Doom Patrol: Insane Adult Superhero Comedy (Seasons 1 and 2) – HBO Max Mini-Review

If you haven’t given this a look, you’re missing out.

SUMMARY

Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan) was a professional racecar driver who was killed in an accident. He was revived in a robot body by Dr. Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton), a scientist who leads a group of individuals that have tragic origins and fantastic powers. They include Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), a woman with 64 personalities and 64 superpowers, Rita Farr (April Bowlby), an actress whose body is elastic, and Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk), a pilot who is possessed by a radioactive “negative spirit.” In the first season, Niles goes missing, and the team, along with Vic “Cyborg” Stone (Joivan Wade) has to rescue him from the powerful Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk). In the second season, the team has to deal with the arrival of Niles’ daughter, Dorothy Spinner (Abigail Shapiro), who is likely to end the world with her imaginary friend, the Candlemaker (Lex Lang). 

They’re weirdly photogenic for a group of “social outcasts.”

END SUMMARY

I was skeptical about this show because it was originally shown as a spin-off of the show Titans on DC Universe. If you didn’t read my review of that, my opinion of that series was not positive. Doom Patrol, however, is an entirely different animal. While the show is still dark like Titans, this is a bitter, cynical dark comedy and it is done really well. Probably in an attempt to keep the series separate, the two shows have since been established to be in different continuities, although a “Doom Patrol” does still exist in the Titans universe. 

But that Doom Patrol is nowhere near as fun.

The show mostly duplicates the feel of Grant Morrison’s famous revival run on the comic book series. While the original Doom Patrol was a straightforward group of outcasts banded together as a superhero team, Morrison decided to age-up the series and make it more surreal and with more meta-commentary. He focused on making the universe in which the Doom Patrol operated bleaker and weirder than the average comic book being put out by DC at the time. Just how the comic’s nature differentiated itself from other contemporary series, so too does this show set itself apart from most of the other superhero shows on television right now. For example, a fun part of the first season is that the show is actually narrated by Alan Tudyk, who is both a genre-savvy character and also aware of his fictional nature. Not only is his commentary hilarious, but the fact that he’s narrating the events of a show in which he regularly appears also gives him an air of omnipotence, raising his threat-level as a villain. 

Dear every television producer: Alan Tudyk makes anything better.

While all of the main characters are pretty interesting and have wildly different personalities and motivations, the show’s ability to supply inventive guest characters is perhaps its greatest strength. Entire episodes typically revolve around the group making contact with some strange new entity, ranging from a donkey that can eat a town to a guy who can reshape reality by flexing his abs. Hell, there’s a recurring character that is a sentient cross-dressing, pan-sexual street. It’s populated by people who need sanctuary from the cruel world. The second season has focused less on guest characters and more on exploring the ramifications of what has happened to our central cast, but each episode has still featured a number of interesting worlds to explore and people to meet. This keeps the jokes and hilarious situations coming at a regular pace, which complements the dark nature of the world appropriately.

Yes, the street talks through signs.

Overall, just a really well done show. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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DC Streaming Review – Titans: Dark Doesn’t Mean Mature, Guys

Warner Bros, the owners of DC Comics, decided to make a dark, gritty, and adult version of the popular Teen Titans property. They did two out of three.

SUMMARY

Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites), former Robin to Batman, is trying to start a new life as a detective in Detroit. He finds that it’s harder to give up being a superhero than he thought, although he finds himself becoming increasingly more violent in how he handles criminals. One day he encounters a young girl named Rachel (Teagan Croft), who is being pursued by a cult who has been worshipping Rachel’s father, a dark presence from another dimension. Rachel has superpowers, but can’t control them, and her emotions can trigger a violent dark side of her personality. Dick works to keep her safe and, along the way, is joined by Kory Anders (Anna Diop), a flame-based alien in disguise, and Gar Logan (Ryan Potter), who can turn into animals… though I think it’s only really a tiger at this point. Together, they work to thwart the cult that’s trying to abduct Rachel and also to keep her safe while uncovering her background.

titans - 1cast
I don’t quite get a Batman and Robin vibe, so that’s good.

