TV Review: Self-Serious ‘The Cape’ Misses Attempt at New ‘Heroes’

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CHICAGONBC never learns. After not just countless rip-offs but “Heroes” itself tanked, why would they try to go back to a clearly-drained well for another comic book TV series like “The Cape”? If shows like “The Event” and “No Ordinary Family” are struggling to find an audience, is there anyone who really thinks they’ve been waiting for this lackluster superhero saga to return to network genre programming? Until the big five present something truly original, not merely a shadow of what they have done better before, fans are going to keep jumping off this sinking ship and no superhero will stop them. TV Rating: 1.0/5.0
TV Rating: 1.0/5.0

Cramming two episodes into one premiere night block (never a sign of confidence as it usually means the network doesn’t think the pilot is strong enough on its own and is also effectively burning off already-paid-for episodes), NBC’s “The Cape” is yet another tale of a normal guy turned abnormal by an increasingly-corrupt world that he now hopes to defend. It’s kind of like a tame version of “Kick-Ass” in that it’s about an ordinary guy answering the call of a world that needs a hero by taking on the identity of his son’s favorite comic book character, The Cape.

It’s mere minutes into the pilot before a masked man named “Chess” is terrorizing the police force (possibly with help from within, of course) and “The Cape” already feels as derivative as a SyFy Original Movie. The first two hours of “The Cape” feel like a program on borrowed time and it’s almost as if the writers and cast knew it. There’s desperation in nearly every scene and line of dialogue trying to sell you the importance of this story of the hero this dark world truly needs. I’ve been wrong before, but if “The Cape” doesn’t go the way of other pedestrian NBC genre efforts like “Knight Rider” and “Bionic Woman” then there must truly be some superheroes working at NBC because they know something I don’t know.

The Cape
The Cape
Photo credit: NBC

The Cape’s alter ego is Vince Faraday (David Lyons of “ER”), a cop framed for murder by a web of corruption. He’s forced to fight crime to try and win back the love of his family (Jennifer Ferrin, Ryan Wynott) while he discovers that the deadly Chess (James Frain of “True Blood”) is someone he nearly trusted. The strong supporting cast is filled out by the excellent Keith David, great Summer Glau, Martin Klebba, Dorian Missick, and Vinnie Jones.

The Cape
The Cape
Photo credit: NBC

The cast of “The Cape” certainly isn’t horrible but the dialogue and the mediocre plotting do them no favors at all. The proceedings pick up noticeably and get a much-needed injection of screen charisma when David shows up as the twisted Yoda to Lyons’ Luke but even that arc drags — David at one points asks if anyone values showmanship any more with the irony being that “The Cape” isn’t nearly showy enough — and any producer who has Summer Glau and Vinnie Jones in their cast and can’t get them in their first half-hour, as most viewers are deciding whether or not to stay tuned, should be fired. Lyons certainly isn’t bad and David, Glau, and Jones are always interesting but their arrival is likely to be too late for most viewers who will have changed the channel or deleted their recording by then.

What’s so baffling about “The Cape” is the thinking by some writers and producers that genre fans like their superhero stories as simple as possible. Like a lot of NBC programming, “The Cape” feels like escapism that would have fit perfectly in the ’80s but not in an era when genre fans have seen storytelling and characters as rich as those in “The Dark Knight,” “Spider-Man 2,” or even the first season of “Heroes.” Comic books and adaptations of them have become more intellectually challenging over the years and there’s simply nothing clever or smart about “The Cape.” It’s all surface level and that surface is blank.

The art form of comic books changed over time. They went through periods of simple “good vs. evil” but most of the fiction about men and women who wear tights developed into something more complex as the audience grew up and demanded something more challenging. There’s simply nothing complex or challenging about “The Cape.” If it didn’t take itself so damn seriously, I’d love to recommend it as pure escapism but it’s all presented with such a straight face that even a group of bank-robbing carnival freaks are dull. I guess that takes some kind of superpower.

“The Cape” stars David Lyons, Summer Glau, Keith David, James Frain, Martin Klebba, Dorian Missick, and Vinnie Jones. It premieres on NBC on Sunday, January 9th, 2011 at 8pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Anna's picture

Bring back heroes!

They should of just kept heroes, astleast it was good!

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