- Malocchio Jr., Prock, and Muscle Man are super.
Some folks have hit their saturation point for all things comics-related, but not me. Some folks think we’ve plumbed the depths of all things superhero-related, but I don’t think that. And while I might have still been riding the high from seeing Guardians of the Galaxy (which was amazing), I enjoyed the season two premiere of Hulu’s original series The Awesomes. The show, like its titular team, still felt a little cobbled together, even after 12 episodes—but I think both are finally getting the hang of this superhero business.
The Awesomes was created by talk show host (and former Saturday Night Live head writer) Seth Meyers, his Late Night with Seth Meyers producer Mike Shoemaker, and Dan Mintz, who provides the voice for everyone’s favorite Belcher, Tina, on Bob’s Burgers. The animation is courtesy of Bento Box (Bob’s Burgers and Brickleberry) and the cast is made up almost entirely of MADtv and SNL veterans: Seth Meyers and his brother, Josh, Bill Hader, Ike Barinholtz, Taran Killam, Kenan Thompson, and Rashida Jones, among others. It’s a love fest of Judd Apatow “protege reunion” proportions.
The Awesomes themselves have a less prestigious pedigree, and are made up mostly of leftover and rejected crime fighters. Meyers voices Prock, whose only superpower (stopping time in ten-second intervals) is slowly killing him. He has taken over for his father, Mr. Awesome, who founded and led the original Awesomes for 70 years. We also have Muscle Man (Barinholtz), who is all brawn and no brains; the flighty speedster, Frantic (Killam); the douchey Perfect Man (Josh Meyers), who has the least fitting name; Impresario (Thompson), a conjurer and a dandy; and Hotwire (Jones), who can manipulate electricity, and is among the more effective of the bunch.
Season one laid out The Awesomes’ growing pains, which included government oversight (in the form of funding); a love triangle between Prock, Hotwire, and Perfect Man; and the discovery that Hotwire was the daughter of Dr. Malocchio (Hader), the team’s arch nemesis. It was sort of fun, but I was disappointed by how much the early episodes wallowed in alien-sex tropes and childish sight gags, like the repetition of the phrase “alien pussy” ad nauseam and a compost monster that the team tried to flush down a toilet.
Luckily, the show shook off most of its laziness by midseason, and the writers churned out better character arcs, including Hotwire’s struggle with familial obligations and her own sense of morality. Her presumed death in last season’s finale is the segue into season two; when Hotwire’s biological and “adopted” family gather for her funeral, we meet the new Big Bad, Malocchio Jr. (Will Forte). By the second episode the Awesomes have a new roster, a new nemesis, and even more government agents to evade (like Amy Poehler, as special prosecutor Jaclyn Stone).
There’s no denying that The Awesomes is reminiscent of movies and shows like The Specials and Drawn Together. But while the storylines aren’t the most inspired, the show has turned out to be an inventive pastiche of superheroes and their parodies. The creative team has mined the source materials and found some obscure gems: there are references to Johnny Thunder and the Ultra-Humanite (which is something I never thought I’d say) mixed in with an Iron Man “homage.” There’s still plenty left to explore and send up.
The Awesomes, Hulu, episodes one and two of season two available