The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Fox's 'The Tick' is TV
season's best surprise

December 13, 2001
By Franklin Harris

The most pleasant surprise of this TV season has to be "The Tick" (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Central, Fox).

Based on Ben Edlund's comic book of the same name, "The Tick" follows a dimwitted superhero and his nerdy sidekick, Arthur, as they protect The City from doers of evil and other not-so-nice people.

Patrick Warburton ("Seinfeld") plays the Tick as a well-meaning but utterly clueless goof who stays alive thanks only to his sheer invulnerability.

He and Arthur (David Burke) sniff out evil wherever it does its dirty deed, getting help from fellow super-types Capt. Liberty (Liz Vassey) and Bat Manuel (Nestor Carbonell).

"The Tick" isn't as good as the comic book that spawned it or the earlier cartoon adaptation, but it is always clever. Actually, it's probably too clever for its own good. This isn't lowest-common-denominator television.

If "The Tick" seems a bit like the '60s "Batman" TV show gene-spiced to "Seinfeld," it may be because "Seinfeld" co-producer Larry Charles is one of the producers here, too, joined by Edlund and Barry Sonnenfeld ("Men In Black").

And now for the mid-season report card on some other genre shows:

  • "Enterprise" (Wednesday, 7 p.m. Central, UPN). The Vulcans, as insultingly portrayed as they are in this latest incarnation of "Star Trek," are exactly right. Humanity, as represented by Capt. Archer (Scott Bakula) and company, has no business wandering around the galaxy without adult supervision. It's time to take away the keys to the spaceship.

  • "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (Tuesday, 7 p.m. Central, UPN). Some longtime fans dislike the move away from monster-of-the-week stories to more character-driven conflicts. But the show is in its sixth year, and the change has helped keep it from falling into a rut. "Buffy" is why they invented television. Well, "Buffy" and Lucky Strike ads, but there aren't any Lucky Strike ads anymore.

  • "The X-Files" (Sunday, 8 p.m. Central, Fox). Did someone say rut? Without Mulder (David Duchovny), "The X-Files" has lost its soul and its sense of humor. Last season was dull, dreary and awful. This season shows no improvement. And what exactly happened to the alien invaders? Does anyone know? Does anyone care? Time to bump this one off. Make it look like an accident.

  • "Roswell" (Tuesday, 8 p.m. Central, UPN). O.K., it's a soap opera about teen-age aliens living in the UFO capital of the universe. Amazingly, it works. Too bad its ratings this season are terrible. Catch it while it lasts.

  • "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda" (check local listings). Around the end of last season, "Andromeda" started living up to its potential. If it has a flaw, it's that its least interesting character is its star, Capt. Dylan Hunt, a.k.a., Kevin Sorbo. This season has, so far, continued the positive trend. Unfortunately, lead producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe just got his walking papers.

    Wolfe was the brains of the outfit, so there is a good chance future episodes will feature less intelligence and more of Sorbo beating up bad guys.

    At least "Andromeda" will probably never sink to the depths of that other series with Gene Roddenberry's name on it.

  • "Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict" (check local listings) This was a truly great show during its first season. Then the producers had to go and change everything. Now in its fifth and final season, "Earth: Final Conflict" has almost nothing to do with the series it once was. It's so bad Roddenberry's widow has disowned it.

    When fans voted for their favorite episodes earlier this year, almost all were from the first season. It's just sad, really.

  • "Justice League" (Monday, 8:30 p.m. Central, Cartoon Network). Batman, Superman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl and the Martian Manhunter — together against for the first time! This is the superhero cartoon fans have waited 30 years for. The animation isn't quite up to the standards of the most recent "Batman" and "Superman" cartoons, but after this long, you can't nitpick.
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