Thursday, April 15, 2010

Underrated TV on DVD #8: The Tick

Series: The Tick
Years: 1994-1996, 3 seasons, 36 half-hour episodes
Creator: Ben Edlund
Stars: Townsend Coleman, Mickey Dolenz (yes, the Monkee, later replaced by Rob Paulson)

The Concept: In a town with too many superheroes, a maniacal idiot with the invulnerability of a tick takes on a new sidekick: an accountant in a flying moth costume. The result is the most deranged and clever thing that ever aired on Saturday morning.
Recommended If You’re a Fan Of: “Rocky and Bullwinkle”, “The Simpsons”
How it Came to be Underrated: This show was wildly popular with college students and hipsters, who dragged themselves out of bed to watch it, but that demographic wasn’t who the advertisers wanted to speak to at that time of day, so the show struggled to stay on the air. Afterwards, strange legal issues kept it off DVD for a long time.

Sample Episode: 1.2, The Tick Vs. Chairface Chippendale
Writers: Ben Edlund and Richard Liebmann-Smith
The Story: The Tick and Arthur team up with the American Maid to take down Chairface, who wants to write his name on the face of the moon.

Why It’s Great:
  1. Along with “Ren and Stimpy”, this represents a transitional period in which very smart people were trying to do bold work within a very hidebound old form. Eventually, with the rise of Adult Swim and other new venues, bizarro animation would find a more stable home, but at this point they just had to keep freaking out little kids (except for the weird kids, who were delighted that someone was finally speaking their language)
  2. So many lines from this series still spring unbidden into my head, all these years later. From this episode, it’s the moment when a alligator bites off Arthur’s bowtie and he shouts in triumphant mockery: “Ha! Didn’t expect a clip-on, did ya??”
  3. It’s easy to write bad superhero satire. Just have someone shout out: “hey, you’re all wearing tights!” To do it well, you have to accept the conventions of the genre and then slowly, like a frog in boiling water, increase the absurdity. Anyone can make fun of superheroes, but it’s a lot funnier when you explore how crazy the world would have to be in which such people could take themselves seriously.
  4. The heroes stop Chairface from writing his name on the moon—in that he only gets as far as “CHA”. Astoundingly, the CHA stays on the moon in the background throughout the rest of the series, which gives you an idea of the attention to detail. (Two seasons later, the Tick did manage to remove the “C”, which didn’t improve things much)
How Available Is It?: It’s on barely-adequate DVDs, but some episodes are inexplicably missing.
But Don’t Take My Word For It: Click through for parts 2 and 3.


Matt Holm said...

...yes, this series just bleeds quotes. My faves include:

"I can't read your crazy moon-language!" (i.e., Spanish, as written by the Tick's mustache)

"Two can play the baby game!"

and my all-time favorite:

"Bucket of fishes!"

detarame said...