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The Tick and The Era of Binge-Watching: An Interview with Peter Serafinowicz and Griffin Newman

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Unlike other series on Amazon Prime, The Tick was split into two half seasons. The first six episodes dropped last August 2017, and the last six drop today (February 23, 2018).  When we last left The Tick, Arthur (Griffin Newman) had been kidnapped and the Tick (Peter Serafinowicz) vowed to find his little moth buddy. Arthur also learned that The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley), long thought dead, was in fact still alive. The crazed madman who had murdered Arthur’s favorite superheroes, The Flag Five—causing the death of Arthur’s father in the collateral damage—was now holding Arthur hostage.

It was a long wait for Tick fans eager to find out what insanity the Terror had in store for Arthur and The Tick—along with Dot (Valorie Curry), Overkill (Scott Speiser), Superian (Brendan Hines), Dangerboat (voiced by Alan Tudyk), and even ultra-villain Ms. Lint (Yara Martinez)—and I’m here to say your eagerness will be fully rewarded. As Ben Edlund, creator of The Tick, said in a recent interview (which we’ll bring to you in a few days because it’s chock full of season spoilers), “All the fun sort of interpersonal nonsense and relationships and sort of superhero craziness that we initiated in the first half kind of spirals up into an unchecked crescendo.”

He definitely means it. The second half of the season brings the absurdity in fabulous, hilarious (and sometimes grossly violent) bursts, along with great new characters, such as the heroic talking dog, Midnight (Townsend Coleman, the voice of the animated version of The Tick). It also ties up its season-long arc while introducing a mystery for the next season (already greenlit by Amazon Studios). Easter eggs abound, and things circle back to previous episodes in a deeply satisfying way. Everyone should watch it. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry—from laughing. It’s seriously keen.

In preparation for the second half of the series, The Nerd Element spoke to The Tick and Arthur themselves, Serafinowicz and Newman. Speaking of laughing, Serafinowicz and Newman are two of the funniest people out there, so some answers dissolved into laughing (indicated in brackets). Also, as well as talking about the show, the interview turned into a thoughtful discussion of what binge-watching means in terms of TV viewing and is presented here almost verbatim (minor edits were made for readability) for your nerdly enjoyment:

The Nerd Element: What do you want to share with our readers about the second half of Season One?

Griffin Newman: I’d like to share with them that it will be streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video starting February 23rd, and if they watched it, it would be..[laughs].

Peter Serafinowicz: I as well. For people who haven’t watched the first six, to watch all of them—to binge them all—all 12 episodes—that would be quite an experience, you see.

GN: Yes.

PS: I think that would be unlike any series binge that has even been up until now.

GN: Because sometimes I think people are scared. “Oh, is it too late to jump into a show? I didn’t watch it when it premiered.” I think you’re lucky if you didn’t watch the first six episodes last August. You get to watch 12 all at once. You get to really kind of freebase this thing in its purest form.

TNE: And that is the new model. I actually did binge the last six episodes.

PS: Oh, did you?

Griffin Newman and Peter Serafinowicz in New York City, August 2017. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Amazon Studios)

TNE: Before I talked to you and it was fabulous just being able to see everything and finish it all at once. What has the fan reaction been since the first six episodes were released?

PS: I don’t know what the reaction’s been.

TNE: I figured you might have encountered some fans along the way before this.

PS: When we did the main Comic-Con [Ed.: in San Diego], this series hadn’t aired, so it was only the pilot that people had seen, which while it was pretty consistent with the series, it was weird just to be speaking to fans who only had the pilot as a reference point when we’d filmed another 11 episodes.

GN: It was the New York Comic-Con where the first six episodes had come out. You do so much of that song-and-dance where you’re just kind of, “Please watch the show, please watch the show.” I found it a lot more rewarding to answer questions from people, especially as a panel, as fans were coming up who had watched it and had opinions and things they wanted to know about.

PS: It was kind of limited though. Probably three people asked questions at the panel. I’ve had nice comments from people who seem to really dig the show, but I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it this last couple of months that much in terms of tracking what people think of the show. Do you know what I mean?

GN: It’s also so weird because it’s like—you know, it used to be if you were on a TV show, okay, it’s premiering Wednesday night at eight o’clock, and you will know after that episode airs this is how well you did. The feedback is kind of immediate.

But then part of the appeal is The Tick will be on Amazon until the end of time. We’re making something not just for the week it comes out but trying to make something that will just live forever so people can watch it on their own.

I remember being on Twitter when the first six episodes from the people who had been waiting, who had been counting down the clock until it came out and were watching it live and were responding to things versus people who were just now catching up it with it and finding it new and people are now being able to watch all 12 at once. It seems positive, but it’s also just…

PS: I mean I’m sure there’s probably some kind of sound business reasons for this—you could still have the episodes premiere like at eight o’clock on Friday, the new episode, and gradually build up so you have it both ways. At the end of it, all the episodes are there and available for eternity, but you still have that kind of temporal thing where people are tuning in.

