NBC will try to pull one last genre trick out of its bag of tricks Sunday with the premiere of "The Cape" at 9 p.m. ET.
A cop is framed for a crime he didn't commit, and corrupt officers leave him for dead once he's caught. Using the fact that others think he's dead, Vince Faraday (David Lyons) uses a little help from a circus ringleader to take on some special abilities as well as the persona of his son's (Ryan Wynott) favorite superhero to become a vigilante in the fictional town of Palm City.
It's a different take on a comic book-style character, but one it seems many reviewers are not too impressed by.
"The most irritating thing about today's superheroes is how seriously they take themselves," said Washington Post reviewer Hank Stuever, who called "The Cape" a "stupid geek-stinker."
"And so the Cape begins his journey of vigilante justice. Even as the Cape prevents a convenience store stick-up, the clerk winces at how dumb the whole idea is."
The show is symbolic of what's happening at NBC right now, said Scott D. Pierce of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Good intentions, terrible show."
"A show like this could be fun," Pierce said. "Except this one is so ludicrous and dumb, it's just insulting to the intelligence of viewers."
Zap2it's Jethro Nededog says comic book fans will appreciate this show, especially with its over-the-top villains and heroes. In fact, Nededog goes as far to say that some critics who might not like the show are probably ones who typically wouldn't like comic book heroes anyway.
"If you're predisposed to thinking that a guy waving a cape around can't be anything but silly, then you won't be drawn into Faraday's dedication to clearing his name and the fight for what's right," he said. "You'll wonder why he doesn't just take his family and run when he has the chance.
"You'll basically over-think it."
But it's possible that the show maybe took itself too seriously, when it might have worked better if the producers hadn't. At least, that's the opinion of Peter Hartlaub from the San Francisco Chronicle.
"'The Cape' is a promising television program that would have been a lot better if the producers were aware of its ridiculousness," Hartlaub said. "This is a show where the main character whips a magic bathrobe around, using the fabric to throw knives and disarm gunmen. The tone needs to be less like 'Heroes' and more like 'The Greatest American Hero.'"
Rob Owen from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wasn't as nice, however.
"Maybe if you're a sheltered 12-year-old boy, there are elements of NBC's new superhero drama 'The Cape' that make it watchable," said Owen, who added the two-hour premiere is less like a two-hour episodes, and more like two different episodes stitched together. "But for anyone who's seen the Spider-Man films (or even the last, worst season of NBC's 'Heroes'), there's little to recommend about this new series."
Robert Bianco's problem with the series actually has more to do with the weapon of choice.
"There are many problem's with NBC's latest attempt to bring a comic book sensibility to TV," the USA Today critic said. "But the primary one is basic: A cape is simply not exciting or convincing as a superhero weapon. And making constant jokes in the dialogue about the flaw isn't the same as fixing it."
To its credit, however, Bianco liked the idea that it wasn't too complicated like another freshman NBC series, "The Event," and not as burdened with mythology as "Heroes" was.
The series makes it clear that there is nothing supernatural about what the Cape can do, closer to Batman's abilities than Superman's. However, the scientific explanations offered on the show may have even the best minds in the real world scratching their heads, Bianco said.
"The show's 'sensible' answers make no sense," he said. "There's no believable explanation offered for his illusion-based disappearance act or his ability to send a man flying via cape-wrap alone. How do you do that without a super-strength, or at least a super-lever?"
Laurel Brown with BuddyTV says viewers should give "The Cape" a try, because while the story may seem familiar, familiar can be good.
"Familiar can be good," she said. "There are a lot of positive comparisons to Batman here: a 'normal' hero who uses skill and tricks to defeat his enemies, a tone that alternates between brooding and comedic, a secret identity to protect loved ones.
"And there is a reason why people keep making comic book-based entertainment. Audiences love it."
"The Cape" premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, before moving to its regular Monday timeslot. It also stars James Frain, Jennifer Ferrin, Keith David, Martin Klebba and Summer Glau.
Airlock Alpha caught up with Frain -- who also appeared in "True Blood" and other shows -- at a party held at San Diego Comic-Con last summer. See what he had to say about "The Cape."
Also, Zap2it has posted the opening credits of "The Cape."
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