Thursday, August 03, 2006

Who Wants to be a Superhero?

Missed the premiere, but caught a rerun of SciFi's Who Wants to be a Superhero? last night with the girlfriend. I've never been so mortified (this includes the time I rented this gem and convinced her it might be good).

There's a good show in there somewhere, it's just buried under what the producers think, or don't think, of superheroes in general. Stan Lee gives a dopey, "what-it-means-to-be-a-superhero" speech, and though it's scripted and he's a bad actor, it rings true, and I could see a good show from that premise. Too bad that premise is buried under a ton of artifice and willful distortion. The production definitely treats the contestants as weirdos, and has little empathy for them.

And who would? My girlfriend had an excellent point in that they should have done this show with kid contestants, and I agree. Kids would be natural, free from the cynicism that plagues adults and they would have a greater wealth of imagination. They wouldn't look like the freaks/opportunists that populate the show now. Plus, there wouldn't be the creepiness of watching adults dress and act like this, coming across as infantile, emotionally unstable closet-cases.

This show puts out a bad image... it reflects badly on fans of superheroes and, by extension, comics. I don't believe any of the contestants are really fans of comics, but they are there representing us. Stan Lee's "performance" is cringe-worthy... and a little out of character from what I've seen of him in the past (I've really never seen him as a scold). Also, and this is just me, but does anyone else out there get the feeling that the contestants have no real interaction with him, that his scenes are filmed entirely separate from theirs? It was the way he responded to Nitro G's plees in that "I'll take that into consideration" way that made me think it was a prescripted, generic response. It came across like they filmed all of Stan's bits already, that the winners have mostly been decided upon by the producers.

I don't know. I could almost enjoy it on a camp/train-wreck level, but it's hard to ignore the damage it does all around. Stan Lee has made a career out of bringing comics to the masses. The difference is that when he started, he started out with college crowds, elevating the perception of funny books by courting the hip and the literate... with this show, all I see is a pandering to the lowest common denominator by selling out one's lifelong career of inspiring imagination.


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