GN: It’s like the Wild West because all these companies are trying to figure out like—this whole split season thing was something that Amazon hadn’t done before, and so everyone is constantly tinkering with this format. You put all these episodes up at once, how many do you do now in the modern era, do you put them up once a week? I think The Handmaid’s Tale did that, where they had one episode per week and then they would accumulate.

PS: But like Game of Thrones, right—the appeal of Game of Thrones is for two days, there would be people talking about that episode all over the world, and then that’s it. If you had Game of Thrones dropped at the same time, all the episodes, I don’t know whether it would provoke as much discussion, and I love that feeling as well, being part of a discussion, something global.

GN: I know we’re just getting into a larger conversation than that. I remember I was such a fanatic for Lost that I used to watch Lost with a group of 15 people sometimes. I had a different group each season I watched it with related to where I was in my life, who I was friends with at the time, but it was always a group of people and part of the beauty was getting together before the episode and say what do we think is gonna happen this episode? And then afterward spending the next hour and a half unwinding and trying to make sense of what we just saw and speculating and knowing there are six more episodes left, so how much time are they gonna have left, what are they gonna resolve, what will they not.

We’re in a weird time. The confines of a movie have pretty much stayed the same for decades; there’s a pretty much standard range of length that a movie is. You watch it at home or you watch it in a theater. TV is this changing medium and you gotta have people write it. “Do I write one long script and just split it up into parts, or am I trying to write separate episodes that have their own sort of tones and things?” It’s an interesting…[laughs]. It’s a lot of big questions.

PS: Having binge-watched quite a few series in my time, I know that watching The Tick that way, watching all 12 episodes, that’s a unique experience [laughs]. That would be a unique experience. I might try it!

The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz) and Arthur (Griffin Newman) from the new half-season of The Tick (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

TNE: I did really enjoy just being able to jump right into the next episode instead of having to wait a week to find out what’s going to happen next, but also as someone who’s a little older now, it helped because I didn’t have to remember what happened in the last episode—it was all very fresh.

TNE: Peter, when you do the opening narration for each episode, who do you think that the Tick is speaking to?

PS: I think he’s speaking to—I think he’s in love with the sound of his own voice, but not in a narcissistic way, if that is possible. There’s nothing—there’s no vanity in it.

GN: The Tick is also very childlike. I remember as a kid who was obsessed with movies and TV and stuff, I would walk around the street and do an inner monologue, a voiceover in my head as if it was the movie about my adventures of trying to get to school every morning. I think the Tick is so in love with the mythology of what a superhero is, of what being a superhero means that it’s like—he’s not living life to the fullest unless he’s giving himself the same sort of pomp and circumstance. He’s narrating this to the world so that his story has the weight that he thinks a superhero should hold.

PS: I think you’re right. I hadn’t thought of that, but yes. [Newman laughs]

TNE:  Both of your characters are dealing with an absurd world from different perspectives: Tick from a place of certainty in his morals, but he’s uncertain in his identity, and Arthur is more fragile, and maybe even more uncertain, but more grounded in reality. I wanted to know how each of you approached playing the more serious character beats against the craziness of the situations the writers placed you in?

GN: One of my favorite moments in the whole series is in the episode where I go work in my office and The Tick shows up and he’s like, “How much longer are you gonna be here?” Arthur says, “I think about half an hour,” and The Tick thinks that is absurd. The Tick views the idea of going and sitting at a desk and typing the same things over and over again for eight hours to be absurd.

PS: Which it is. On top of that, on top of the mundane absurdity that we endure and embrace every day, just the way the world is at the moment, the things that are going on are far more absurd than what happens in our show.

GN: You start to take a talking dog seriously. But I think both Tick and Arthur have very consistent viewpoints. They don’t totally know how to live their lives, but they know what they believe in, they know what they want to stand for, so I think the way you ride that tone is just staying honest to that. You stay honest to what their kind of spine is, the characters, and then try to match the energy of what the scene is. And you look at the script and you go, “Ok, I recognize here that I have to get a laugh out of this line. I recognize here that it’s important information I need to get across for the story, so you have to be a little sort of technical in that sense because it’s functional…to what you’re servicing on a scene-to-scene basis. The Tick wants to be good. The Arthur be Arthur. [Both gentlemen laugh]

PS: Bea Arthur wants to be…

GN: Bea Arthur wants to be Maude. [laughs] Arthur doesn’t want other people to be hurt, and he doesn’t want the bad people to continue unchecked. And you have to constantly just filter it through that sort of kaleidoscope.

TNE: Thank you, guys. I really appreciate your time and I love the new series.

All 12 episodes of the first season of The Tick are currently available on Amazon Prime Video for your streaming and binge-watching pleasure.

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About Dezbot

Désirée I. Guzzetta is a freelance writer and poet who loves movies, books, music, and nerdy things, not necessarily in that order.

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