web analytics
Home > TV > Living La Vida Spandex

Living La Vida Spandex

August 7th, 2006

I’m not entirely sure what to think of the Sci-Fi Channel’s new reality series, Who Wants To Be a Superhero?. Obviously, the concept of competing to be a superhero is stretching the definition of “reality” television to Elasti-Girl proportions. And some of the production elements of the show are unbearably cheesy and juvenile. Still, there’s a certain perverse charm to the show, and even a few moments of bona fide inspiration.

The contestants created their own superhero concepts with the ultimate goal of winning the opportunity to have their character immortalized in a Dark Horse comic book and a Sci-Fi Channel made-for-TV movie. Maybe “immortalized” is too strong a word for this honor, but whatever. Judging the proceedings is Stan Lee, longtime figurehead for Marvel Comics, who at 83 years old is content to appear solely on a wide array of improbably placed TV monitors. While Lee presided over Marvel’s revolutionary revamp of the superhero in the ’60s, he’s largely irrelevant to the modern comics industry. The amount of hero worship of him on the part of the participants borders on the absurd, especially in such moments as when, in the first episode, Monkey Woman (no joke, that’s the name she picked) broke down in tears for having failed him.

Of course, the superpowers of the contestants are only theoretical, so the actual competition is about their moral character. The winner is the one who displays the qualities befitting a superhero, or at least, a superhero as defined by Stan Lee. Unlike other reality competitions in which players are encouraged to lie and backstab, such activities here are likely to get one on the chopping block. Yet there’s an odd irony in hearing Stan berate the steroid-pumped Iron Enforcer over his huge gun, admonishing him that “superheroes don’t kill.” Tell that to Marvel Comics’ popular murder machines Wolverine and Punisher. In episode two, he singles out one of the contestants for mocking a fellow player, yet one of the hallmarks of Lee’s own Fantastic Four was the constant bickering and one-upmanship between The Thing and The Human Torch. Still, as an old-school superhero fan, I appreciate that Stan appears to be holding these would-be heroes up to a Silver Age standard.

A big part of the fun of the series comes from the ways in which these qualities are tested. In episode one, the heroes’ challenge involved finding a secluded spot in which to change into their super duds, then racing to a finish line. What they didn’t know was that the real obstacle was the lost little girl planted between them and their destination. It was hilarious watching these alleged paragons of justice flying past the small child crying for her mommy.

Even better was the scenario in episode two. In order to help an old woman back into her house, the players had to climb over her back yard fence and reach the rear door. Oh, and overpower the two trained attack dogs. Fortunately for both their tailors and doctors, they were allowed protective gear instead of spandex, and were given the option to say “uncle” if the dogs became too much for them to handle. The brawny Ty’vecules–a fireman in real life–charged the snarling dogs like a linebacker and made it to the door with no problem. Others were not so fortunate, and it was much funnier than it should’ve been to watch the dainty Creature being dragged by her limbs around the yard like a chew toy. But the most incredible display came from the aforementioned Monkey Woman, who correctly realized that the time involved in reaching the door was beside the point, and allowed herself to be savaged for ten freakin’ minutes before finally dragging herself onto the porch.

Monkey Woman has quickly become one of my favorites. She’s got a dumb-ass name, but who am I to diss a slender, athletic woman who chooses to traipse around in a fur bikini? Besides, she got massive style points by changing into her super costume while climbing a tree.

The other one to watch is a guy named Major Victory. He’s all old-school do-gooder, and he plays the role to the hilt. You could easily see him doing public service announcements to tell kids that eating vegetables is keen. His own reaction to the attack dog challenge was great–walking calmly through the back yard, one dog attached to each arm, he praised the canines for their valiant behavior. Honestly, if I were producing the show, I’d declare Major Victory and Monkey Woman the victors and let them co-star in a team comic.

Update: Here’s a You Tube clip of Monkey Woman vs. the dogs.

Categories: TV Tags:
Comments are closed.