First look Amazon UK TV review: The Tick
Nathanael Smith | On 24, Aug 2017
It isn’t entirely clear why The Tick exists. The blue-suited superhero turns up, seemingly from nowhere, and immediately becomes a part of Arthur’s life. When Arthur, a neurotic accountant with a suspicion of heroes, asks where The Tick has come from, the dim but optimistic super isn’t sure. In the several iterations of The Tick that have so far existed (a comic book, a cartoon and a live-action series), his origins have been different. Thus far, the creators of Amazon’s new adaptation have not yet revealed where this version comes from.
More than that, however, it isn’t clear why The Tick exists as a new series. In an age of superhero saturation, an arguably lesser-known property needs more of a reason to exist, in order to stand out from the crowd. Film and TV has had its straightforward superheroes, its gritty reboots, its funny, violent ones, its cosmic space operas, even shows dedicated to the clean-up team that follows in the wake of superheroes. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun and The Tick arrives without much of a reason to do so. The original comic book series and subsequent cartoon and live-action iterations have a cohort of fans, enough for the pilot to beat competition to get a series. But creatively, this Tick struggles to find a voice that is compelling in its own right.
It comes across as a mixture of Mystery Men and Deadpool, with the sincerity and silliness of the former meeting the winking violence and swearing of the latter. Only, its sense of parody is from the same (now outdated) era as Mystery Men and its darker elements don’t feel as fresh as Deadpool. The violence is distractingly cartoonish, not helped by digital effects that feel as old as its rubbery aesthetic. The kind of superheroes it is parodying (monologuing defenders of justice) have not existed for years, leaving many of the jokes – and its central idea – feeling curiously out of sync with the genre as it is today.
More frustratingly, it isn’t (yet) about anything. Hints in the opening episode indicate that this could go down the route of telling a story about mental health. There are even indications that The Tick himself could be a figment of Arthur’s imagination, a figure who unwittingly unleashes carnage. But even with an amusingly grim back-story for Arthur, and a moving relationship with his sister, this intriguing plot thread ends up under-explored in the first half of Season 1 Part 1 (Part 2 arrives next year). It could have made the show stand out and offer something new, but it is yet to fully commit to the idea.
Yet somehow this new version of The Tick emerges from these core problems as something charming, likeable and occasionally funny. This is thanks, entirely, to Peter Serafinowicz and Griffin Newman. The duo at the heart of The Tick offer fully committed performances, one as a blustering, oblivious hero with a good heart and the other as a perpetually nervous accountant torn between a need for justice and a fear of everything. Serafinowicz blends cluelessness with confidence, while Newman, a less familiar face to British audiences, is a perfectly awkward foil to the bullishness of The Tick.
The show may yet find its feet. There is real chemistry, some sharp writing and a big heart in the early episodes. For it to truly succeed, running on into future seasons and accruing a wider fanbase, it needs to stand a little further out from the crowd and find a voice of its own.
The Tick Season 1 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.