June 29, 2009
I am writing this review in an attempt to provide an as accurate and detailed as possible comparison between the animated version of The Tick and the live action series. Until recently, I had only ever heard of The Tick because the live action series was mentioned during the introduction to episode one of Family Guy Season 4. I never gave it another thought, until I learned of the existence of the animated version of this show as part of my on-going quest
to attempt to collect every series I can get my hands on that Rob Paulsen has done voice work for. After reading a number of reviews of both versions of this show, I realized that I simply had to add them to my collection. Because every DVD player in my home is region free, I elected to purchase my copy of the animated series from Amazon.uk, so that I'd be sure to get all 36 glorious episodes. I ggrew up watching You Can't Do That on Television and Dangermouse, and I've only recently discovered and added such gems as Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs, the 1980's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dangermouse's spinoff series Count Duckula to my DVD collection. Suffice it to say that I have always thrived on this type of silly yet surprisingly intelligent humor. According to nearly all of the reviews I've read, the live action version of The Tick seems to compare favorably with Seinfeld, another show which I've always liked quite a lot and am proud to own all nine seasons of on DVD, and now that I've watched through the live action version of the Tick several times, I would definitely have to agree that that comparison is quite an accurate one to make. Before I formally begin my review, however, I feel that it's only fair to warn you that I'm writing this review as a totally blind individual. So, I can't make any comments regarding
which show has better visuals; all my observations strictly pertain to the audio aspects of the show. OK. On to the review. I'll start by comparing and contrasting the four main characters which were featured in both the animated and live action versions of the series. Since the live action version of the Tick seems to be compared to Seinfeld so often, I will also make an effort to relate my character descriptions to that show as much as I possibly can.
The Tick is voiced by Townsend Coleman in the animated series and played by patrick warburton in the live action series. Both versions of the show's main character are simply phenomenal, but in slightly different ways. Both versions of The Tick make a lot of hilariously nonsensical speeches. Both are extremely silly and incredibly clueless regarding nearly all aspects of daily life, but it seems to me that the animated tick is slightly more worldly than his live action counterpart. Best example: in episode eight of Season 3 of the animated series, Tick is trying to encourage Arthur to kiss Carmelita. In the live action version of the series, Tick comes across as being utterly clueless about romance: trying to accompany Arthur on his date with Stacey and otherwise interfering with their relationship. Both versions of the Tick have a lot of truely absurd and unforgettable lines: "Keen!" "spoon!" and "Arthur, honk if you love justice" from the animated Tick and "a secret message from my teeth," "I am the wild blue yonder," and "Wicked men, you face the Tick!" from the live action Tick. One of my favorite scenes from the live action series is when Tick is talking to the toilet while he is attempting to clean/repair it. The only negative I can think of pertaining to either version of the Tick's character is in a scene near the beginning of the first episode of the live action series when Tick calls the coffee machine his b*tch, something which I don't think is at all necessary or appropriate, especially given the otherwise seemingly child-like, innocent nature of the live-action version of the character. Don't get me wrong. That particular line would have been even more shocking and inappropriate coming from the animated Tick, but it really stands out to me because of the way the live action tick is otherwise portrayed. If one wishes to relate the live action show's incarnation of The Tick to Seinfeld, in spite of his overwhelming stupidity, I suppose that Tick would probably be closest to Jerry's character if for no other reason than because he's the main character.
