Friday, August 4, 2006

Looking To The Stars - Unreal Reality TV - Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

With my current occupation keeping me working most evenings, I don’t get a chance to watch a lot of prime-time TV. And I’m honestly not a big TV person anyway. And I am definitely not a fan of Reality TV shows.

To my mind, there are few things more pointless than watching a bunch of petty, back-stabbing, shallow buffoons debase themselves for a chance at glory and money. If I wanted to see that, I could get back into professional theater and at least get paid for the privilege.

So I wasn’t planning on watching Who Wants To Be A Superhero? until my girlfriend told me I should check it out. Sierra, who IS a Reality TV show person, surprised me by saying that she watched it and thought that if the do a second one, I should try out because “Matt could have so won this, hands down.” I’m not too sure about that but I am sure that people who are comic fans but aren’t fans of reality TV will like this show.

I hear some of you out there are scoffing a bit. You find it hard to believe that anyone would make a show about superheroes for popular entertainment that isn’t going to be a mockery of the whole concept. Crowds of passersby shouting “Oy, look at the geeks running around in their spandex!” and what not. And how on earth can something as devoted to promoting sneaky, two-faced behavior as your average Reality TV show possibly be based around something which promotes positive virtues, like classic superhero comic books?

The same way all good superheroes stand out; by simple virtue of being above that.

If you don’t believe me or don’t want to be spoiled, don’t worry. You can catch the first episode for free at The Sci-Fi Channel Website. It won’t cost you anything except 45 minutes of your time and there’s episode summaries there if you want an even briefer description of the episodes.

For those of you who want to know a little bit more with some minor spoilers (first 20 minutes of the first show), read on!

Any worries that this will be a typical reality show are cut short early on. After an introductory segment where we see some of the rejects, we are introduced to the dozen heroes who are competing for the big prize; a comic book series written by Stan Lee and their own movie on the Sci-Fi channel.

And for those of you playing at home, here’s the quick rundown on “The Terrific 12″.

Major Victory – ex-stripper trying to redeem his checkered past
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Overzealous Shlub

Monkey Woman – Shanna the She Devil meets Batman.
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Crazy Chick

Ty’Veculus’s – firefighter turned gladiator
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: Unintentional Comic Relief

Creature – punk fairy princess from another planet
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Team Slut. Magic bullwhip and a mini-skirt. Nuff said!

Nitro G – Kyle Rayner wannabe, right down to the costume
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Clueless Rookie

Fat Momma – potential lawsuit fodder should Martin Lawrence watch this.
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Fat Black Woman.

Rotiart – techie supreme
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: Fat Guy Comic Relief.

Lemuria – light-controller with a name that sounds like a disease.
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Glamour Girl

Levity – action-figure modeler and gay rights activist
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Sassy Gay Guy.

Cell Phone Girl – She’s a girl… with a cell phone!
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Team Bimbo

Iron Enforcer – Vin Disel wannabe bouncer. Draws power from steroids and macho talk.
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Psycho Who Shouldn’t Be Here.

Feedback – electronics-manipulating geek
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Serious Fanboy

After getting a dressing down from Stan Lee over a video monitor (The Man himself, playing Charlie to these dysfunctional superheroic Angels) for partying in a mansion when they should be thinking seriously about the challenges to come, they get bussed off to “the real lair”. But before they can go inside, Stan reveals that one of the 12 is a spy who was recording them all so he could examine their character. The spy is Rotiart, which (it is quickly explained to those of us who never read a Stan Lee comic and know to check for these things) is Traitor spelled backwards.

Three of the heroes are called to task for behavior ranging the Seven Deadly Sins. Levity is a greedy sort, more concerned with what money can be made off the custom action figures he makes than on being a hero. Creature, the lusty punk girl, flirted with every man in the room. And Iron Enforcer, a Vin Disel wannabe with a big-ass fake gun learned that talking about how good you are at killing people is a bad way to impress anyone, especially Stan Lee. Eventually one is eliminated – being forced to put as much of their costume as they can and stay decent into a trash can, ala Amazing Spider-Man #50 – and the rest are free to enter a loft apartment, complete with personalized beds for each hero.

