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.
The 2001 sitcom was the first attempt at a live action incarnation of The Tick, a comic book created by Ben Edlund, which had previously been adapted for television as a successful animated series, The Tick, which ran 3 seasons from 1994 to 1996. The pilot for the live-action series, completed in May 2000, was written by the four main animated-series writers, Edlund, Randolph Heard, Richard Liebmann-Smith and Chris McCulloch, and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld with production design by Bo Welch.
Executive producer Larry Charles sought to create a character camaraderie similar to that of Seinfeld. He discussed this approach at a July 2000 press conference: 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. 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 stars 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.
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.
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. Due to budget constraints, additional episodes were shot with several-month gaps between filming. Fox had initially wanted to premiere the series in early 2001 as a midseason replacement but opted to air it in prime time both due to its ratings success and the network's fear that a strike might delay the fall season. 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 2001 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.
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 led to Christopher McCulloch, who wrote for the Tick comic book, animated series, and sitcom, meeting Patrick Warburton during filming; shortly after, he cast Warburton as the voice of Brock Samson for his Adult Swim series, The Venture Bros. Tick creator Ben Edlund also wrote for The Venture Bros. on occasion.
Concerns regarding the show's time slot, where it aired against popular shows like Survivor: Africa and NBC's Must See TV lineup, 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, and therefore rarely promoted it. 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 remembered 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 Weekly's 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.
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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