It’s been 16 years since Ben Edlund’s bizarro superhero The Tick graced TV screens with the short-lived (but beloved) live-action Fox sitcom. But the character is actually 30 years old now and has existed as a comic, an animated series, and the aforementioned sitcom. Always a cult property, The Tick will attempt to go mainstream once more via Amazon Streaming, with Edlund co-showrunning a new live-action series with his former Angel colleague, David Fury.
The 10-episode season drops in full today and stars comedian Peter Serafinowicz as Tick and Griffin Newman as his anxiety-ridden sidekick/keeper, Arthur. Presented as a slightly more serious take on the characters in the pilot, in this exclusive SYFY WIRE interview, Edlund and Fury are here to guarantee longtime Tick fans, and new viewers, that the show is going to get very, very weird.
It’s been almost two decades since The Tick was on TV. Was there much chatter during those years about reviving it?
Edlund: The idea that it might come back was something that was floating around. Patrick Warburton was always enthusiastic about seeing this thing happen again. I think, for me, truly solving the live-action superhero problem of the equation is something that was on my mind ever since we engaged with it during the first live-action take, and it's something that is a sticky wicket.
You’ve had a lot more experience playing in that superhero world as a writer and executive producer on Gotham and Powers. Did they help you crack your Tick conundrums?
Edlund: We were already engaged in the development of The Tick pilot when I started working on Gotham and then moved to Powers. So, yes, both of those shows encompassed the development of The Tick, and it became very useful in terms of watching other productions engage with all of these various facets of superhero fiction.
David, you’ve done a lot of straight dramas like 24 and Tyrant since your Buffy and Angel gigs. How did Ben woo you back to the comedy side?
Fury: There's a lot of aspects to love about this, with the main one being Ben. I've loved Ben and The Tick for years. When he placed a call to me, I couldn't have been happier. I was first very happy when he said he was reviving The Tick, and it never occurred to me that he would come around and ask me to do it with him. The fun aspect is being able to live in his brain a little bit. Channeling Ben is an exercise in letting your mind go freefall. It's been great getting back to doing real comedy. It's a half hour, but I guarantee it feels like doing an hour, because of the amount of work and production value we're cramming into 30 minutes or less. It's amazing what we're accomplishing. I'm having a ball. It's great to write a funny script and have people respond to it. My comedy was underappreciated at 24. (Laughs)
So what makes this version of The Tick different?
Fury: It's very much a new thing, this version of The Tick. And Ben is trying valiantly to have it be something wholly different from any version that's been done before. We're always in this balancing act of keeping Tick and the show as funny as it can possibly be, and at the same time grounding these relationships. When Ben invited me to join, a lot of it has been us trying to together figure out how the series can work. Lately, we both come from one-hour programming doing mythologized and sometimes serialized shows. Trying to bring that to a half hour in The Tick's world has been challenging, but rewarding. Everyone who has seen what we've come up with is thrilled. They love it and find it very funny. And they're very into the investment. We struggle with how much do we lean into the funny and how much do we lean into the conventional plots and tropes of superhero shows. It's the balancing act we're doing.
Edlund: And with Tick, we're investigating a very interesting new world with him. He's trying to remember who he is, and he's got his own identity issues. He doesn't know what he is. The Tick has never had an origin. It's one of the defining elements in the Tick's being. In all the iterations, there's never been a committed explanation of where he came from, and what or who he is. That question, which has persisted for 30 years, we get to play with in real time. The Tick himself starts to get infected by that question too. We talk about The Tick as if he's the island on Lost. The whole part of the second season is for Arthur to get into his hatch. (Laughs)
How does Serafinowic’s take make it feel unique?
Fury: Peter is amazing. He has brought to the show exactly what Ben was looking for. We're not doing a loopy cartoon world, which both the live-action and the animated shows were. We're doing a real-world environment, and Peter can straddle that darkness. The difference in his take, as I see it, is that he's playing Tick as someone dangerous, as opposed to when Patrick was doing The Tick as very childlike and sweet. And he's the kind of hero who would say to Arthur, "See those bullets heading our way? Move towards them!" Arthur is suddenly realizing, as we are, "I'm in league with a madman!" I think it gives Tick a whole different edge this time. It gives the whole world, and how the world responds to him, a wholly different take. Peter nails that version. If we had put Patrick back in the role, I'm not sure it would have worked. People would have expected to see that Tick he did so brilliantly on the Fox show. But in this much darker and real place, it might have been jarring.
Since Amazon is releasing the season all at once, should we expect individual adventures, or a season-long story?
Edlund: I think we're so serialized in this season we begin to make fun of serialization itself. There's very much a binge-able model in our DNA. We're even analyzing it as we're making it. It's such a weird creature. I don't know of a comedy more serialized as this.
Fury: Most sitcoms have some elements of serialization, recalling things in past episodes, but in our case, we're very much telling a long movie. The whole season is basically a six-hour movie.
Edlund: It's basically two Peter Jackson-sized movies about a normal-sized hobbit who wears fancy future clothes. (Laughs)
Fury: And since our mindsets have been in hours for so long, we were over-plotting the show. There was so much story we wanted to tell and so many arcs to tell, and really getting under the skin of Arthur's growth from being this broken man to this complete guy who chooses to become a hero at the end of the season is a lot of story. We were loading so many things until we realized we can go a lot lighter and the audience will go with us. We just have to be fun, true to The Tick and the arc.
Can we expect any of the amazing rogues gallery of villains from the comics?
Edlund: There have been through-line characters from the comic book onwards. One of the key characters established in the pilot, and is an anchor villain for the first season and seminal in Arthur's life, is The Terror. It's a character that first came out in the comic book, and was represented in the cartoon and the live-action. But we're doing a lot of new character generation because there's a lot of fun to be had. We're also in a brand-new period. This is a 30-year-old property now, so each time it comes back there's a new zeitgeist. We've got really, fun, new characters. Basically, there are superhero areas that we want to engage with, so new characters coming in give us those areas. We have a character that appears in the pilot played by Yara Martinez (Ms. Lint) who is going to become a cool character in our universe. She's someone in my mind that belongs alongside sort of the antihero version of Captain Liberty or American Maid. It's a different way of giving us a chance to investigate some things that tie into things in the same way that Die Fledermaus became Batmanuel. We've got a much more toothy, dark avenger that we want to introduce, who will be another mainstay in our show, and that is Overkill. It's someone who is going to drive the last couple decades of vigilante history with a lot of well-known front-runners.
The Tick Season 1 debuts today, Aug. 25, 2017, on Amazon Streaming.