Great TV Shows Taken Before Their Time: The Tick

2001, Fox picked up a live-action adaptation that was almost guaranteed to fail. Long before NBC picked up The Cape for six seasons and a movie or flirted with a Wonder Woman pilot, there was The Tick, a mild-mannered superhero who sported a ridiculously muscular blue tick costume and hung out atop roofs, observing The City for crime. Though it only lasted nine episodes, The Tick remains among the best adaptations of a comic book character. The series was smart, funny, and weird without being annoyingly campy.
Are you denying the snazzy of that?

As a superhero, The Tick has always been a cult-hit. The franchise’s cultural peak was in the mid-90’s where The Tick had a successful three season run as a Saturday morning cartoon on Fox, alongside the network’s X-Men and Spider-Man animated series. Aside from the fact that the casual comic book fan has never even heard of the character, perhaps what sealed its fate is that it remained a little too faithful to its source material. Where Smallville found success by taking a well known superhero who has already seen success in a televised adaptation and explored its origins, The Tick, with its title character faithfully portrayed by Patrick Warburton (Rules of Engagement), was the same cartoon, only re-imagined in live-action form.

The Tick, as a comic book character, is a satire of the masked vigilante superhero. As a satirical work, it is brilliant. The “Big Blue Bug of Justice,” with his dim-witted demeanor and exaggerated catch phrases, is accompanied by his clumsy sidekick Arthur (David Burke), whose moth costume is often mistaken for a bunny. The two befriend a pair of fellow superheroes in Captain Liberty (Liz Vassey, CSI) and Batmanuel (Nestor Carbonell, Lost) who provide the series on-again, off-again romance.
“Well, good gravy! We are a well-oiled machine!”
Captain Liberty, ladies and gentlemen.

While The Tick comic book and animated series presented a long list of super villains that were parodic to the goons who often rivaled Batman, the sitcom saw very little action between its heroes and villains. Focusing itself more on character development, The Tick explored the relationships between fellow superheroes in a world that did not yet fully understand or accept them. In one episode, for example Arthur struggles with the decision to keep this new-found career path closeted from his family, with Captain Liberty offering support as the voice of reason, convincing him to not be ashamed of who he is. A traditional sitcom at heart, this was essentially about four unlikely friends hanging out and bonding over their differences.

As is the case with all beloved shows that were cancelled too soon, there have been whispers about a feature film, and in The Tick‘s case, the rumors appropriately involve a direct-to-DVD release. Although these rumors have persisted in the ten years since Fox pulled the series, there has been less work to see the project through than probably any other cancelled series.

Evildoers, you face The Tick!
While a movie is unlikely, this remains one of the few faithful comic book-to-series adaptations. Its exceptional use of satire makes The Tick one of the funniest sitcoms to have never been given a chance at finding its legs.  If nothing else, this all but confirmed that while it remains difficult for a television show to survive with little more than a cult following, it is impossible for an under-the-radar comic book to find mainstream success in primetime. With the entire series having available on DVD and all nine episodes being featured freely on Hulu, this is one worth checking out.


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