Ben Edlund's The Tick made its live-action network debut on Thursday, November 8 opposite Survivor: Africa and Will and Grace. With the feeble Family Guy as a lead in, The Tick only managed to score a 4.1 rating versus 11.9 for Survivor and 13.1 for Will and Grace. In spite of generally strong reviews in the New York Times and many other papers, The Tick was unable to overcome what has to be one of the most difficult time slots in contemporary television. If The Tick can demonstrate any increase in drawing power, it might get the opportunity to move to another night where it has more of a chance, otherwise it is surely doomed. The Tick is not a typical sitcom grounded in the humor of everyday reality, it is a delicious campy parody in the manner of Police Squad and Sledgehammer, neither of which managed to survive very long in prime time.
What The Tick has going for it is that it is a superhero parody in an era when big budget films like X-Men have made the conventions of this comic-born genre familiar to the mass audience. Patrick Warburton, who played 'David Putty' on Seinfeld, has a field day playing the na?ve title character like Dudley Do-Right on steroids. Ben Edlund's writing is wickedly funny, and the supporting cast is strong, but unlike Smallville with its 'no flights and no tights' rule that tries to drag the superhero genre into the rarefied 'reality' of teen soapers like Dawson's Creek, The Tick flaunts the tightest tights in show business as it bulldozes superherodom into absurdity. One hopes that there is room enough for both approaches to the superhero genre to succeed in prime time, but The Tick's current timeslot presents this series with as daunting a challenge as the 50-foot tall 'Apocalypse Cow' provided for our hero at the end of episode one.
Retailers should probably be cautious with Tick merchandise at this stage, though if any dealers have issues of the original Tick series from New England Comics, there probably won't ever be a better time than now to put them out where they can be seen. The trade paperback volume, The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice by Greg Hyland is a very useful and informative volume that includes an episode guide to the first 34 of the 36 Tick animated cartoon shows. Unfortunately only two episodes of the excellent Tick cartoon series are currently available on VHS. It's a pity that the entire Tick animated series is not yet available on DVD. N2 has a line of Tick toys based on the new series in preparation (see 'Wicked Men You Face the Tick'). The Tick doesn't have to be huge ratings winner to become the kind of daffy cult hit that can make it a factor in pop culture stores, it just has to hang on long enough to build and solidify a following.