(photo credit: Courtesy)
Look! Up on the screen! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... Fat Momma??!!
Well, yes. You were expecting maybe the real Superman? No chance. He'd probably never survive the cut in the raucous superhero reality show Who Wants to Be a Superhero? which just landed on AXN's new schedule, Wednesday nights at 22:00.
Who among us hasn't dreamed of being a superhero one day, grabbing a towel and a pair of floppy pajamas and punching out bad guys all over the living room? And who wouldn't kill for some super powers once in a while - even if just the ability to get the garbage to the dumpster without going out in the rain, or the teenager to the breakfast table without nagging?
That, in fact, is probably the show's main appeal - the belief that just about anyone could be a superhero, even without being sent hurtling from Krypton to Earth, or going through some other unnatural transformation, if they had the right stuff and their boss let them off work for about eight weeks. (HINT)
Certainly some transformation is necessary, judging by the first round of 11 contestants who survived Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee's try-outs, a la American Idol, for a chance to have Stan draw a comic book about them and to be featured in a Sci-Fi Channel movie.
So there they were, mostly seemingly normal people clad in their spandex best - Slime Ball, Humus Man, Ice Bitch (whose requisite catch phrase was: 'Freeze, m---------er!") - and one member of The Tribe who told Lee about his character: "I'm also in fear of my mother, being a Jewish superhero." He didn't make the cut.
Eventually Lee found his legion of 12 wannabe superheroes, reminding them in the sometimes hokey but tongue-in-cheek way he has that "Every superhero has what's really important on the inside - and that's what we will test you on."
Yeah, right. To the contestants, outward appearances seemed to rule. Otherwise, why dress up as Monkey Lady, aka Mary Votava, a real estate investor from Seattle, who wore skins, could screech like Cheeta, and climbed up a tree to change into her costume when she had to.
Brought to their "lair" - a refurbished warehouse that served as the equivalent of other reality shows' mansion or island - Creature, Levity, Nitro G, Cellphone Girl, Major Victory (our favorite), Feedback, Monkey Woman, The Iron Enforcer (who goes by Steel Chambers in real life, who appears to have a Chai earring, and uses the catch phrase "Annihilation is my name; winning is my game"), Tyveculus, Lemuria, Rotiart, and Big Momma were soon facing Lee's first challenge, but not before Rotiart turned out to be a... SPY! You see, as he explained while revealing damaging remarks by Levity, Rotiart spelled backwards is... TRAITOR!
OK, so even the dialogue sounds a little comic book-ish. Despite the occasional cheesiness, this reality show's a hoot, especially when you watch paunchy former exotic dancer Chris Watters - anxious to win so he can "be a hero" in the life of the daughter he neglected - running ever so superhero-like as Major Victory and winning the first competition by noticing a poor lost little girl looking for her mom. "Climb into my arms," he told her, before carrying the kid to safety. Later, using his catch phrase, he explained proudly, "I felt like a winner, not a wiener." Think Mr. Incredible, without the mask.
We also loved it when the slightly over-the-top Chambers, still in his Iron Enforcer rap, explained that the large appendage attached to his forearm was "the most hi-tech weapon to date!" "Can it caulk a bathroom?" asked Watters.
Naturally there are elimination rounds, with teary-eyed potential castoffs promising "not to let you down again, Mr. Lee!" Besides Major Victory, we're also still rooting for Big Momma, aka single mom Nell Wilson, 42, whose catch phrase resonates with us: "I'm going to rid the world of bullies - one donut at a time!"
And you've got to love Lee's leading his superheroes in a group yell of "E-X-C-E-L-S-I-O-R!" at the end of each show.
While most reality shows leave us cold, this one put a smile on our face, and Lee's tongue-in-cheek approach only adds to the campy fun of this effort. All closet superheroes are urged to tune in or return their signal rings and Batman pajamas immediately.