The rest of the tests are done in a similar fashion. As Stan points out, there’s no way to safely test moving faster than speeding bullets or jumping tall buildings in a single bound. Instead, the heroes are next tested by being taken to a public park, given a pager and being instructed to find a place to change into costume without being seen when they are called into duty before racing toward an archway dubbed as the finish line.

Of course this is a great test of stealth, speed and creativity. But is it a test of something more as well? You’ll have to watch the webisode to see the rest. Suffice it to say, this show isn’t about physical challenges. It tests the would-be heroes on all the things that matter – what make a hero on the inside. Courage. Creativity. Compassion. Honor. Honesty. Humility.

(Not in those words, but that alliteration sure does look cool, doesn’t it?)

And while no doubt there are some people who will watch this show and laugh at Fat Momma trying to run in her spandex outfit or groan in disbelief as Monkey Woman hoots her warcry in excitement as she charges into action, they are missing the point.

It’s not about the gimmicks. It’s not about the costumes. It’s all about the heart. And this show has that in spades. ‘Nuff said.

Trust me, True Believers, if you like old-school comic-book cool, then you’ll love Who Wants To Be A Superhero.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.


  1. Great little column. I'm really loving this show, and the second episode is even better as it features Monkey Girl doing one of the bravest things I've seen people do on television, extreme Superhero makeovers, and a shocking plot twist at the end.
    Oh and you made a slight typo error. It's "Rotiart" not "Toriart."

  2. Why do they have the R and the T right next to each other on the keyboard? :P
    Corrected, thank you. And one correction deserving enough, it's Monkey Woman. Not Monkey Girl. You think THIS is a girl? Get your eyes checked!

  3. I think I like this costume better than the one Stan hooked up for her.

  4. OK, you talked me into catching the video, my reply:
    1) Feedback=Johnny Storm/Wally West wanna-be.
    2) Major Victory=Adam West, you're totally right on that one.
    3) Fat Momma=She said mean stuff post-interviews when Iron Enforcer eliminated...she's probably gone soon, and this was right after Stan slammed Feedback for doing just that about the costume stuff. Learn from the teacher, students.
    4) Lemura=She seems pretty interested in this, but not sure. Reply Hazy, Ask Again Later.
    5) Monkey Woman=Dittos on #4 comments.
    6) Creature=Really not sure, still trying to get past the whole, 'I'm in an underground dance club' vibe from her.
    7) Ty'Vectus=Probably part of the final 3, or 2, or whatever.
    8) Dark Enforcer=Interesting, but I think he needs to lose the steel veil he's wearing...quickly.
    Parting comments/Observations From Our Side:
    1) If we were there, we all would have stopped for the crying child, no hesitation on that one. That's 'Basic Superhero 101' stuff there.
    2) And don't tell me for one moment we wouldn't be getting the 'dog suits' back on and jumping right back over that fence, to help out Monkey Woman after say, the first few minutes mark had passed. You help out others when they're really in need. That's what heroes, true heroes, do. She had more than proved her courage on that one.
    Guess we're too team-minded though, and that's probably not what Stan's shopping for this time around....which is probably why we don't get a call as 'Force One'.
    Sierra's right though, we would be glorious in there, if we got the chance. :)

  5. I definitely do. That one is more Lara Croft. This one is more 50's Jungle Queen (Shanna/Sheena/whatever).

  6. Oh, we would SO own this.
    Sadly, I don't think they'd ever do this for teams. Same reason why nobody has done American Idol with bands, as far as I know. Much easier for the unwashed masses to remember one face than several.
    Still, I think Feedback may win it. He's only screwed up once and shown a real desire to try and improve.

  7. my baby could sooooooooooooooooooooooo own this show bol laffs maniacally

  8. OK, fine. You can be the good wisecracking good-guy, and I'll do the villain thing. We can beat each other'll be fun, superpowered hijinks all for Stan's benefit.
    What do you think sirs??? ;P

  9. Push the button, Frank.
    Start forging your armor for Dr. Dude and we'll discuss it further. :)