The Tick (2001 TV series)
|Created by||Ben Edlund|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||9|
|Executive producer(s)||Ben Edlund
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Columbia TriStar Television
Sonnefeld/Josephson Worldwide Entertainment
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Original run||November 8, 2001– January 31, 2002|
The Tick is an American sitcom based on the character Tick from the comic book of the same name. It aired on Fox in late 2001 and was produced by Columbia TriStar Television. With a pilot airing on November 8, the series ran nine episodes on broadcast television. It was released to DVD in 2003.
In May 2000, following the 1994 to 1996 animated series The Tick based on an independent comic book character by Ben Edlund, the pilot episode for a Tick live-action series with director Barry Sonnenfeld, production designer Bo Welch, and the four main Tick animated-series writers, Randolph Heard, Richard Liebmann-Smith, Chris McCulloch, and Edlund himself, was completed. Due to budget constraints, additional episodes were shot with several months gap in between filming. Fox had initially wanted to premiere the series in early 2001 as a midseason replacement but opted for their prime time schedule both due to its ratings success and the network's fear of a strike that could have delayed the fall season.
Over a year and a half after its development, The Tick was finally picked up by the network for an 8:30 p.m. prime time slot on Thursday nights. Cast, crew, and journalists expressed early concern over the high stakes slot, with Fox's Sunday night comedy schedule looking more favorable. Nevertheless, Fox Television Entertainment Group president Sandy Grushow assured that promoting The Tick during the World Series would work and that "Baseball is a terrific promotional platform for a show like The Tick." Grushow also noted that if the series were to perform well, the network would have until December 2001 to order new episodes, though they would not likely be ready until late spring or summer at the earliest.
If the show is perceived as merely a superhero show or merely a superhero parody show, I don't think it's going to work on a weekly basis. What's great about the comic book and what was great about the cartoon also has to be great about the live-action show, which is the characters and the interaction of the characters and creating a world that you believe is real. It's a world in which the characters being superheroes is almost a secondary consideration, so that the characters are more important than their costumes.
The 2001 sitcom was the first and only attempt at a live action incarnation of The Tick and debuted five years after a successful, 3-season animated series. While working on the pilot episode, Ben Edlund described the series as "closer in tone to the comic book, favoring character over action, painting a superheroic portrait of genuine human lameness." It features a parody style similar to the animated series and the bulky Patrick Warburton in the title role. Guest appearances include Ron Perlman, Christopher Lloyd, Kurt Fuller, Armin Shimerman, and Dave Foley. The series also featured appearances by then unknowns T.J. Thyne and Missi Pyle. However, obvious changes had to be made for such a diverse format.
The Walt Disney Company inherited Fox's previous children's programming lineup and therefore owned the rights to many of the show's names and trademarks. For this reason, American Maid and Die Fledermaus, two major characters in the animated series, were unable to be written into the new show; they were replaced by Captain Liberty and Batmanuel. Disregarding the back stories given in both the comic books and animated series, the sitcom has The Tick being tricked into moving to (and protecting) The City after irritating employees of a remote bus station he had sworn to protect. It is also more adult oriented, including more sexual innuendo and adult situations. As such, the series virtually eliminated action scenes and significantly reduced emphasis on extravagant supervillains, both of which were often featured in the animated series. Regarding the mature tone, Edlund expressed his desire for less vulgarity, particularly in a moment of the pilot where The Tick said "Java Devil, you are now my bitch." However, Edlund lacked the authority to remove such phrasing.
The Tick's costume, designed by Colleen Atwood, bore a notable difference from previous incarnations in that the Tick's face would be entirely exposed. This eliminated the large pupil-less eyes seen in previous incarnations and allowed Warburton to utilize his expressive face; according to Edlund, "There was no way to cover his eyes and get the same range, intensity, and specificity of emotion. With face unfettered, Patrick has created a three-dimensional, hilarious, totally convincing Tick." The antennae of Tick's mask were also remote-controlled by puppeteer Mark Setrakian for comedic effect. The production design is by Emmy-nominated Michael Wylie.
While Fox has been criticized for its lack of investment in the series, N2Toys produced a line of action figures based on it. The live action Tick ultimately failed to recapture the success of its animated predecessor; however, its popularity was strong enough that the series would be released on DVD in 2003. The series was also responsible for Christopher McCulloch, who wrote for the Tick comic book, animated series, and sitcom, meeting Patrick Warburton during filming. Shortly after, he would cast Warburton as the voice of Brock Samson for his Adult Swim series, The Venture Bros. Tick creator Ben Edlund would also write for The Venture Bros. on occasion.
