on 1 December 2004
An American friend of mine recommended this to me, saying that once I had watched it I would be writing to the Fox network, cursing them for cancelling such an amazing show and demanding a new series.
He was not wrong.
Having been a massive fan of The Tick cartoon I was a bit hesitant about a live action version, but this is one of those unfortunately rare animals - a clever, well written American comedy that doesn't rely on cheesy wise-cracks and canned laughter. In fact, the writing is very remeniscent of Sonnefields Men in Black. The humour is very well observed, and deadpan in the extreme, delivered by some of the best comedy actors it has been my pleasure to watch in a long time. Patrick Warburton was born to play the Tick, David Burke makes a suitably neurotic Arthur, and Liz Vassey shines as Captain Liberty, but for me Nestor Carbonell steals the show as Hispanic lothario Batmanuel.
Only nine episodes were commissioned by Fox - apparently they were after something quirky and different. They cancelled the show because it was quirky and different. Proof positive that the bean counters just didn't get it.
The DVD itself is a little thin on extras - a handful of mildly amusing commentries by Sonnenfield and Edlund and that's about it. All nine episodes are included, and the picture and sound are perfect transfers. I am a little at a lost as to why they felt the need to release 9 episodes on 2 discs, but hey, it's a miracle it got released in the first place.
If you're a fan of the Tick, buy this now. If you're a fan of Sonnenfield, buy this now. In fact, just buy this now.
on 30 June 2009
I am completely rewriting this review in hopes of providing an as accurate and detailed as possible comparison between the live action version of The Tick and the animated series as I possibly can. I'll be the first one to admit that I am always a number of years behind when it comes to discovering shows. I'm not sure why that is, but looking back on it now, I feel as if I must have spent most of my life living under a rock, especially during the late 80's and nearly all of the 90's. Until about a month ago, I had only ever heard of the live action version of The Tick because it was mentioned in the first episode of Family Guy Season 4. I never gave it another thought, until I learned of the existance of the animated series as part of my on-going quest to attempt to collect every cartoon I can get my hands on that Rob Paulsen did voice work for.
After reading a number of reviews of both versions of this show, I realized that I simply had to add them to my collection. I got my version of the animated series from Amazon.uk, so I have all 36 glorious episodes. As someone who grew up watching Danger Mouse and Count Duckula, and who now lives for watching shows like Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain and the 1980's version of the teenage mutant ninja turtles, I absolutely adore this type of silly humor. According to a number of the reviews I've read, the live action version of the Tick seemd to compare favorably with Seinfeld, which I own all nine seasons of and have always enjoyed immensely. Now that I've watched through this series twice, I would have to agree that that comparison is definitely a fair one to make. Before I formally begin my review, however, I feel it's only fair to warn you that I'm writing this review as a totally blind individual. So, I can't make any comments regarding which show has better visuals; all my observations strictly pertain to the audio aspects of the show.
OK. On to the review. I'll start by comparing and contrasting the four main characters which were featured in both the cartoon and live action versions of the series. Since the live action Tick series is so often compared to Seinfeld, I will also try to relate my character descriptions to that show as well as I can.
The Tick is voiced by Townsend Coleman in the animated series and played by patrick warburton in the live action series. To me, both versions of the show's main character are really great, but in different ways. Both versions of The Tick make a lot of hilariously nonsensical speeches. Both are extremely silly and incredibly clueless in many respects, but it seems to me that the cartoon tick is slightly more worldly than his live action counterpart. Best example: in Season 3 of the animated series, Tick is trying to encourage Arthur to kiss Carmelita. In the live version, Tick seems to be utterly clueless about romance: trying to accompany Arthur on his date with Stacey and otherwise interfearing with their relationship. Both versions of the Tick have a lot of really great and memorable lines: "Keen!" "spoon!" and "Arthur, honk if you love justice" from the cartoon Tick and "a secret message from my teeth," "absodoodle," and "Wicked men, you face the Tick!" from the live action Tick. One of my favorite scenes from the live action series is when Tick is talking to the toilet as if its a villin while he's trying to clean it out. The only truely negative aspect I found with the Tick's character was in the live action series when he calls the vending machine his b*tch, something which I didn't find at all appropriate, especially given the otherwise seemingly child-like, innocent nature of the live-action version of the character. Don't get me wrong. That particular line would have been even more shocking and inappropriate coming from the cartoon Tick, but it really stood out to me because of the way the live action tick was otherwise portrayed. If one wishes to relate the live action Tick series to Seinfeld, in spite of his overwelming stupidity, I suppose that The Tick would probably be closest to Jerry's character mostly because he's the main character.
