RETROSPECULATIVE TV: The Tick: “The Terror” (Episode 2. Or was it 9?)

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Several astute readers have pointed out that while Liz Vassey is *IN* “The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space,” the not-at-all-shy-about-showing-off-her-body woman I referred to last week is undoubtedly Gia Carides. In looking at many tasteful-yet-revealing photographs of both women over the last two weeks, I have realized that, yes, I am in error, but I have done the work to fact-check it to make sure I’m not in error about being in error. Sorry to both. I apologize.

Here’s what happened: I saw the movie once in 1994, while sleep deprived owing to a sewage backup in my apartment, and a late-night call from the sewage repair people from the city, followed by a double shift at work (As I was in no hurry to get home). I may have been a bit drunk, too, I honestly can’t recall. Anyway, as a result my memories are a bit fuzzy. Beyond remembering “Bad” and some innovative breastular containment devices, I don’t remember much, and even that couldn’t keep me from channel surfing. But, hey, maybe I’m completely off about that. Anyone wants to review the movie for the site, you have my leave to do so.

PLAY BY PLAY

Immediately after the battle with Apocalypse Cow, which started at the end of the pilot episode, Arthur is in the hospital, burned, battered, suffering “Secondhand Teat Syndrome” and questioning his life choices. When he awakes in bed the next morning, he hopes for a moment it’s all a dream, but, alas, no, The Tick is real, and squatting in his living room. (In the sense of moving in and you can’t get him out, not in the sense of, y’know, taking a dump). Arthur expresses these misgivings, but the Tick gets all incoherently rambly-metaphorical on him (“Arthur! Retain that anus! One day its fruit may be the only thing that stands between us and defeat!”), so he goes to The Happy Panda. Annoyingly, The Tick follows.

There they meet Captain Liberty and Bat Manuel. Manuel needs a ride to the garage to pick up the Manuelmobile, which is in for repairs, and Cap is filling out government superhero report forms for the government, and clearly pissed off at Tick upstaging her.

Bat: “I need you to drive me to the garage.”
Cap: “I told you I would when I get finished here!”
Bat: “Fine. So we are agreed.”
Cap: [reading form] “Weapon used to subdue villian? - A dump truck! He threw a dump truck at it!”
Bat: “Yes. Dump trucks are heavy. Any time before five would be fine…”

Tick comes over asking if they can set him up with an arch nemesis, preferably one within easy commuting distance. Cap (Who later admits she was “A little hormonal” and “Wanted you to die”) gives him the phone number of “The Terror,” the 20th Century’s greatest supervillian. Just hearing the name freaks Arthur out, but the Tick calls the guy at home anyway.

The Terror is 114 years old, and looks it. He tells Tick to just stop bugging him, he’s an old man and he’s just not that into it anymore, but Tick annoys him to the point where he starts saying really vicious things like “You sissy-mary! I’m gonna’ fold you into my wallet and then spend you on a whore!” He comes over to kill Tick (“And especially Arthur!”) and then has a heart attack and keels over on their living room floor.

They take him to the hospital.

While there, Arthur bumps into Metcalf, the guy from his old job who quit, bought himself a jetpack, tried to be a superhero, immediately ran afoul of some Soviets, and now “Needs a machine to poop.” Despite the setback, Metcalf is cheerful about his chosen profession just the same: “I’m going right back out there! Granted, the machine will be a bit of a burden, but I’ll figure a way around it!”

The Terror, meanwhile, flatlines, and the siren wakes him up. He attempts to give himself CPR, then shoots himself up with one of those big adrenaline super-syringes straight in the heart. That perks him right up. “Say, that’s pretty good!” He immediately sets about doing bad stuff, most of which, alas, is pretty inconsequential (Puts a scorpion on Bat Manuel, unplugs Metcalf’s pooping machine, etc). Arthur stands up to him, and saves Metcalf (By plugging the machine back in). The Tick wanders in, and punches The Terror about 1/3rd of the way through a wall.

The End.

All of the above is sandwiched in a basically useless frame story in which Tick, Arthur, Bat and Cap are celebrating Tick’s first anniversary in The City. This has a couple funny lines (“I dunno about you Arthur, but if some guy started talking about my anus the first time he came into my home, I’d throw him out!” and “We defeated the 20th century’s greatest super villain! Admittedly quite a bit after his prime, but still…”) and Arthur admits that was the moment when he decided Superheroing was the life for him.

Also The End.

PLAY BY PLAY

Last time, as you’ll recall, I was pleasantly surprised by how funny the pilot was, as I didn’t like it at all back in the day. This episode was intended to be the second of the series, but it ended up not getting aired at all. I saw it a year or so later on DVD, and thought it was hilarious. In retrospect, eh, it’s ok. It’s not bad. There’s some funny stuff. It all feels a bit anticlimactic, of course, but that was the problem of the show as a whole. I don’t feel I wasted my time watching it, and my eldest laughed loudly several times, so it’s plenty good enough.

And yet “It’s not bad” feels rather disappointing in any outing involving The Terror.

The Terror is “The Greatest Supervillain of the 20th Century…and maybe some of the 19th, I dunno….” (To quote the Cartoon version of The Tick). He’s old, senile, incredibly violent, rail thin, and really just about the best bad guy this side of a really good vintage C. Montgomery Burns episode of The Simpsons. He’s honestly more an object of incoherent menace than of comedy in the comics, he’s just not amazingly funny nor often used there, but man oh man oh man, in the cartoon, he is just the freakin’ funniest thing ever. There is just nothing about that iteration of the character that isn’t inherently hilarious, from his fistfight on the White House lawn in 1904 with President Teddy Roosevelt to his repeated obsession with Joseph Stalin (Who he doesn’t realize is dead) to the time in 1979 when he used is “Rickety motor home of evil” to punch out Mount Rushmore (Because it had Teddy Roosevelt on it), to his repeated, failed, condescending attempts to introduce his (elderly) son to a life of crime. Though not at all in the live action show, it bears quoting here:

The Terror: “Pathetic. And you call yourself a super villain?”
Terry: “I’m *NOT* a super villain, dad! I’m a retired insurance claims adjuster with a wife and a daughter and three lovely grandkids! I’m only doing this to get to know you, to get close to you, to get your attention.”
The Terror: “You wanna get my impression, Percy Pants? Then go out there and do something BAD, not BAD-ly!”

Nothing that good here. Nothing inspired, and while this live-action version of The Terror *is* a hoot, and far and away the best thing in the ep, he just can’t live up to the other version of him. It feels a shame to waste such a great character (AND Armin Shimmerman) on a plotless episode like this.

The Terror [Waking up and seeing a stripper in his bedroom dancing on a pole] “Are you my wife?”
Stripper: “No.”
The Terror: “Oh. What year is it?”
Stripper: “2001.”
The Terror: “Wow, that’s a lot of numbers. Where are my pills?”

I'm given to understand that Fox ordered the pilot, but then hemmed and hawed about whether or not they were going to air it, and when they commissioned the series, they intended THIS episode as kind of a "Second Pilot" or "First Episode," but then decided they didn't like it, and held it back to air later on. The show was cancelled before it ran, so it's generally listed as the 9th ep, but in fact it was the second. That may actually not be true, but that's what I've been given to understand. I'll review 'em in intended order, not broadcast order cuz' y'no, FOX. Sigh

Batmanuel: “So the worst man alive comes to your house, almost dies, DESERVES to die, but you take him to the hospital?”
Arthur: “Yeah, in hindsight…”

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Despite the lack of a single Joseph Stalin gag, yes.

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