City?
"Arthur, Interrupted": After Arthur drops the bombshell of his heroic new "lifestyle choice" on his family, he is quickly committed to Francis Peacock's Superhero Deprogramming Center for treatment. Can The Tick and friends devise a plan to bust their chum out in time?
"The License": In an attempt to obtain a superhero license, The Tick discovers his true identity, one complete with a home, a white picket fence, and even a wife! What will The Tick choose: this newfound suburban paradise or the saucy life of a superhero?
"Arthur Needs Space": The Tick is utterly baffled by Arthur's decision to spend time with his high-school dream girl. Does this spell the end of the Dynamic Duo or will Arthur choose The Tick as his mate for life in an action paced marriage of justice?
"Couples": The Tick and Arthur spend a night on the town with the dysfunctional duo of Fiery Blaze and his sidekick Friendly Fire. When the partnership is abruptly extinguished, will it be our boys who wind up getting burned?
"The Funeral": When Captain Liberty shares an amorous evening with America's most popular superhero, The Immortal, she discovers that his name is a bit of a misnomer. Can The Tick and Arthur ensure that the legacy of the champion is able to rest in peace?
"The Tick Vs. Justice": When The Tick is called into court as a witness to the crimes of the evil Destroyo, he finds that the judicial system can be a harsh mistress indeed. Will The Tick find a way to allow justice to prevail or has he fought the law and the law won?
"The Big Leagues": The Tick and Arthur are invited to join the ranks of the elite and ultra-prestigious League of Superheroes. But when their friends are not asked to come along, will our boys bow to peer pressure or thumb their noses at the pretentious collection of heroes?
I like the idea of making fun of superheroes. For years, Hollywood has immortalized them onscreen with their super villains and super powers and all that other super stuff. But when you really sit down and think about isn't it all just super silly? I mean, sure, you've got the power of flight or can freeze people with just a glance—does that mean you have to dress in spandex and fight crime? Couldn't you just as well flash freeze the meat you bought at Costco rather than the local cat burglar? And what, exactly, do super heroes do on their off time if they're not Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne? Sit around a rundown diner and talk shop?
Or, maybe no one really cares. How else can you explain The Tick's abrupt cancellation after only a few episodes? Maybe viewers didn't get it, or maybe the marketing people just didn't know how to sell this weird hybrid of Superman, a Coen brothers film, and The Naked Gun. Created by Ben Edlund and co produced by Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black), The Tick turned cartoon antics into real life buffoonery. Think Friends meets Batman and you'll have a good idea of what this show tried to be.
After watching the entire season on DVD, I have concluded that The Tick most likely deserved to be cancelled. Before I get angry letters from fanboys everywhere, I want to say that while the show was a failure, it was the noblest of failures: the writing was fast and zippy and many of the actors played their parts with zeal. So what went wrong? Basically, the concept grew stale by about the fifth episode. Yes, Patrick Warburton was funny as The Tick (does anyone play deadpan better?), and Nestor Carbonell's Batmanuel had me in stitches every time he egotistically bat-strutted through the bat-door. Yet I started to find myself growing bored with the concept—I realize this was a comedy, but couldn't there have been a little more action? The villains weren't half as interesting as The Tick's crew (The Terror was a big geriatric let down) and often the writing felt like it was trying to be clever just to say "hey look, isn't this witty dialogue?"
Complaints aside, these episodes will surly thrill comic book fans the world over. For instance, I liked The Tick's raging battle with his toilet—you'll never look at your commode the same way again. And only the most brazenly cold hearted wouldn't smile at a scene involving a batch of geeky hero sidekicks who all appear to need more than just a little therapy. Even some of the guest spots are funny—Dave Foley (Newsradio) and Ron Perlman (Blade II) both pop up in humorous roles.
Because I never got into reading The Hulk or following the adventures of Iron Man, it could be that some of the jokes passed me by. When someone who's familiar with disaster movies watches Airplane!, they're more likely to get the gags. If you know every Fantastic Four storyline by heart, you'll most likely have a ball watching these episodes. Solider on, crime fighting TV watchers!
Every episode of The Tick is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Great leaping insects, these transfers look great! They may not be reference quality, but for a little seen TV show, I was very happy with how the images turned out. Colors and flesh tones are all solid and well defined. Shadow detail was decent with blacks solidly replicated. There are some minor imperfections including a slight amount of edge enhancement. Yes, there are other super hero movies and TV shows that look better than The Tick, but these are fine looking prints.
The soundtrack for each episode is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. There isn't a whole lot to say about these mixes—directional effects and surround sounds are at the bare minimum. However, the music, inane dialogue, and sound effects are all in proper working order. Citizens of DVDville will be happy the clarity of these tracks. Also included on these discs are English closed captions.
You "Tick" fans will be happy to hear about various commentary tracks with producer Barry Sonnenfeld and creator Ben Edlund. Each track is entertaining as Sonnenfeld lets his dry wit run rampant (I liked his discussions about The Tick's remote controlled antennae). Fans of the series will enjoy hearing production info, casting stories, and inside jokes about the show. Also included on this disc are trailers for various Columbia TriStar titles.
If you have the time The Tick: The Entire Series will make for a decent Sunday afternoon rental (and a shorter watch than trying to watch the entire canon of Friends). Columbia has done a fine job on this set and it's nice to see the episodes presented in a widescreen version.
The Tick is found guilty of being a bit overdone, but is set free on bond because he's such a lovable lunkhead.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Tracks by Producer/Director Barry Sonnenfeld and Creator Ben Edlund
Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.