I really want to like No Heroics. I’m the demographic (well, I would be if I was younger, sigh …): I like comedy and I like comic books. It doesn’t require complicated mathematics to work it out. So it is with heavy heart that I write the words, ‘It was okay’. Even with Warren Ellis’ seal of approval, I can’t muster up excessive positivity about it, and that makes me sad.
No Heroics is a sitcom about British superheroes in a pub. I never thought I’d write a sentence like that in my life, let alone about a programme on ITV2. They spend most of their time in The Fortress (‘No Masks. No Powers. No Heroics.’), a boozer for capes when they’re off duty, while they check out who has the most appearances on telly. This is usually Excelsor aka Devlin (Patrick Baladi, The Office), who is effectively Superman but is also a complete dick (just like the website), a smug and annoying rugger bugger type who lords it over everyone. The main group of characters are: The Hotness (Nicholas Burns, Nathan Barley and ManStrokeWoman), Alex, who has powers of heat; Electroclash (Claire Keelan, Nathan Barley), Sarah, who has control over machines; She-Force (Rebekah Staton), Jenny, who is the third strongest woman in the world; and Timebomb (James Lance, The Book Group, Sensitive Skin), Don, a gay Spanish retired hero with the ability to see 60 seconds into the future. The cast are good (Lance seems wasted in his role, but brings quality to the screen when he is on) but have to work hard to overcome some of the character traits and attempts at made-up swearing (‘Bum socks’) that don’t flow naturally or organically.
What is good in the show is the background: if you look at the ‘Geek detail’ section of the official website [EDIT: website no longer exists], you will see the level of comic book geekery involved in the props department alone (such as Logan’s Rum or Gin City gin, or the fact that the sign for the pub resembles the giant key Superman used for his Fortress of Solitude). The world of the superhero permeates, such as the phrase ‘cape rape’ when a groupie threatens The Hotness unless he has sex with her, or the way he talks about her previous conquests (‘He’s a demon!). Drew Pearce, the creator, writer and producer of the show, is obviously a huge fan of all thing comic books (and professes that Zenith was a big influence), and this sitcom means a lot to him. It is for this reason that I will keep watching, because it isn’t to do with the jokes.
Because it really isn’t that funny. Yet. I think it could be, but there were only a few good jokes along the way; there were a few chuckles, and a lot of the humour was quite black, but the balance wasn’t there. I’m trying to remember some of the gags from the twenty-four minutes of the first episode but apart from some nice James Lance delivery (Excelsor tries bullying Timebomb with ‘What’s the password?’ to which he replies, ‘Is it “Let me through or I rape you and kill you?”’), they were thin on the ground. I didn’t hate it, and I wanted to watch more, and I’m very impressed that (a) it’s on at all, especially ITV2, and (b) they’ve created a sitcom where superheroes exist as background to the story, and superheroes are not mocked for the campness or the silliness. That’s really impressive. I hope that it picks up when it’s settled in, and that I’m just overreacting because I was really looking forward to it.