Concerns regarding the show's time slot were manifested in early 2002 when The Tick was canceled after eight of the nine episodes had aired. According to Patrick Warburton, The Tick performed poorly because Fox did not own the series as they did The Bernie Mac Show and 24. Therefore the network rarely promoted it in the face of popular shows like Survivor: Africa and NBC's Must See TV lineup. Warburton added that despite fan and critical praise, the high production costs further discouraged FOX from giving The Tick a chance. The costs were increased by overtime pay due to a shortened filming schedule. This comprised a six or seven day shooting of each episode shortened to five days. Warburton has repeatedly criticized FOX's mismanagement of the series, reiterating that the network "apparently didn't have a clue."
Despite its short television life, The Tick has been heavily praised by fans and critics and fondly reminisced by cast and crew. Kathie Huddleston of SciFi.com named The Tick a Sci Fi "A Pick" and shared both praise and concern over its longevity:
- "The Tick is extremely well written and produced, with enough special effects to make one a believer in this odd world of superheroes. But can a series that's daring, ingenious, silly and fearless actually make it on network television? We can only hope."
Entertainment Weeklys Dalton Ross gave the series' DVD release an A- rating and commented, "It was too smart. Too funny. Too weird. So, of course, it failed." While not overtly positive, Noel Murray of The A.V. Club commented, "For all The Tick's failings, it was better than most of its broadcast competition two years ago, and it was improving right up until it was yanked off the air."
In 2002, the series' Victoria J. Auth was nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence in Costume Design for Television - Period/Fantasy.
Reflecting on his time on the series, Patrick Warburton commented, "That, to me, was an honor: To get into the blue suit and get to be The Tick. I loved that. I just wish that our beloved Fox network had actually given us a shot instead of killing off the show as they did." In a 2009 interview, Warburton also noted that he still owns one of the Tick suits as a souvenir, and he expressed interest in playing the character in a feature film.
In a 2009 interview, when asked what project he's worked on that did not get its deserved appreciation, Nestor Carbonell named The Tick:
I think it's gotten the love now, on DVD, from people who've discovered it that way, but it obviously didn't last long... Lost is certainly a show that I love, and it's definitely gotten a lot of love, but I think The Tick is one that really could've been nurtured a little bit more. I always love it when people bring it up. It was really a special show.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld called the Tick pilot "the best thing I've ever directed." He has also expressed interest in making a feature film based on the character. Both Sonnenfeld and Barry Josephson have stated that if DVD sales of The Tick were sufficient, they would push for such a project.
|Patrick Warburton||The Tick|
|Liz Vassey||Captain Liberty|
List of episodes
The episodes are listed here in their intended order (according to the DVD release). When they were originally aired on FOX in the United States, they were aired out of order.
|#||Title||Original air date|
|1||"Pilot"||November 8, 2001|
|The Tick, a superhero who has been protecting a small bus station, decides it's time to go to the city when he finds a misplaced bus ticket. Meanwhile Arthur, an accountant with little self-confidence or belief in himself, tries to fulfill his lifelong urge to become a superhero, and loses his job in the process. In their first-ever team up, the Tick and Arthur must thwart the Red Scare, a robot made in the 1970s by the Soviet Union, programed to destroy the US president. Unaware of the present year, the Red Scare seeks to destroy former President Carter.|
|2||"The Terror"||January 31, 2002|
|At Arthur and the Tick's one-year anniversary of becoming a team, the group recalls how Captain Liberty, angry at the Tick for stealing her thunder and for his overconfidence, sics 112-year old villain The Terror on the Tick and Arthur.|
|3||"Arthur, Interrupted"||January 24, 2002|
|At the urging of his friends, Arthur finally "comes out" as a superhero to his family, and reveals his life choice to them. They see him as crazy and immediately attempt an intervention. When he tries to leave, Arthur is forcibly taken to a psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile the Tick grows concerned over Arthur's disappearance, and begins to fear the worst. Arthur is treated for his "superhero delusions", but discovers that the head doctor at the institute in fact dresses up in the confiscated costumes for his own amusement.|
|4||"The License"||December 6, 2001|
|The Tick's superhero activity is put on hold when he is caught operating without a superhero license. He and Arthur quickly find that getting a license is impossible, due to the Tick not knowing anything about his past. A woman appears claiming to be the Tick's wife, whom the Tick immediately accepts, devastating Arthur. The Tick quickly grows tired of married life, while Arthur and Captain Liberty discover that his "wife" is actually an insane criminal who finds missing men and claims to be their wife. Meanwhile, Captain Liberty attempts a relationship with an ordinary man who has no knowledge of her superhero identity, and Batmanuel tries to get in the newspaper.|
