Amazon’s revival of The Tick is finally upon us — well, the first six episodes anyway — and it is a delightful mix of everything which made previous Tick TV shows shine with a few new great wrinkles.
Peter Serafinowicz does an amazing job as the title character. Both in his narration and in his interactions with those around him, he’s very much the cartoon character come to life. I suppose it helps that he is backed by Tick creator Ben Edlund and a staff of writers who know how to craft strange Tick-style aphorisms and spot the right moment to highlight the character’s difficulty with the mundane. His reaction to a pair of slippers is a particular highlight. But beyond those most popular elements of the character, Serafinowicz brings a new sensitivity to the character whenever Arthur (Griffin Newman) rejects him. He also finds a way to make that lovable “old chum” persona occasionally abrasive as Arthur attempts to maintain a normal life.
And that normal life injects the new series with an interesting dimension. As a boy, Arthur watched his father die as collateral damage during a supervillain attack. Never convinced that the villain, known as The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley), died during the ensuing battle, he worried his family with his obsession.
Consequently, the Tick entering his life puts his sister Dot (Valorie Curry), her mother Joan (Patricia Kalember) and step-father Walter (François Chau) on guard; granted the latter two fall in love with the Tick immediately. But the entire first half of the season is focused on Arthur learning that his apparent anxiety issues may not be what they seem and that he was correct all along. In fact, the first two episodes play with the idea that The Tick may be in Arthur’s mind, but quickly pushes that aside for far more interesting notions. Through it all, Newman offers a great performance as the beleaguered and often terrified Arthur.
Each iteration of The Tick plays with various superheroes tropes and in this version we get a large dosage of a Punisher style anti-hero in the form of Overkill (Scott Speiser). The character gleefully murders five goons in his first appearance and plays up to every fed-up loaner comic book hero trope while, at the same time, mocking the cliches. Also, he lives with Dangerboat, the real star of the show.
I’m kidding, he’s in it for something like seven minutes.
Permanently docked along the river, Dangerboat is a high tech watercraft with a sentient AI (voiced by Alan Tudyk). When he’s not remixing his theme song, he’s haranguing Overkill for being, well, overkill. He might be a parody of Knight Rider‘s crime-solving car KITT, but he’s an inspired parody I hope to see more of in the second half of the first season. Seriously, he might be my favorite thing about the whole show.
Meanwhile, on the villainy side of things, the show introduces us to Ms. Lint, a static-charged embodiment of evil in desperate need of a lint roller. Once the Terror’s top aide, she’s fallen on hard times and played with put-upon brilliance by Yara Martinez. As much as the first six episodes are about Arthur excepting a hero’s role, they are also about Lint rediscovering evil. The results are often hilarious and some of the best work in the show thus far.
Of course, the show is not without a few flaws. Dot never really gets developed and spends most of the story tutting Arthur. An aside to a naked man growing exponentially in size is not as inspired as it should be. Every so often, a punchline will feel shockingly dated (Viagra jokes). Also, the frantic feel of the program will appeal to many — like this reviewer — but it’s easy to see how it would feel oppressive and off-putting to others. Finally, and this might be petty, but most of the computer effects look cheap.
But the show finds its strengths in performance and writing very quickly, deftly moving from comedy to jeopardy and back again. It sets up fantastic punchlines, but also manages to make Arthur’s struggle with anxiety feel real. Even when he’s wearing a moth-inspired supersuit. The Tick opened strong and I hope it sticks the landing when the next batch of episodes debut later this year.