These days almost every perceptible outlet is branching into original programming. It started with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, but now everywhere from Playstation Network to DirectTV is producing their own scripted shows. In fact, according to Vox, there are more than 400 scripted shows expected to be available this year. There is an absolute glut of television to watch and that’s not even counting all of the old shows from reruns or libraries like HBO, Netflix, or Hulu.
I watch a good bit of TV (a lot of the Buzzr actually, it’s awesome) and because it’s too hard to choose between things, it makes it easier to watch things that were created by writers and show runners whom you already know and trust. This is how I ended up watching all six episodes of Supermansion, a show by the creators of Robot Chicken that airs on a streaming service called Crackle. Robot Chicken has been on-air and consistently good for the past 10 years, and the show works because it owns its format. If you haven’t seen it before, the show is basically better versions of the Family Guy throwaway gags all stitched together with an 11 minute running time. It’s usually absurd and wonderful. Supermansion takes this style of writing and extends it into a single gag over 22 minutes. If that already sounds tiresome, you’re on the right track.
As with a lot of spoof / animation-for-adult shows, Supermansion is ostensibly about a group of fighting super heroes with wacky problems. There’s Titanium Rex (Bryan Cranston), the aging Superman who leads the League of Freedom, and has predictable old people problems (prostate, ED, bad back, yada yada yada). There’s also American Ranger (Keegan Michael-Key), the superhero from the 1940s who was trapped in a “time tunnel” and can’t keep up with modern life, Cooch (Heidi Gardner), a genetically modified, anthropomorphic house cat, and Black Saturn (Tucker Gilmore), a Batman knock-off with bizarre social and psychological issues. The team’s rounded off with Brad (Tom Root), a steroid addict strongman and Jewbot (Zeb Wells), a robot who, while experiencing existential dread, embraces Judaism after learning he was manufactured by a Jewish company.
The League of Freedom, again, only ostensibly fights crime. Instead they spend the majority of their time fighting amongst one another, trying and failing to accomplish mundane tasks, and trying to maintain their opulent lifestyle amidst federal budget cuts attempting to curtail their ludicrous expenditures (their main antagonist is a government accountant named Sgt. Agony). After watching all six episodes, all I can say is that this should be funnier than it is. While there are certainly some jokes that land, the majority of the show feels obvious, lazily written, and superfluous. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been joked about before, and the style of laughs that Supermansion is going for don’t work as well when they’re expanded from a 15 second Family Guy quip to a half hour sitcom.
There’s nothing memorable about the show or any of the particular episodes, and that’s sad when you consider the talent behind what you’re seeing on the screen. Cranston and Key alone could make almost any show a potential Emmy winner and it’s sad to see any of their time thrown away on something as trivial as this. In fact, the main question you’re left with after watching Supermansion is “Why?” Why even make a show like this and why hire such big names to make something like this only to have it stream on a service like Crackle?
The only logical answer seems to be money. Crackle needs revenue from ad companies, and the only way they can get it is to have viewers who might stumble onto their service (hello me!). For the creators / actors, they can probably get paychecks for half-baked ideas that wouldn’t have made it out the pitch room 10 years ago. It’s a cycle of cynicism that ends in mediocre programming everywhere. In fact, it seems like there’s no middle ground in TV at the moment. Either any show can air on some strange platform at the moment, or some major network will pay someone to regurgitate anything that looks remotely like a hit. More and more shows on air, calling louder and louder for our attention, creating a cacophony of content all without any sort of satisfying payoff. Who knows what the happy medium is? In that light, the least I can do is recommend that you don’t watch Supermansion, there’s just too much else out there that might be better.