Background: Comic book heroes tend to be taken very seriously by fans when they hit the big (or small) screen, said fans often demanding a level of historical accuracy that is tough to provide in the visual formats outside of the printed page. For every fan that likes shows like Superman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, or The Incredible Hulk, you can generally find scores of unhappy campers that either wanted it more true to the original story, handled with better special effects, or directed by some "name" director that isn't about to take on such characters that are locked in by the obsessive nature of their fans. This leads us into the nature of television showing a lighter side of such heroes, from the camp factor used in the old Adam West Batman series or the silly British comedy I reviewed earlier this year called My Hero: Season One. By "inventing" a fictional character that had never existed before, the thinly disguised Superman clone wasn't held down to the specifics of the aging hero of my youth, nor were the copyright holders able to intervene in the show. Well, luckily, I picked up My Hero: Season Two last week and got to give it a look, finding the cast getting even better in their roles as the second season developed. Here's a recap of what took place before and some season specific material for those interested:
Series: My Hero: Season 2 is the seven episode second season from the British Broadcasting Company that aired in mid 2001. 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 na´ve 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 in Las Vegas with incredibly bad advice to offer George at every turn (especially about women).
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.
Okay, in the second season, it was clear that George's odd behavior bothered Janet as her mother and father wanted to keep pressing the couple to split up so a few of the stories involved letting them in on the secret. Needless to say, that proved disastrous as the bragging rights of a mother are always insurmountable so after dealing with the problems associated with a blabbermouth family, George has to erase their memories in Parents. The parents were also key players in the show's Christmas special, with a lot of keen insights made about gifts and the holiday that could apply to a serious look at the holiday too. George's Ultronian fiancÚ brings him a contract for marriage signed long before he came to Earth that must be dealt with, Janet's desire for a car leads to disaster when Arnie is given his powers back to abuse, and an unexpected pregnancy leads to the wedding of the year with Janet getting a taste of super powers too. In all, it was even more fun than the first season as the writer's seemed to get the knack for bringing out the best in the performers who in turn seemed to revel in their roles as they got used to them.
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 seven episodes and limited extras but I found it reasonably priced (it originally came out in a few weeks ago) so that took the sting out of it. Give it a look and I think many of you will appreciate it too.
Season Two episodes:
1) Christmas (December 22, 2000)
2) Parents (May 14, 2001)
3) Girlfriend (May 21, 2001)
4) Car (May 28, 2001)
5) Nemesis (June 4, 2001)
6) Pregnant (June 11, 2001)
7) Wedding (June 18, 2001)
Picture: My Hero: Season 2 was presented in the standard 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as originally shot for broadcast in England back in mid 2001. 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. It did look similar to the first season with little improvement observed but the show looked okay before so that was not an issue.
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 but there were fewer extras this time in order to make room for the Christmas episode (which some argue should have been on the first season set) so having an extra episode tends to trump extras found elsewhere in my book.
Final Thoughts: My Hero: Season 2 was a cute little cornball comedy from England that used the backdrop of a na´ve 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 2 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.