Superheroes and television aren?t exactly peanut butter and chocolate. Hell, usually they?re not even milk and Pepsi. Marginal hit superhero TV shows like Smallville are certainly the exception to the rule, which states whenever a super-powered being shows up on the boob tube, a terrible viewing experience awaits?whether it be a bad plot, bad casting, a ridiculous costume, deviation from the source material, low budgets, or some kind of super-powerful combination of the aforementioned problems. While superheroes currently rule movie theaters, it’s worth remembering that they still have yet to conquer TV?especially the following 10 superheroes, whose powers mostly involve sucking.
10) Birds of Prey
Based on the popular DC comic of the same name, the TV transformation tossed out everything that made the book likable. In the comic, the BoP team consisted of the Huntress, Oracle and Black Canary. In the TV series, the Huntress is suddenly the daughter of the now departed Catwoman and the retired Batman, who for some reason she has super powers and despite never wearing a mask, is never recognized at her busy nightclub bartending gig. She is joined by Oracle, the former Batgirl who was crippled by the Joker?s bullet in the one bit of comic continuity done right, and annoying teenage drag Dinah Lance, the non-powered and highly annoying daughter of the Black Canary, who the producers felt would somehow be more interested than, say, Black Canary. Despite the comic providing some solid stories just waiting to be swiped, the TV show episodes center around “meta-humans (DC?s word for mutants) as they patrol their silly-looking CGI Gotham City. If you imagine Buffy the Vampire Slayer without any involvement from Joss Whedon, you kind of get an idea what Birds of Prey was like.
9) Once a Hero
A prime example of TV?s inability to grasp superhero concepts, Once A Hero centered on Captain Justice, a fictional character that (not unlike Animal Man) breaks through the fourth wall and lands in our universe. Unfortunately, he’s now powerless, meaning the show is entirely about a superhero with no powers facing dramatic situations. The series is also notable due to its inclusion of underrated actor Robert Forster slumming in a supporting role, and very sad if you’re at all a fan of Robert Forster.
8) Exo Man
A series that was bold in its vision of screwing Stan Lee out of a check, Exo Man is an Iron Man clone of the highest order. A wimpy scientist is left crippled by bad guys, so to get revenge, he dons a exo-skeleton (hence the “Exo” of the title) which looks much like a suit of armor and springs into action. It sounds all right in a TV Guide synopsis but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The Exo Man suit looks like a mascot for a roller disco or one of those protection outfits used in woman?s self-defense courses. Additionally, Exo Man moves slower than a George Romero zombie; he loudly lumbers everywhere and criminals just sort of cower and wait for him to come. Happily, Exo Man’s villains never thought of simply walking away at a brisk pace, or he would have been totally screwed.
7) KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park
Oh sure, KISS was once the hottest band in the whole world, but even the most ardent fan would agree that they?re not superheroes. It didn?t stop the masters of merchandising from trying their hand at being superheroes in this embarrassing TV movie?which is saying something, since their day jobs required them to wear face paint). In the trippy Phantom of the Opera rip-off Phantom of the Park, each KISS member has super powers but nobody has the power to read lines well. In fact, Peter Criss is so bad the guy who voiced Zan on the Superfriends had to dub his lines. In addition, the action sequences are so pathetic they would embarrass Ed Wood. Gene Simmons claims never to have done drugs; this film is damning evidence to the contrary.
Everybody loves Thor, but let’s hope Marvel does a better job bringing the Norse god to theaters than they did in this TV movie. In Return of the Incredible Hulk, Thor guest stars to help his buddy Lou Ferrigno beat up…I don’t know, some mobsters or something, in hopes Thor could become his own TV show.
He couldn’t. Thor?who was kept in his hammer Mjolnir by nerdy Donald Blake, like a muscle-bound Genie?looked like a Man O’ War fan who worked a Renaissance Fair to keep himself in cases of Natty Light. The TV movie did nothing to dispel this, frequently showing Thor hanging out in a biker bar.
5) My Secret Identity
Jerry O?Connell, the fat kid from Stand By Me, got powers in this comedy adventure show, wherein he simultaneously stumbled into wacky adventures and tried to fool the audience that Toronto was Anytown, USA. A crappy TV show about a kid with powers, who never puts on a costume and it?s made in Canada? I?ll let you make your own Smallville joke.
4) Captain America
Another example of trying to put a superhero into a already popular TV theme, instead of being the war hero we knew and loved Cap was a oafish, muscle-bound beach bum who, thanks to his father?s Super Soldier serum, becomes Captain America. The results reek of the Bionic Man, right down to the ?duh-nuh-nuh? sound Cap makes when ever he shambles around and flexes.
This Cap rode a motorcycle (which is actually pretty cool), although his trademark shield was also his windshield (as dorky as it sounds) and almost nothing else happens. The ending of this TV movie is so action-less you will weep. Against all hope, reason and decency, a sequel followed.
3) Legends of the Superheroes
The 1960s Batman series was a pioneer of great actors taking ridiculous situations seriously. Not so for the 1970s revival in the ?Legends of the Superheroes? specials, where a heavier Adam West and a gratefully too-old-for-that-Robin-costume?Burt Ward join force with the members of the Justice League to fight the Legion of Doom. The Legion of Doom is made up of every B List comedian available in the ’70s, meaning they had their casting call at the Match Game set. The scandalously unfunny writing suggests it was done by some fired Laugh-In writers, and the laugh track only mocks your pain. The only thing that makes this better by comparison is the Star Wars Holiday Special.
2) Wonder Woman
Ladies, before you freak out, rest assured we’re not talking about the lovely Wonder Woman TV show starring Linda Carter. No, this was the Wonder Woman TV movie which was made before the series, and we should all count ourselves lucky the show was made at all. Besides being from Paradise Island and having the name Diana Prince, this flick starred a Wonder Woman with no other connection to the classic DC comics character. Tennis Star Cathy Lee Crosby starred with blonde locks and a star spangled jumpsuit that looked like it was purchased either from a JC Penney’s or from Dorothy Hammil?s yard sale.
With no powers, this Wonder Woman acted more like a cheap clone of Emma Peel from the Avengers. Ricardo Montalban served as the main bad guy of this epic, but his many attempts to suffocate Diana Prince with rich, Corinthian leather were sadly thwarted. With the miserable failure of this movie, TV producers wisely retooled the concept, cast a buxom brunette as the title character, put her in the right outfit and the ratings soared.
1) Justice League
Yet another glaring attempt to paste an existing TV concept over a superhero franchise, the late ’90s Justice League TV pilot is legendary, and rightly so, because it is one of the worst things ever created by human hands. It looks like an episode of Friends where they decide to put on a bunch of DC Halloween costumes from Specer Gifts?although it should be noted that Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were all absent from the team. While having all the problems that roommates normally do (oh yes) the JLA accept guidance from their bloated Martian mentor J?onn J?onnz, played by David Odgen Stiers, (Charles Winchester III from M.A.S.H.). The team, including Flash, Green Lantern, Fire and the Atom meet Ice?how lucky is that?!?and fight the Weather Wizard, but not well, because he gets away. It’s also worth mentioning that the Flash in umemployed.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.