Background: As a fan of comic book superheroes for eon's now, I have appreciated the way the art form has evolved over the last four decades. No longer just for kids, their stories have gone from two dimensional moralist plays to intricately woven fictional accounts that mimic many issues from real life, often lasting many issues as the dilemma's presented are addressed in various ways. Compare some of the early volumes with Superman, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, or The Flash to more recent depictions and you'll see what I mean in that regard. Well, over the years various attempts to employ satire and humor to such heroes have been tried, sometimes successfully, other times less so, in various mediums, often in clumsy fashion by those that simply didn't understand the basics to begin with; causing fans to rail at the results. Other times, such portrayals have worked rather well, usually because they didn't harp too much on the aspects many of us hold as cannon. One such show I got to see this week was My Hero: Season One; a BBC sitcom that pays tribute to the genre while skewering human customs much like other outsider shows have done over the years.
Series: My Hero: Season 1 is a six episode first season from the British Broadcasting Company that aired in early 2000. The show detailed the exploits of a powerful superhero named Thermoman with the ability to fly, heat & x-ray vision, super strength, hearing & speed, and is generally accepted as a parody of everyone's favorite Kryptonian. He comes from another planet and uses his powers for good, saving lives all over the world for no reward as an all around good guy. His limited exposure to humans in social settings hinder his dating life until he saves a gal in her late 20's named Janet Dawkins. In his mundane life, Thermoman lives as a health food store owner named George Sunday, a slightly odd man according to those who know him at all and after he starts courting her, the couple move in together. This provides the setting for lots of comic set ups as George tries to keep his secret identity from Janet's inquisitive parents, the neighbors, and the rest of the world to protect her from harm.
Another regular on the show was Janet's doctor boss, Dr. Piers Crispin, who Janet's folks try to get involved with her all too often. His ego gets a regular comeuppance from the naïve George on a regular basis, but he provides the perfect foil absent of any super villains intruding on the shows lighthearted nature. Also regularly appearing was the kooky neighbor Tyler, a burnt out former hippy who knows George's secret but no one listens to thanks to his frequent ramblings and an ex-hero friend of George by the name of Arnie; depowered when he left the business and now working as a short order cook with incredibly bad advice to offer his pal at every turn.
Okay, given the cultural depth by which most of us have at least some knowledge of the superhero genre (there's no escaping it; from television, the movies, comics and other fictional novels, videogames, and now the internet), the field of sitcoms was ripe for the picking here. Granted, we've seen the dynamic before in shows like Bewitched, Sabrina, or I Dream of Jeannie, where much of the humor was derived from hiding their special abilities but unlike the campy Batman series from the 1960's, the modern sitcom method of balancing the types of humor allowed for much more. When George, as Thermoman, has to leave a family gathering to help some needy soul, his excuses are typically sillier than you would expect coming from Clark Kent. The emphasis on using the fish out of water idea was pushed a bit hard (a friend tells me this was toned down in later seasons) but it was still cute as the rapid fire humor was full of more hits than misses, with scores of double entendres and the traditionally dry wit of the Brits.
That said, like any comedy foreign or domestic, the show will be hit or miss for you. I liked it a lot but the combination of parody, humor, and manner in which the characters interacted provided me with lots of belly laughs. Yes, some of the jokes were groaners but anyone into comic book heroes will have a lot to enjoy here and the manner in which Ardal O'Hanlon plays the lead so well simply made the show. The secondary characters were portrayed with just enough sarcastic edge that they helped give Ardal a boost too, making me hope that later seasons come to DVD soon (IIRC, the series was recently cancelled but lasted quite a long time so there will be plenty to enjoy if this one sells well). I rated this one as Recommended since it only had a single disc with six episodes and limited extras but I found it reasonably priced (it originally came out in January) so that took the sting out of it. Give it a look and I think many of you will appreciate it too.
Season One episodes:
1) My Hero Pilot (February 4, 2000)
2) Guess Who's Coming To Lunch? (February 11, 2000)
3) Mission Impossible (February 18, 2000)
4) Thermoman's Greatest Challenge (February 25, 2000)
5) Old Man Riverdance (March 3, 2000)
6) The Party's Over (March 10, 2000)
Picture: My Hero: Season 1 was presented in the standard 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as originally shot for broadcast in England back in 2000. The fleshtones were accurate, the grain minimal, and the compression rate fairly decent for a dual layered disc. I haven't seen it before so I have nothing to compare it too although I will be searching to see more of it while I wait for the follow up seasons to be released in Region 1. It looked much like other contemporary shows from the BBC, using special effects minimally to allow the comedy to focus on the other aspects of the show rather than simply the super aspects of George's character.
Sound: The audio was presented in a 2.0 Dolby Digital English offering with minimal separation between the tracks but generally well handled over all. The laugh track was set a bit too high but the show shares that element with most domestically produced sitcoms and there really wasn't much to comment about either way (I heard no drop outs, no especially wide dynamic range, or other aspects taking away from the quality of the show).
Extras: The DVD cover listed the overviews of the episodes, there were some cast biographies, and a short interview from a few seasons ago by lead actor Ardal O'Hanlon that caught my eye (it only lasted about ten minutes). There was also a television short from a children's show Against All Odds that had some of the stunt work displayed.
Final Thoughts: My Hero: Season 1 was a cute little cornball comedy from England that used the backdrop of a naïve super hero figuring out human customs with lots of slips along the way. The season was definitely too short but still offered up some silly antics that I enjoyed at least twice without them getting stale so perhaps My Hero: Season 1 will be followed by the rest of the show in short order on DVD, at least I hope so, for the fans that have come to appreciate the series and want longer lasting copies than they might have taped off cable. The technical aspects were reasonably well handled and there were some extras, a fact that should not be overlooked considering how many domestic series are released without them.