The Tick review The new, 10-episode Amazon series isn't a grim-and-gritty reboot, exactly — but its dark-ish tone will surprise some fans of Ben Edlund's superhero spoof.
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He's Big, He's Blue, And Now, He's Bingeable: 'The Tick' Returns

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He's Big, He's Blue, And Now, He's Bingeable: 'The Tick' Returns

He's Big, He's Blue, And Now, He's Bingeable: 'The Tick' Returns

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/544475312/545739284" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. He is big. He's blue. And now he's binge-able (ph). He is the Tick, a cult favorite parody superhero. Tomorrow, 10 episodes of a new "Tick" television series debut on Amazon. NPR's Glen Weldon says it's a familiar sort of superhero story but is told in a very different way.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOUG KATSAROS' "'THE TICK' THEME")

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: The Tick's been around since 1986. And he's bungled his way through comics, a Saturday morning cartoon and a short-lived live-action series in 2001. Here's what you need to know going into the new series. The Tick is a superhero in a city called The City. Played by Peter Serafinowicz, he's a mountain of muscle in a bright blue costume topped by two very expressive antennae, which bend and curl like the ears of a Doberman. No, you're right. Real ticks aren't blue, and they don't have antennae. But just go with it.

As for his super powers, he sums them up nicely to his would-be sidekick in the first episode.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TICK")

PETER SERAFINOWICZ: (As The Tick) I'm a superhero, Arthur. I'm nigh invulnerable. I have the reflexes of an Olympic-level jungle cat. I have the strength of 10, perhaps 20 men - a crowded bus stop of men. But my greatest power is this - when destiny speaks, she speaks to me. She says hi, by the way.

WELDON: He's got skills, sure. But he's not a thinker.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TICK")

SERAFINOWICZ: (As The Tick) Oh, I always let destiny do the melon work, friend. Thought is not my area of expertise. Goodness, no (laughter).

WELDON: The thinking gets done by that nebbishy sidekick, Arthur, an anxiety-ridden accountant in a moth costume played in the new series by Griffin Newman.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TICK")

GRIFFIN NEWMAN: (As Arthur) I'm taking my medication. I have an apartment here in The City - my own apartment, you know? I have a job. I'm a together person.

WELDON: Through every previous iteration, "The Tick" has really been Arthur's story told from the sidekick's perspective. The Amazon series doubles down on that by supplying Arthur with - wait for it - a tragic back story. His father was killed by an elderly supervillain played here with wheezy gusto by Jackie Earle Haley.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TICK")

JACKIE EARLE HALEY: (As The Terror) I've always been here because I'm alive, you punk, living inside your pathetic little skull.

WELDON: This Arthur is a guy who's living with mental illness. And the series raises the question of whether The Tick truly exists or is instead a manifestation of Arthur's id.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TICK")

NEWMAN: (As Arthur) You're real?

SERAFINOWICZ: (As The Tick) Don't get stuck on trivia, man. We got a tiger by the tail.

WELDON: It raises that question and answers it soon enough. And I won't spoil it here. But it's not played strictly for laughs, which is surprising for "The Tick." Superheroes are always getting grim and gritty makeovers. And this isn't that exactly. But it is less broad, less silly, than previous versions. It's - it's still pretty silly, though.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TICK")

SERAFINOWICZ: (As The Tick) Light against darkness, up against down - a struggle as old as time but with a beat you can dance to.

WELDON: As in those previous versions, the series has a great time making fun of overblown superhero narration with its soaring music and tortured metaphors.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TICK")

SERAFINOWICZ: (As The Tick) Destiny's got her hand way, way up in their puppets. It's an unpleasant tingling, the deepest of wriggles.

WELDON: It takes a couple episodes for the two leads to hit upon the right chemistry. But they do find it, which is really what matters because it's that chemistry that allows them to be what The Tick and Arthur need to be, two hapless, broken, horribly overmatched heroes who come to realize that they are each other's destiny. Glen Weldon, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHRONESIS, JULIAN ARGUELLES AND FRANKFURT RADIO BIG BAND'S "UNTITLED #1")

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