Brainiac On Banjo #024: The Doom Patrol – For Misfits Who Rock

“Embargo.” That sounds like an old person’s muscular issue.

It’s also a word imposed upon us overwrought critics that means “here’s something really cool but you can’t tell anybody about it for a couple weeks.” Most of the people who have access to this stuff want to shout to all those within reading distance, particularly if the material either really impresses us or really pisses us off. But a deal is a deal. The embargo on coverage of the new Doom Patrol series premiering later this week on DC Universe was lifted at 9 AM Pacific this morning, so it’s off to the races for those of us who had been professionally tongue-tied.

I appreciated one of the first lines uttered in the first episode: “More teevee superheroes. Just what the world needs.” I can dig it. But the Doom Patrol wasn’t a typical superhero comic book in any of its various incarnations since its launch by DC Comics in the spring of 1963. And several of its more recent incarnations raised the bar on weird. The question is, how to you port all of that over to the small screen?

Perhaps a better question is “since the DC Universe service really upped the ante with Robin screaming ‘Fuck Batman!’ in the first episode of their Titans series, does The Doom Patrol continue this trend?”

Yup. It sure does. Nudity ­– slightly more than that which Janet Jackson offered us some time ago that blinded hordes of small children forevermore – enters the show a mere five minutes into the first episode. The first fuck (I’m referring to the word used in dialog and not the act) comes in around the 15-minute mark. The tone for the show is set rather dark and very weird. 

Now you know what we’ve got: another superhero teevee show that you cannot watch with your fundamentalist friends or with children whose parents don’t want to remind them of their first meals. As pointed out in that initial voiceover, this isn’t a show about superheroes per se. It’s about the weird stuff that makes for good episodic heroic fantasy teevee.

This show counts as a spin-off from Titans because most of the lead characters were in the fourth episode of that series. In their own show, we see Brendon Fraser as Cliff Steele before he becomes Robotman, and we see Matt Bomer as Larry Trainor before he becomes Negative Man. But even though you will get used to hearing them, don’t get used to seeing them. After the initial scenes, you’ll only get to see those actors encased in their superpowered visages – and, from time to time, in flashback sequences that likely will happen about as often as we see The Thing transform back into Ben Grimm.

We also see Timothy Dalton as the Chief. I like Dalton, and I believe he might have broken Larry “Buster” Crabbe’s record for playing sundry comics and heroic fantasy characters. It works. The character is difficult, and Dalton handles it well. Of course Greg Berlanti, the guy getting all the work in 2019, is the executive producer. He’s the man behind all of DC’s CW shows as well as Archie’s CW shows and various other DC shows like Booster Gold, Batwoman, City of Demons, The Ray, Vixen … and the Green Lantern movie. You know. The one that Ryan Reynolds invalidated last year.

Geoff Jones, the A-list comics writer who guides most of the other DC shows, is involved here as well. I’ve long been a fan of his work, and I think the success of these series is due in large part to his efforts.

I like the entire regular cast of Doom Patrol, and I liked the first episode. Its tone and its hard-R posturing is a wee bit surprising, but barely. If you’re tired of the grim and gritty, there isn’t enough nudity – male and female – to get you through the night. If you find the weird too weird, you probably couldn’t make it through the Vertigo and the Young Animal incarnations of the comics. That would be a shame; you’ve missed some great stuff.

I can’t comment on the second episode, which I might possibly have seen, maybe, but remains under embargo nonetheless. I don’t think there’s anything else like The Doom Patrol on comic book teevee, but because I take time out for lunch and dinner I haven’t seen them all.

Give The Doom Patrol a shot. There’s something going on over here.


The first episode of Doom Patrol debuts Friday February 15th on DC Universe