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'The Tick' team reflects on live-action comedy's budget challenges, struggles with Fox: 'They murdered this'

Paul Rudd will return as Ant-Man in February Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the second sequel to Disney’s little Marvel character, but He’s not the first actor to memorably play an insect superhero.

November1000, Fox launches live-action series The Tick, featuring Patrick Warburton in a blue suit with a dangling antenna Volatile well-meaning but inept crime fighter. Ben Edlund created the 1988 satirical comic series when he was a teenager and spawned the 1994 Fox animated series that ran for three seasons. Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) is a fan of the cartoon and thought Warburton would be a perfect fit for Edlund’s pilot.

“Ben wrote a great script and then the fun started,” Sonnenfeld told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’ve always loved Patrick Warburton’s acting. He’s flat and handsome and has a – I’m kidding – sort of goofy face.”

Edlund, who remembers feeling exhausted after watching the cartoon, initially turned down Sonnenfeld’s offer to go live – the action TV version took place. “He called out of the blue and said, ‘I’m Barry Sonnenfeld, and I believe we should make this real Tick thing,'” Edlund said. “I said no because I just didn’t think it would be possible to make it live.”

Ultimately, Sonnenfeld was tenacious, and Edlund agreed. Warburton heralded that the show was ahead of its time, and recalls bewildered Fox execs not quite sure what they were buying. “This was before single-camera half-hour comedies,” the actor said. “They would ask questions like, ‘Do we need to wear costumes?'”

While Sonnenfeld directed the pilot, he was less so in later episodes. Hands-on, he felt executive producer Larry Charles (Seinfeld) was more about realism. “One of my regrets is not being more involved with it, because I felt like the show was going in a slightly different direction than I wanted it to be,” Sonnenfeld said.

Edlund doesn’t remember comedic sensibility as an issue, but is challenged by a modest budget and desire to follow the infinite possibilities of the animated version. “It was terribly hampered by having to film it on camera in real life,” he laughs. “We found out that the show was actually the history of a show that tried to twist itself over the course of nine episodes into a budget-conscious enterprise, but never really did. We just wanted to do something that the business model wasn’t Something that exists.”

Speaking of clothing, Warburton’s clothing is not easy to put on and take off, and the rubber compound gets hot. “I have to hydrate because you’re in there and you’re sweating, so you’re drinking Gatorade all day, but you don’t have to pee because you’re just sweating,” he said. “It’s disgusting, But at the end of the day, that stuff just turns me off. We had a lovely customer and that poor woman had to put two tubes of KY jelly on me every day to get it on.”

Despite THR’ review praising The Tick as “a well-made, rib-stimulating treat , it was gone after nine episodes. According to Warburton, Fox’s Sunday night roster — given its irreverent animated offerings — felt like it would be a good fit for the show, but Fox wasn’t sure where it should go.

“They put on a show for a year and then because they had to burn out, they just put us on Thursday night with Survivor, and getting the numbers we needed was almost impossible,” Warburton said. He said of Fox, “They murdered the man.”

Years later, the actor has come up with a new live-action character, Amazon’s first in Debut but with Peter Serafinowicz at the head. (This version lasted two seasons.) “I really wish we could have done this,” lamented Warburton, who did not reprise the role.

But he is grateful for the brief moments he gets to spend with other superheroes, including Liz Vassey, who plays Captain Liberty. She said, “We all fell in love with the show and the cast, for my money, is one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with.”



A version of this story first appeared in February 02 Issue of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. 2205Click here to subscribe.



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