The Tick (2017)


UPDATE: this review stands, but scroll to the bottom for my second-viewing reactions. 

I wanted to love the new live-action series The Tick, but as of this writing I only kind of like it.

I’ll lead with this: the 2001 series, starring Patrick Warburton, is my definitive Tick. The sheer Warburtonlessness of the 2017 series is a hurdle that could only have been cleared if Peter Serafinowicz (playing The Tick) was allowed to go full Warburton in his delivery of the lines.

Clearly, my standard is not a fair one for judging this particular series, most especially because the creator of the characters, Ben Edlund, is involved in this project and wrote the first two episodes. Also, it’s completely unfair to ask an actor to be more like an actor who wouldn’t or couldn’t take the part.

2017’s The Tick, now streaming free on Amazon Prime, does give us a satisfying amount of superhero action. I like this much more than the 2001 Tick’s “noises off” gags where we can only hear the fight. And the fights are funny! Well done!

My biggest “fair” gripe, then, is Arthur. We spend six episodes—the entire first season—on what is essentially his origin story. It begins with Arthur as a very sad, broken, PTSD-suffering shell of a young man. To my eye it aims at dark comedy, and ends up joylessly gritty. As first episodes go, it’s not really “best foot forward.” By episode three we begin to pull out of that humorless place, but that’s an episode and a half too late.

(This is probably going to put me in a bad way with hard-core Tick fans, because the episodes I liked the least were the ones written by the man who created the characters to begin with.)

Episodes five and six pulled the whole shebang out of its slump, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. To me they feel like the true beginning of the series. They’re also the last two episodes of the currently available season, making them quite a bit less satisfying. The show stops just as it starts to get good.

Update: Second Viewing

So… I watched it a second time and it was *much* better. Arthur’s character arc became less miserable, The Tick’s characterization became fixed as the right one, and I no longer have any misgivings recommending it to people. Familiarity bleeds contempt? Dunno.