In Season 1 of the animated series, Arthur is voiced by Micky Dolenz after which Rob Paulsen takes over for the remaining two seasons of the series. David Burke plays the part of Arthur in the live action series. In my opinion, both Micky Dolenz and Rob Paulsen do a superb job voicing this character, but in spite of the fact that a couple of Arthur's funniest, most memorable lines occur in season one, I still have to give the slight edge to Rob Paulsen as he just does a slightly better job of bringing Arthur to life for me. To be perfectly honest, though, they actually sound so unbelievably similar to one another that there's a chance I might not have even noticed any difference between season one and the remainder of the series if I hadn't been specifically listening for the change after reading about it beforehand. I have a feeling that this is more likely than not the primary reason why I have so much trouble liking the live action version of Arthur. David Burke just doesn't sound at all like either Micky Dolenz or Rob Paulsen to me. I just can't help thinking that they should have tried a little bit harder to find someone who sounded at least vaguely similar to Arthur from the animated series. After watching a few episodes of the live action series, however, although I still couldn't forget about it entirely, I managed to more or less accept the all-too noticeable change in Arthur's voice. Never-the-less, for some reason which I still haven't been able to completely figure out, live action Arthur is still one of my least favorite characters from either version of the series. My feelings about live action Arthur are a little difficult to articulate, but I think the best way to describe the contrast between the two versions of the character is to say that at least in my humble opinion, animated Arthur is a lot more likeable. While you can tell by his tone of voice that Arthur in the animated series is often frustrated with, if not thoroughly annoyed by the Tick's stupidity and/or overenthusiastic manner, you can also clearly tell that the two of them are always a team, and that Arthur serves as the brains of the operation and does his best to look after Tick while also attempting to keep him at least moderately grounded in reality. On the other hand, in the live action version of the show, no matter how often they talk about it being to the contrary, I honestly can't sense any genuine teamwork vibe between Tick and Arthur. Live action Arthur seems to be a lot more demanding and argumentative, and he even comes across as being disrespectful, if not outright mean to Tick from time to time. More importantly, however, while Arthur in the animated series seems perfectly content with and secure in his role as Tick's sidekick, live action Arthur seems to deeply resent being labeled as just a sidekick, and we as viewers almost immediately begin to suspect that he has aspirations of some day becoming a full-fledged superhero in his own right. Finally, when it comes to worldly matters, I can't help thinking that live action Arthur may have been better suited to be pared with the animated Tick. Best example: in the animated series, it turns out that poor Arthur is too shy and/or nervous to kiss Carmelita, his supposedly steady girlfriend, while live action Arthur appears to be a lot more interested in trying to date, and it would seem that he is even hoping to possibly have sex at some point. Personality wise, I'd say that live action Arthur can best be compared to George Kostanza on Seinfeld, which makes it even harder for me to determine my reasons for not liking him. George is most definitely my favorite Seinfeld character, but I think the problem is that all of the personality quirks that make George so loveable to me just don't work in the context of Arthur's character. Besides, the animated version of Arthur is probably my favorite character from either series, so to be perfectly honest, it would be pretty tough for live action Arthur to compare favorably.
In the animated series, we have the character Die Fladermaus, who is voiced by Cam Clarke. This character is replaced in the live action series by a character named Batmanuel, a delightful pun which is reminiscent of those found in abundance throughout the animated series, who is played by Nestor Carbonell. It's not entirely fair to compare these two since they're technically completely different characters, but surprisingly, they're actually quite similar to one another. Both of them have huge egos, are total cowards and both seem to be a lot more interested in talking to women and making themselves look good than actually being superheroes. To continue the Seinfeld analogy, I suppose it would be accurate to say that Batmanuel is the Kramer of the group.
Last, but certainly not least, we have our female lead character. In the animated series, her name is American Maid, a spectacularly bad pun which would have definitely been right at home on either Danger Mouse or Count Duckula, and she's voiced by Kay Lenz. The live action series gives us Captain Liberty who is played by Liz Vassey. In my opinion, American Maid and Captain Liberty sound remarkably similar to one another, which only serves to add to my frustration regarding Arthur. I really like American Maid a lot. She doesn't take crap from anybody, and she somehow manages to keep Tick moderately focused in situations where Arthur has been kidnapped or is otherwise in danger. She's also quite a decent superhero. Captain Liberty strikes me as being quite a lot like American Maid in nearly all respects. I think the Seinfeld analogy can best be used here, however, because so far as I can tell, Captain Liberty seems to possess all of the best/funniest attributes from both American Maid and Elaine from Seinfeld.
