The Franchise: The Superhero Comedy That Just Might Work
You’d think it would be so easy to write a superhero comedy. I mean--they’re already ridiculous! The underwear on the outside of the tights, the daddy issues, the idiot supervillains who insist on leaving idiotic clues … Or wait. Maybe that’s why superhero comedy is so hard. When the stories themselves are already ludicrous, doing a parody could be harder than it looks.
Or maybe the problem is that the territory is so well trodden. Heck, Mad Magazine was poking fun at Superman and friends back in the 1950s. (The still-funny parody, from Mad #4, is often credited for the magazine’s skyrocketing popularity. Heck, even Alan Moore cites it as an influence.)
And the superhero parodies have basically never stopped, from the 1960s camp-fest Batman to Ben Stiller’s Mystery Men to the online delights of Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog. But the funny ones are the exceptions.
Note to Deadpool fans: We’re not talking about actual superhero movies with ironic characters and smart-ass dialogue -- there are plenty of those. But comedies about superheroes? Superduperman may have been the high point. Ever since, there have been way more misses than hits, especially on TV and at the movies. Vanessa Hudgen’s DC spoof Powerless came and went in a blink. Damon Wayans’ Blankman misfired. The live-action Tick failed to live up to its cartoon ancestor. Rainn Wilson’s Super was anything but. We could go on -- Superhero Movie, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Striparella -- the track record ain’t great.
So that explains why we’re cautiously excited about The Franchise, a just-announced HBO comedy about making superhero movies. Here’s the premise:
"It follows a hopeful crew trapped inside the dysfunctional, nonsensical, joyous hellscape of franchise superhero movie-making. If and when they finally make the day, the question they must face — is this Hollywood's new dawn or cinema's last stand? Is this a dream factory or a chemical plant?"
Assuming the show isn’t a rant about superhero movies destroying “real” cinema, we’re in. You can’t argue with the behind-the-camera talent -- the pilot was cooked up by Veep creator Armando Ianucci and James Bond director Sam Mendes, guys we wouldn’t mind seeing behind the camera for just about any superhero venture. (Mendes was one of Marvel’s initial choices to helm The Avengers.)
From jacked actors dressed in greenscreen bodysuits covered in ping-pong balls to costume constraints causing bathroom distress to falling in love with Zendaya, superhero movie production seems ripe for satire. Was Robert Downey Jr. satisfied with his action figure likeness? We’re guessing Kevin Feige has a few stories he could tell.
Maybe the show’s best initial joke is that it was greenlit the same week that the HBO powers-that-be killed its Batgirl movie, a real-life example of the WTF shenanigans this show will be mining for laughs.
No word yet on casting, but we’ve got our fingers crossed for some smart comedy about the dumb decisions behind cinematic super-heroics.
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Top image: Mad