END SUMMARY

Well, let’s go over the positives: Most of the ancillary characters in this show are awesome. Hawk and Dove (Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly) are the focus of at least 2 episodes and their relationship both to each other and to superheroing is complicated and interesting. They basically are using fighting crime as a way to deal with all of their repressed rage issues. Then there’s Donna Troy (Conor Leslie), AKA Wonder Girl, Wonder Woman’s sidekick who has quit heroics to be an investigative journalist doing the jobs that are too dangerous for non-invulnerable people. Both of their plotlines are an interesting commentary about the psyche of the superhero and about the real nature of heroism. There’s Jason Todd (Curran Walters), the second Robin, who gets to see what being Robin has done to Dick, making his choice to be Robin much more informed than Dick’s. Then there’s the backdoor pilot group, the Doom Patrol, a group of heroes who all have powers that make them social outcasts led by a guy who was in a wheelchair (And yes, this predates the X-Men). They’re… not as interesting as the X-Men, but still good to watch.

Titans - 2HawkDove.png
He gets a helmet, she gets a concussion.

The costume and set design is great, most of the special effects in the show are really good by television standards, and I did also really enjoy the action sequences, although they are excessively brutal at times. Which brings us to the big negative of the series…

Dark does not mean mature, guys. Adding more violence, sex, and swearing doesn’t actually mean your show is more adult, except in ratings. This was the thing that I most feared about the show from the somewhat infamous “Fuck Batman” trailer: That it was going to learn all the wrong lessons from DC’s attempts to be mature in the past. What made Batman: The Dark Knight Returns mature wasn’t just the swearing or the violence, it was that it took a deeper look into what the psyche of a person who would dress like a bat and beat the hell out of criminals would become when he got older and the world got more violent. This show tries that, but then clearly dumps a bunch of “adult content” into the show just to make it seem darker. Not every “F*ck” is earned automatically, people. You need a reason for the character to choose “f*ck,” if they aren’t the kind of person who just casually drops it, and the reason can’t just be “we haven’t said it in 10 minutes.”

The casting and characterization of the main characters is mixed. I liked that Anna Diop, a black woman, is Starfire, who is typically… orange, and she mostly just shows her alien side when using her powers. She plays a version of Starfire who doesn’t know who she is and is largely confused about where she came from, which is new for an adaptation. That said, she’s also painfully more down and depressing than most versions of Starfire, which… doesn’t really help with the dynamic of the show. Brenton Thwaites is fine as an adult Dick Grayson, but the writing isn’t doing him any favors. We get it, you’re angry and you’re violent and whatever. Stop saying it over and over. Teagan Croft is pretty great as Rachel/Raven, because she’s able to convey that she can’t trust anyone, including herself. She’s afraid of herself and what she’ll do to people just as much as she’s afraid of what they’ll do to her. It works out well. Ryan Potter isn’t the cartoon Beast Boy from the 2000s, but he is close to the main comic version, and I think he does a good job. He’s not all green, but that’d cost a fortune in makeup, so I accept the compromise. Like I said, there’s a mixed bag here.

Titans - 4Comics.jpg
Granted, we were never going to find humans that actually look like this.

Another negative thing is that the overall plot has a lot of filler and not all of it builds well towards the characters or the world. However, I did freaking love the “Nuclear Family” enemies, who are basically the 1950s if they had superstrength and were powered by evil. 

Titans - 3Family.jpg
They’re so polite and lethal.

And, last, although it’s a personal gripe, I’m pissed that they didn’t include traditional Titan Cyborg in this version. At first I thought it was because he’s in the DCEU movies, but no, apparently he’s just going to be in the Doom Patrol spin-off. Well, not the biggest deal, but still irks me.

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This is the correct lineup and I will never hear anything against it.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this enough for a DC show. It’s too arbitrarily dark without enough actual exploration of the darker themes. It’s like the angsty-teen of DC shows: It says it knows how to be an adult, but it’s really just going to wear black, listen to metal, and then yell “I’M SO F*CKING DEEP!!!!” That said, if they bring this attitude to the dark satire of Garth Ennis’ The Boys that’s supposed to be coming out, that’ll work.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.