Could fantastical stories save the sitcom from extinction? First the Sunny In Philadelphia guys start working on a comedy called Boldly Going Nowhere, about life on a starship between missions. And now Britain's ITV2 is launching a new sitcom about off-duty superheroes called No Heroics. How long before we see an American version of this show? Maybe it'll help that it's based, weirdly, on the U.S. mega-comedy Friends.The natural temptation, with a comedy about superheroes who hang out in between saving the world, would be to create a bitchy ensemble of heroes who hate each others' guts. But show creator Drew Pearce says he's going the opposite way, creating a comedy about characters who actually like each other and using actors who are friends offscreen:
Two kinds of sitcom stick out in my mind. You have the one that makes you cringe and keep watching because you can't believe how awful the person at the core of it is; and there's the one where you want to come back and hang out with that group of people again. You need that when you are watching week after week.
Instead of the Central Perk coffee shop, the characters in No Heroics hang out in the Fortress, the heroes' social club/bar where they go to unwind. The walls are lined with the unfulfilled dreams of past heroes, but there's also a sense of cameraderie to go with the snarkiness. Hero characters include Alex aka The Hotness, who can generate heat with his hands (and use it to microwave his lunch) and Don aka Timebomb, a gay Spanish retired superhero who can see 60 seconds into the future. Then there's the "rotund" Jenny aka She-Force, who always picks the wrong guy to date. And Devin aka Excelsior, who's at the top of the superhero pecking order and very smug about it. All of the characters are constantly jostling for attention and fame. Most encouragingly, Pearce says he's going to avoid any excessive campiness:
Superhero comedy is seldom, if ever, well done in live action. The best superhero comedy is The Incredibles, and that's a cartoon. There have been some good attempts, such as Larry Charles's The Tick and Ben Stiller's Mystery Men, and a film called The Specials. All had good ideas but fell at the campness hurdle. I was interested in a British take on superheroes, and I think that take was to undercut it and hang out with the unfulfilled of that world; to exercise a kind of 'judo logic', where their weaknesses are actually their strengths.