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‘The Tick’ review: Amazon Prime’s comedic superhero struggles to uncover conspiracy

Ben Edlund's superhero satire that started life as a comic in 1988 begins streaming as a live-action series Friday, Aug. 25, on Amazon. (Credit: Amazon Video)


WHEN | WHERE The first six episodes start streaming Friday on Amazon Prime.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT The Tick is a boisterous blue superhero with expressive antennae but little in the way of brains. As immense as he is dense, this self-appointed protector enlists as his sidekick a mild-mannered human accountant named Arthur. Together they battle equally absurd baddies usually more preoccupied with petty squabbles than plans for world domination.

This is enough to have inspired creator Ben Edlund’s ’80s comic books, ’90s cartoon show, 2001 Fox comedy with Patrick Warburton and now a second live-action outing — this time for Amazon Prime, with Peter Serafinowicz as the big-hearted buffoon. The folks at Fox (which aired TV’s first two incarnations) and Sony (the studio behind the latter two) seem obsessed by The Tick. So do live-action returnees such as executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld (“Men in Black”) and even Warburton, a producer for Amazon’s take.

MY SAY It’s easy to see why they try and try again. The Tick and his compadres may be crazed cartoons but they’re rendered richly human. Their attitudes (lovingly) lampoon a self-serious genre that everyone knows — and that, in times of overkill (i.e., now), everyone has had enough of. “Destiny’s on the line, Arthur, and she’s calling collect!” bellows The Tick. “Accept the charges!”

It’s a mien to which Serafinowicz brings the bona fides. A longtime confederate of British spoofster Simon Pegg (sharing time in “Spaced” and “Shaun of the Dead”), Serafinowicz joined American absurdist Will Arnett in the Fox flop “Running Wilde,” another specifically spiced concoction. Serafinowicz nails his characters. But for those who recall Fox’s original live-action comedy, the oft-obtuse Warburton (“Seinfeld’s” Puddy) has already inhabited Edlund’s Tick like a second skin.

Serafinowicz’s puffed-up obliviousness, and attendant Tick verbosity, can initially feel like an echo. Yet it’s soon clear he’s playing different emotional notes. For his Tick, both uber-confidence and hurt feelings spring from some deeper inner well. Arthur, too (Griffin Newman, “Vinyl”), has more of a story, involving loss, disillusionment, and a need for heroes.

And meds. The Tick appears and disappears. Yet he’s real. Right? “When destiny speaks,” The Tick proclaims, “she speaks to me.” But Arthur is hearing — something? — too. Ditto the villains, the aptly monikered Ms. Lint (Yara Martinez) and boss man Ramses (Michael Cerveris), a Minnesota native whose unlikely name reflects his insistence that “Branding is power! Do you not get that?”

Through three episodes, proliferating baddies embellish the tapestry. But as a fan of the Fox com, I miss Tick’s regular band of semihero compadres (Nestor Carbonell as Batmanuel, Liz Vassey as Captain Liberty). I miss its camaraderie between Arthur and The Tick, who intersect here almost by random accident. Is such comparison fair? Probably not. But it’s in my head, which is where Serafinowicz’s Tick could well insinuate himself, given a few more adventures to embroider the train of destiny’s ballgown.

BOTTOM LINE This “Tick” moves like a movie, each episode more a chapter in an extended tale than a half-hour payoff. Binge it, hapless citizens!


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