Amazon Prime’s “The Tick” is one of the best new superhero TV shows in quite some time. We’ve gotten so used to the Netflix-Marvel collaborations on superhero shows that we’ve forgotten what they’ve been missing: some genuine humor and a sense of self-awareness. Amazon’s reboot of “The Tick” will make you laugh, and it will also make you re-think what a modern superhero show should be. In short, Amazon’s reboot of “The Tick” is phenomenal.
The comedy in “The Tick” operates on two very different levels. Of course, there are all the acts of physical comedy – the hapless Arthur Everest (played by Griffin Newman) flying out a window while trying to be a superhero, or dastardly villains being taken out by car tires landing zanily on their heads. But there is also the quick-witted banter between The Tick (played by Peter Serafinowicz) and Arthur as they grow into their roles as super-crime fighters.
Often, the humor is tongue-in-cheek humor, not the obvious type of jokes you might expect from a weekly TV sitcom. The show is quirky, a bit goofy, and it never takes itself too seriously. The Tick has all the trappings of a Marvel superhero – like the bright blue body suit – but then, again, he has those ridiculous antennae and lines of dialogue that are ridiculously pompous. Even if you never grew up with “The Tick” comic books, you’ll be drawn into the world of these likeable characters.
“Tick” fans know, of course, that this superhero show has undergone various iterations over the past 25 years. In 1994, there was an animated TV series based on the original comic book. And, in 2001, there was a live-action TV series that was variously described as charming, innocent and quirky. But it was definitely low-tech and low-budget.
And that’s where Amazon’s “The Tick” takes things in a whole new direction. It feels like a bigger, more important TV show, more along the lines of an expensively produced episodic show from rival Netflix. For one thing, there are more special effects, more explosions, and more violence than in previous “Tick” iterations. For another thing, there is more back story and more exposition, telling us more about the imaginary world of The Tick. With all this back story comes more viewer buy-in for the show. These are characters, quite simply, that you want to know more about.
One central plot line, of course, involves the hapless Arthur, an office temp who is probably the antithesis of what most people would think of as being a superhero. It is his relationship with The Tick that opens up a whole new plotline for viewers, suggesting that The Tick might just be a figment of his imagination. It is quite possible that he is undergoing an existential crisis, and he is simply looking for ways to step outside the confines of the real world to experience a new, imaginary world in which he is both a central figure and a superhero.
And it is not just Arthur who appears to be having a crisis, either. The Tick, too, seems to be undergoing an existential crisis as well. He, too, is trying to figure out his role in the world. Thus, the partnership between Arthur and The Tick works on several different levels – it is obviously a partnership designed to bring down the villains of the city, but it is also a partnership in which both individuals are trying to figure out their roles in the world. You can see, then, that this is really a thinking person’s superhero comedy.
It’s impossible, of course, to talk about “The Tick” without also talking about how it fits into Amazon’s approach to programming. What’s unique about “The Tick” is how it was originally released as a half-season (episodes 1-6) on August 25, 2017. The next 6 episodes are coming February 23, 2018. While there might be other factors responsible for the split release of two sets of episodes, Amazon says that it was done “to curb binge-ing.”
That’s right – Amazon has structured the show so that fans wouldn’t just binge once during a weekend and then move on to the next show. “The Tick” is meant to be enjoyed over time. This is a show that looks and feels exactly like a big-budget Netflix show, but it’s meant to be consumed differently. It’s almost as if Amazon is trying to tell the viewer: “Look, this is a new type of superhero drama, and it’s meant to be consumed in a new way.”
In “The Tick,” the world in which the crimefighters and villains exist is simply referred to as The City. It is evocative of “Gotham” – urban, gritty and filled with small-time underworld crooks. And the city also has a shadowy nemesis known only as The Terror (played by Jackie Earle Haley). These villains populate a world of good and evil, and provide a weekly challenge for The Tick and Arthur.
This world of good and evil is what gives this show so much structure and character. This version moves beyond the flat, 2-D characters of the comic book to give us real-life villains in 3-D. This is a show that we can really enjoy, as we see our new favorite crime fighter deal with the shadowy villains of The City.
For Amazon, it’s clear that “The Tick” has already become a huge hit with Internet viewers. The show has a staggering 92% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, proof that it is really connecting with audiences. The success of “The Tick” suggests that the episodic superhero show really did need a reboot. It needed a new approach, filled with more humor and self-awareness. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that the title character is a goofy, bright blue superhero with antennae!