Ever wondered why thick-necked, square-jawed Patrick Warburton, who played David Puddy, Elaine’s on/off squeeze in Seinfeld, never got a lead role in a spoof superhero show? Pop quiz fact: he did! But we’re only getting a taste ten years after it was first shown in the US.
Back in the 80s, The Tick was a comic book series. In the 90s it was a hilarious cartoon and finally, in 2001, it was remade as an under-achieving live-action sitcom. The ratings were pitiable and it was cancelled after nine episodes. But here’s the happy kicker: in 2003 it was released on DVD and became a huge cult hit.
So quite why it’s taken UK broadcasters a decade to tickle us with The Tick is unclear. Possibly, no one saw the point in buying a measly nine instalments. Now though, finally, it’s showing on SyFy (Fridays, 9pm). And if you exposed yourself to the superb pilot last week you’ll understand why the channel wanted to give it airtime.
The Tick was conceived as Seinfeld with superheroes and doesn’t fall far short. But it’s more cartoonish, like Scrubs, and the gags are as sharp as anything you’ll hear on Family Guy or Futurama. The Tick’s lines are especially fine. Having eaten a fortune cookie whole and pulled the paper from his mouth, he bellows: "A secret message! From my teeth!” In later instalments, you’ll see him try to comprehend increasingly difficult topics, like mortality. (“So even horses die? And potatoes?”)
Our shiny hero wears a blue suit with free-moving antennae. As you’ve no doubt gathered, he’s catastrophically stupid. But on the plus side, he can jump high, lift heavy loads and he radiates so much self-confidence that insults bounce right off him. In the pilot, The Tick decides the bus station vending machine it’s been his life’s work to protect can get by without him, so he relocates to the city. In his new urban environment, The Tick gets himself a nervous accountant sidekick, Arthur (or Mothman). Later, he befriends occasional bedfellows, Captain Liberty (token hot girl hero) and Batmanuel (Hispanic, goateed lover of women and fighter of crime).
The Tick and Arthur’s first life-saving challenge is to defeat the Red Scare, a robot made by the Soviet Union in the 1970s. It was programmed to kill the president of the USA, which the machine still thinks is Jimmy Carter. They must protect the former commander-in-chief at all costs.
Next time on The Tick, our heroes celebrate their first year working as a team. It’s just a pity they never got a second.