Now that I've done my best to describe all of the main characters from both versions of this series, I'll try to compare the actual shows themselves. I simply can't think of any words to adequately describe the animated series in particular. The only way I can explain it is to say that it takes the hilarity of shows like Animaniacs, Count Duckula, Dangermouse, Pinky and the Brain and Monty Python's Flying Circus to a whole new level. It's so off-the-wall and uniquely original that there really isn't anything that I'm aware of that I can compare it to. It's pure silliness, and that is most definitely meant to be a complement. The humor is nonstop, but they always managed to keep it completely family friendly. Every single one of the numerous villains who Tick and Arthur encounter over the course of the 36 episodes of the animated series are just delitiously bizarre, and more often than not, they're spectacularly incompetant as well. In order of appearance, the most prominantly featured villains include: The Idea Men; Chairface Chippendale and his partner Chrome Dome; Dinosaur Neil; Mister Mental and his reluctant assistant Minda; The breadmaster; El Seed along with his helpers the bee twins and Rosebud; Evil Tongue Thrakorzog along with his creation the mucace tick; Charles the brainchild; the evil dictator Pokopo; Protoclown; The Human ton and his little friend Handy; The Swiss commandos; Omnipotus; Venus and her eager accomplice Milo; The Mother of Invention; The Ottoman empress; The Deadly Bulb and his assistants wat and socket; Betty Queen of the ants; The Fin and last, but certainly not least, the evil midnight bomber what bombs at midnight. Unfortunately, the only major villains mentioned in the live action series are the Red Scare, Apocalypse Cow and Destroyo. In all fairness, though, the live action series is intended to be more focused on the characters' down time when they aren't fighting villains. Both versions of the show do have episodes featuring The Terror, however, which I must admit is extremely awesome because he's definitely one of my favorite villains. One minor disappointment with the live action series, however, is that they don't have counterparts to some of the animated show's other superheroes. I think that instead of introducing the superhero character Firey Blaze and his somewhat annoying sidekick Friendly Fire, it would have been far better if they could have shown us live action equivalents of The Sewer Urchin, the caped chameleon and/or the human bullet. Despite the many differences between the two versions of the show, there are also a number of aspects which both versions of the series have in common. The three most noteable examples of lines or situations that I can think of which both incarnations of the series share are when Tick sees Arthur's apartment for the first time, when Tick states that gravity is a harsh mistress, and to a far more limited extent, when Tick and Arthur meet up with Arthur's sister. I came across several other nods to the animated series scattered throughout the nine episodes of the live action series, but I think that half the fun of watching it is discovering these totally obscure references for yourself. Aside from its favorable comparison to Seinfeld, another positive thing I can say about the live action series is that its theme music is much better. As much as I love the animated series, its theme music is, to quote the animated Tick, "just plain awful!" Once it gets stuck in your head, it absolutely refuses to leave, and I think it would have been really cool to hear the animated Tick do an intro to the show similar to the one in the live action series.
I must confess that at first, I really disliked the live action version of The Tick. Even as similar as it was to Seinfeld: four main characters with lots of relationship issues, that still wasn't enough to make it worth watching at first. My initial impression was that although the live action version of the Tick had a number of laugh out loud moments, so much of its humor was clearly intended to appeal to an adult audience that I just had a lot of trouble getting into it. The animated series never found it necessary to resort to using profanity to make a joke. I even went as far as to sell my first copy of the live action series to a friend who was extremely happy to get it, but for some reason, I just couldn't seem to get the show out of my head, so I ended up deciding to repurchase it when I was lucky enough to find it in like new condition for less than half of its retail price. I'm not sure if there was something magical in my second copy having the pretty blue case which the live action series was originally released in, but for some reason, I absolutely loved it the second time I watched it. Even live action Arthur was significantly more tolerable to me than he had been initially. I think it also may have helped that I took the time to listen to all four of the commentaries which were available when I watched the live action series for the second time. I think that more than anything else, the information I acquired from the commentaries enabled me to understand and fully appreciate the live action series.
Bottom line: as far as I'm concerned, The Tick animated series will always be the definitive version, but if you're able to overlook the occasional swear word here and there, the live action series does have quite a lot to offer and is almost as enjoyable in nearly all respects. I would highly recommend both versions of The Tick, but if you can only afford to buy one, I would highly recommend that you start with the animated series first, and if at all possible, try to get your hands on the non-US version so that you don't miss a single second of the Tick's endlessly entertaining insanity. Then, if you're still craving more of the Tick's marvelously unique antics, proceed directly to purchasing the live action series. I can practically guarantee that you'll never regret either purchase.