There's an episode of The Tick where Arthur, our beloved hero's trusty sidekick, decides to "come out" to his mom and sister as a costumed crime fighter. It doesn't go well. Near the end of a sitcom's length of misadventures, The Tick bestows some of his wisdom upon his friend.
“Not everyone can be as great as us, Arthur,” he says, “but we have to accept them for who they are.”
That might be one of the best pieces of advice to emanate from the small screen. It’s also one of the reasons that The Tick, the live action version, is an unfortunately short-lived work of genius. Buried under mountains of dialog, bizarre situations and even weirder costumes are nine heartfelt stories about acceptance and friendship.
I might have seen The Tick once or twice when it originally aired on Fox. Its run was brief and fell during a period of time when I wasn’t watching much prime time television. The animated series was something I knew well. A few years earlier, I would watch it with my kid brother, who was in middle school at the time and could run on at the mouth for far too long on the adventures of Bed Edlund’s superhero parody.
The short-lived television series based on the indie comic book didn’t become a favorite of mine until years later. It was after The Venture Bros. hit; it’s mostly because of the equally absurd Adult Swim show that I took a new-found interest in The Tick. Christopher McCulloch, who was a writer for The Tick, became Jackson Publick, creator of The Venture Bros. Patrick Warburton, who starred as the titular superhero, went on to play bodyguard extraordinaire Brock Samson. And Edlund himself penned a few episodes of The Venture Bros. There are certain similarities between the shows, mainly a penchant for turning the extraordinary into the ordinary. Both parody the adventurous realms and, in the process, the heroes are beset with pedestrian problems, like self-doubt and the innate ability to fall short of their own expectations. They’re flawed to comical degrees because they’re relatable.
The Tick, though, is a comedy of language. It’s an incredibly wordy show, filled with sharp-witted conversations and bizarre monologues. You will have to watch all nine episodes a few times just to make sure you catch everything that is said. Even then, it’s safe to say you might still miss something. There are a lot of golden lines crammed into a relatively short amount of time.
In true comic book parody, The Tick speaks in mock-poetic fashion. The occasional use of alliteration and rhyme mingle with mixed metaphors and misused SAT words. His soliloquies, always spoken with thunderous bravado, are probably an English teacher’s nightmare. However, they work. You can get lost in the rhythm of Warburton’s speech patterns as The Tick. It’s nearly hypnotizing, but you’ll certainly be freed from the spell once The Tick utters something that makes complete sense. The Tick is cocky, naive and tries way too hard to be the person that everyone will love. Underneath that, though, there’s a certain emotional intelligence to the character that’s really charming.
The more I re-watch these episodes, the more I want to jot down every bit of knowledge The Tick imbues upon the audience. The show is like a self-help book, albeit a strange one that counters every bit of good advice with three pieces of awful advice. Those are probably the only sort of self-help guides worth reading anyway.
Images: 20th Century Fox