Superheroes. When will the American superhero fetish end? Having never been a hardcore comic book fan, it has always been difficult to identify or associate with the idea of the superhero. Sure, I like Batman and one of those X-Men movies was pretty entertaining, but I much prefer the swashbuckling archaeologists.
Nevertheless, I can understand the relationship that an older generation has with comics. Superman fanatics and the nerdy kids that created him grew up during the height of the Cold War and extreme fears of nuclear radiation that underlie most superhero histories. Also during that time, Americans lived in an advanced corporate society, where making it into the ranks of middle-management was considered a vaunted career goal (it may still be).
These seemingly disparate ideas have combined, with an element of parodic (and possibly periodic) nostalgia, for Jay Lutsky, writer and star of the new series Captain Alpha Male.
As a mid-level employee of “The Agency,” a superhero firm, Captain Alpha Male works under the aegis of the “Lord of all Good.” Like all good middle-managers, the Captain must constantly endear himself to his superiors while providing evidence for increased productivity and efficiency. Of course what this really entails is pointless, excess paperwork coupled with unnecessary gimmickry, but that’s all in a day’s work when you’re responsible for saving entire cities, civilizations and star systems. Nobody wants to miss out on that possible promotion.
Besides the obvious nods to superheroics and corporatism there is an underlying theme of emasculation in Captain Alpha Male. I admire Lutsky’s attempt to poke fun at these vestiges of sexism and machismo, however this enterprise already seems to be running on fumes. Enjoyment levels may increase if you’re a middle-aged male or have experience in middle-management, but I’m not sure because I don’t sit in either of those camps.
The show is cute, I’ll give it that, and judging by some of the comments left on the site, there are people who really enjoy the series (plus, it’s one of the last on-screen appearances from the late and legendary Don LaFontaine). Still, I’m doubtful that Captain Alpha Male can get enough mileage out of the superhero schtick. This would have made more sense as a show twenty years ago; the fact that it’s still being tried as a comedic vehicle these days seems more labored than it is humorous. Instead of proving humorous source material, the “male anger” angle (remember, the show is called “Captain Alpha Male”) tends to grate and too quickly becomes tiresome.
That only two episodes have aired surely gives Lutsky & Co. time to add dimension to the series and prove my fears unfounded. Episode two, besides the conflict that arises when the Captain’s position is threatened by a female colleague, ends with court-mandated anger management. Cue the jokes on a Stuart Smalley-esque therapist and that about sums up where Captain Alpha Male is at: an adolescent treatment of notably weighty phenomena.
Watching, I get the sense that there’s a strong desire to touch on several disparate (though important) topics, but they ultimately become convoluted, trapped by the titular characters…well, titular characteristics. This is the wall that the Captain needs to burst through to liven up the show. Even though I’m not a big fan of these early episodes, I think Captain Alpha Male can pull things together and scratch a little deeper.
Check it out CaptainAlphaMale.com.