|5||"Arthur Needs Space"||December 13, 2001|
|Arthur's love life is cramped by the hovering Tick, who is baffled by the concept of love.|
|6||"Couples"||December 5, 2001|
|The Tick and Arthur have a good time when they start hanging out with Fiery Blaze and his sidekick Friendly Fire. Things turn sour when Arthur finds out that Blaze treats Fire badly, and he persuades Fire to take a stand against it. Meanwhile Blaze convinces the Tick that Arthur is the sidekick and should do whatever the Tick wants. The Tick's new behavior quickly causes the Tick and Arthur to split up. Meanwhile, Batmanuel and Captain Liberty try to cope with their own loneliness, which leads to Captain Liberty getting a dog.|
|7||"The Funeral"||November 15, 2001|
|Everyone is thrilled that the Immortal, the famous superhero, is coming to town. He dies while having sex with Captain Liberty and the group is faced with the challenge of covering up the debacle. Batmanuel impersonates the Immortal while the Tick and Arthur try to put the body back in his hotel to make it look like he died in his sleep. The Tick must grapple with the realization that everyone dies (rather than just already dead people as he believed).|
|8||"The Tick vs. Justice"||January 17, 2002|
|The Tick, Arthur, and Batmanuel must attend court after a battle with the villain Destroyo, who is arrested after his car is discovered to contain nuclear weapons. However, The Tick is confounded by the court system, and after Destroyo gets all of the evidence ruled as inadmissible, The Tick insults the judge and is sentenced to a night in prison for contempt of court. Batmanuel and Arthur are thus left to fend for themselves against whatever Destroyo might send to kill them. In prison, The Tick bonds with his cellmate while trying to make sense of his plight. Meanwhile, Arthur and Batmanuel cower for their lives while trying to find evidence for the case, and after staving off a ninja, manage to contact Destroyo's childhood ballet instructor. He explains that Destroyo was ridiculed as a boy for being an overweight ballet dancer, and the next day, when Arthur is at the stand he reminds Destroyo of his most scarring memory, causing the villain to snap. The Tick then bursts from his seat and defeats Destroyo; sending him to jail.|
|9||"The Big Leagues"||December 21, 2001|
|The gang is eating at their usual spot when the Tick and Arthur find a letter from the League of Superheroes inviting them to join, exciting them and angering Captain Liberty, jealous that she wasn't chosen. The two go to the league hall and meet the Champion, the League's President, and are initiated into the League of Superheroes. Batmanuel introduces Liberty to a top notch lawyer to help with the suit, but unknown to them he is in fact the Champion's alter ego. Back at the Diner, the Tick and Arthur brag about being in the League, and Liberty reveals her plans to sue the League for discrimination, the Tick and Arthur waving it off as a hollow threat. Back at the League the Champion asks the Tick and Arthur to get Liberty to back off, straining their friendship. Later when out on patrol the Champion explains to the Tick and Arthur that League policies are more about keeping up the appearance of being Super Heroes rather than actually doing it, allowing a thief to escape, saying it's "beneath" them. Meanwhile Captain Liberty's suit gains support as other super heroes join in. Back at the League The Tick and Arthur see the other Leaguesmen laugh at Batmanuel when he tries to stop the thief from earlier, realizing that Liberty is right, they renounce their memberships and leave. Liberty believing them to still be against her rejects their help, however upon seeing the Champion's disguise the Tick and Arthur reveal his true identity shocking everyone, and frustrating the Champion to a point that he agrees to an extremely large settlement on Liberty's lawsuit. On their rooftop hangout Arthur explains that the League filed bankruptcy to get out of the settlement, changed their name, and moved to a new HQ in which they kicked the Champion out of his position as their leader.|
Sony Pictures Entertainment released the complete series on DVD for the very first time on September 30, 2003. Tick creator Ben Edlund states on one of the DVD commentary tracks that he hoped the sales of the DVD might spur development of either a revived series or a movie, similar to the fates of other cult TV series such as Firefly (for which he was a writer and producer). As of 2013, this release has been discontinued and is out of print.
Mill Creek Entertainment has acquired the rights to the series and has re-released the complete series on February 4, 2014.
As of February 2009, the show can be downloaded on iTunes, or streamed for free in the US on Netflix, Joost, Hulu, and Crackle. The series was also available for streaming on Netflix in Canada beginning in March 2012.
In January 2011 the show began its first showing on UK TV on the Syfy Channel.
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- Ben Edlund comments from alt.tv.the-tick TheTick.ws (2000). Retrieved on 5-15-09.
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- Jones, Seth Warburton Looks Back on "The Tick" ComicBookResources.com (January 29, 2009). Retrieved on 5-13-09.
- Harris, Will A chat with Nestor Carbonell Bullz-Eye.com (February 6, 2009). Retrieved on 5-15-09.
- Bell, Josh Patrick Warburton interview About.com. Retrieved on 5-15-09.
- The Tick - The Entire Series (2001) Amazon.com (2003). Retrieved on 5-15-09.