In Season 1 of the animated series, Arthur is voiced by Micky Dolenz after which Rob Paulsen takes over for the remaining two seasons of the series. David Burke plays the part of Arthur in the live action series. In my opinion, both Micky Dolenz and Rob Paulsen do a superb job voicing this character, although I would personally give the slight edge to Rob Paulsen as he just does a slightly better job bringing Arthur to life for me. To be perfectly honest, they actually sound so amazingly similar to each other that I might not have even noticed the difference if I hadn't been specificly listening for it after reading about the change between seasons one and two beforehand. I have a feeling that this could probably be the primary reason why I'm just not particularly fond of the live action version of Arthur. First of all, David Burke doesn't even sound remotely similar to either Micky Dolenz or Rob Paulsen. I just think that they could have tried a little harder to find someone who sounded at least a little more similar to the original character. After watching a few episodes of the live action series, however, I managed to more or less accept the all-too noticeable change in Arthur's voice. Never-the-less, for some reason which I still haven't managed to figure out, live action Arthur is probably my least favorite character from either version of the series. My feelings about live action Arthur are difficult to put into words, but I think the best way to describe the contrast between the two versions of the character is to say that at least to me, the cartoon Arthur is simply a lot more likeable. While you can tell by his tone that Arthur in the animated series is often frustrated with, if not outright annoyed by the Tick's stupidity, you can also tell that the two of them are always a team, and that Arthur serves as the brains of the outfit and does his best to look after Tick and attempt to keep him at least somewhat grounded in reality. In the live action version of the show, however, no matter how much they talk about it being to the contrary, I just can't quite sense any genuine teamwork vibe. Live action Arthur seems to be a lot more demanding and argumentative, and he occasionally comes across as being almost mean to Tick. Also, when it comes to worldly matters, I almost think that live action Arthur would have been better suited to be pared with cartoon Tick. Best example: in the cartoon, it turns out that poor Arthur is too shy to kiss Carmelita, his supposedly steady girlfriend, while on the other hand, live action Arthur appears to be significantly more interested in dating and possibly even having sex. Personality wise, I'd say that live action Arthur can best be compared to George Kostanza on Seinfeld, which makes it even more difficult for me to determine my reasons for not liking him. George is most definitely my favorite Seinfeld character, but I think the problem is that all the personality traits that make George so loveable to me just don't work in the context of Arthur. Besides, cartoon Arthur is probably my favorite character from either series, so to be perfectly honest, it would be pretty tough for live action Arthur to compare favorably.
In the cartoon, we have the character Die Fladermaus, who is voiced by Cam Clarke. This character is replaced in the live action series by a character named Batmanuel, a pun almost worthy of the animated series, who is played by Nestor Carbonell. It's not entirely fair to compare these two since they're technicly completely different characters, but surprisingly, they're actually quite similar to each other. Both of them have huge egos, are total cowards and both seem to be more interested in talking to women than actually being superheroes. To continue the Seinfeld analogy, I suppose it would be accurate to say that Bat Manuel would be the Kramer of the group.
Last, but certainly not least, we have our female lead character. In the animated series, her name is American Maid, another spectacularly bad pun reminiscent of Dangermouse or Count Duckula, and she's voiced by Kay Lenz. The live action series gave us Captain Liberty who was played by Liz Vassey. In my opinion, American Maid and Captain Liberty actually sound remarkably similar to one another, which only serves to add to my frustration regarding Arthur. I really like American Maid a lot. She doesn't take crap from anyone, and she somehow manages to keep Tick moderately focused in situations where Arthur has been kidnapped or is otherwise in danger. She's also quite a decent superhero. Captain Liberty strikes me as being fairly similar to American Maid in many respects. I think the Seinfeld analogy can best be used here because more than anything else, Captain Liberty reminds me of Elaine from Seinfeld.
Now that I've done my best to describe all of the main characters from both versions of this series, I'll try to compare the actual shows themselves. I simply can't think of the words to describe the animated series in particular. The only way I can describe it is to say that it takes the absurdity of shows like Red Dwarf and Monty Python to a whole new level. It's so off-the-wall and original that there really isn't anything that I'm aware of that I can compare it to. It's pure silliness, and that is most definitely meant as a complement. The humor is nonstop, yet somehow, they always managed to keep it squeaky clean. The villins in the animated series are just so deliciously bizarre: Chair Face, Charles the brainchild, El Seed, Mr. Mental, Venus, The Mother of Invention, The Deadly Bulb, The Fin and of course, who could forget the midnight bomber what bombs at midnight. Unfortunately, the only major villins mentioned in the live action series are the red scare, Apocalypse Cow and Destroyo. In all fairness, though, as I learned by listening to a couple of commentaries, the live action series was intended to be more focused on the characters' down time when they weren't fighting villins.both versions of the show feature The Terror, though, which I must admit is extremely awesome.
A few lines and situations are shared between both versions of the show, most noteably in the first episode when Tick sees Arthur's apartment for the first time and when Tick states that gravity is a harsh mistress.
Aside from its favorable comparison to Seinfeld, another positive thing I can say about the live action series is that its theme music is much better. As much as I love the animated series, that theme is just really awful. Once it gets stuck in your head, it refuses to leave, and I think it would have been really cool to hear the animated Tick do an intro to the show similar to that in the live action series. I must confess that at first, I just couldn't get into the live action version of The Tick. Even as similar as it is to Seinfeld: four main characters and lots of relationship issues, that just wasn't enough to make it worth watching at first. My initial impression was that although it had a few laugh out loud moments, so much of the humor had been changed to suit an adult audience that it just fell flat for me. The animated series never needed to resort to bad language to make a joke. I even went as far as to sell my first copy of the live action series to a friend who was extremely happy to get it, but for some reason, I couldn't get the show out of my head so ended up deciding to repurchase it when I found it for under $10. I don't know if there was something magical in my second copy having the pretty blue case which the live action series was originally released in, but for some reason, I absolutely loved it the second time I watched it. Even live action Arthur was significantly less hateful to me than he was the first time I watched the live action series. I think it also may have helped that I took the time to listen to all four of the commentaries the second time around with the live action series, which helped me to understand and appreciate it a lot more.
Bottom line: while for me, The Tick animated series will always be the definitive version, the live action series is almost as enjoyable in many respects, and I would highly recommend you checking it out. I'm really happy I learned of the Tick's existance, even if I am almost 15 years behind the times.