RETROSPECULATIVE TV: The Tick: “Arthur Interrupted” (Episode 3, or possibly 8)

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Arthur decides to tell his mom and his sister (“Dot”) about his new “Lifestyle Choice.” They decide he’s crazy, and slap him in a nuthatch run by a guy named “Peacock,” who attempts to cure people of their predilection for Superheroism. It quickly turns out that Mr. Peacock is, himself, a latent superhero, and spends all night in his office trying on his patients’ confiscated costumes. Arthur discovers this, and is thrown into solitary.

Meanwhile, The Tick battles the apartment’s plumbing, and becomes increasingly despondent about Arthur’s absence, but is powerless to do anything about it. Eventually, when Arthur manages to sneak a phone call to Captain Liberty, the blue guy springs into action, and he and Cap unleash a lot of mostly-offscreen whupass on the crazy house. Arthur liberated, he leads the tick to Peacock’s office, where he finds the guy mincing about in Arthur’s own superhero costume and listening to Joey Scarbury’s “Greatest American Hero” theme.

In the end, Arthur’s family decide to accept his new life, though they’re clearly uncomfortable with it.

OBSERVATIONS

They play the “Gay” card pretty heavy in this episode. I don’t mean in terms of actual homosexuality, which they take some pains to separate from Superheroism. For instance, when Arthur’s mom first finds out, she turns to The Tick and says “You’re not going to marry my son, are you?” (“No ma’am, I’m already married to Dame Justice!”). However, the way Superheroes are regarded in this universe is pretty much the same exact way Homosexuals were regarded at the time in the real world: as sick, twisted and wrong by some groups, as an oppressed minority by others, as a group to be pitied but not encouraged by yet others, and as simply a buncha’ freakshows of no real account by everyone else. This is not something unique to this version of the show. It’s been in the comics since Arthur was introduced, and it was verrrrrrrrrrry subtly hinted at in the cartoon. (Ballsy to even try that!) “Oh, is this one of *those* bars?” Arthur’s mom asks upon entering The Happy Panda.

Here it was pretty overt. I sort of go back and forth between whether they were too pointed on it or not. The stuff in the beginning where Cap gets all selfrighteous, demanding Arthur “Come out of the superhero closet” to his family, then instantly refusing to talk about how badly things went when she outed herself to her own parents. Batmanuel just shrugs his own outing off as a bad scene.

In fact, the funniest stuff is in the commentary for this episode. It was intended to be aired third, after the pilot and The Terror, and if watched in order, it builds logically. Edlund says that in the early days of the series they were toying with the idea that The Tick was simply a hallucination, and that Arthur was nuts. There’s even dialog to this in the first two eps (“I’m you if you were you! The only thing stopping you from being me is you!”). They’d dropped the idea by the time this aired, but the concept was that Arthur was running around doing all kinds of superheroics, and simply blaming it on an imaginary friend.

To that end, the Tick’s battle with the toilet really has no payoff, but originally it was going to be subtitled. The Tick insists that the Toilet is talking to him, and then it starts talking to the shower. The subtitles were going to say what the Toilet and Shower were saying, which, eventually, was going to consist of the two of them ignoring The Tick and getting into an argument about whether or not Chinese people are mentioned in The Bible.

[Pause for laughter]

Yeah, I know. It’s funny even in a third-hand recounting. The idea being that The Tick was a figment of Arthur’s imagination, and The Shower and Toilet were a figment of The Tick’s imagination which refused to acknowledge him.

Anyway, that’s pretty much it. It’s really not as funny as it should be as a whole. It’s not terrible, but I can see why FOX decided to air it further back in the season: it just doesn’t have anywhere near as much energy as the first two eps.

The real problem here - already apparent - is that all the cool stuff happens offscreen. I’d go into more detail, but I’ve still got a lot of episodes to review, so I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually, and I’ve got to run to the Laundromat and put in some more quarters.

WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?

Nope. Well, maybe the Log Cabin Club, but nobody else.

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