6 May 2014 | bob the moo
Season 1: Not hilarious but consistently amusing and affectionately geeky while also having surprisingly high production values
In anticipation of Mike Sizemore's upcoming Merica Adams I found myself browsing some films from him and fellow director Sykes and this browsing led me to web-series Caper. On the face of it I didn't expect too much, I assumed it was low-budget, probably done with good intentions and not much else and certainly would at best be a bit of fun but nothing to really write home about. I was very happy to be proved wrong from the very start because this series has a lot of clout behind it, a lot of ambition with what it is creating but also, importantly, an understanding of where it is limited and how best to deal with that.
The plot sees a group of superheroes living together and dealing with the fact that, while their alter-egos may be flush with medals and freedoms of the city, there is not really a huge amount of cash associated with being good – and the super-villains tend to be the ones living in the cool lairs. With that being the case, the group decide to rob a bad guy in order to help make ends meet, although turns out being a villain is not as simple as it seems. What follows is surprisingly good and nothing like I expected. To focus on the content, it is never hilarious but it does manage to be consistently fun and amusing, with a good tone so that it is a silly humor but doesn't come off as being daft or silly for the sake of it, but at the same time it never takes itself seriously – it feels like it enjoys being what it is and it is easy to go with it on that.
The production values are high with good sets and use of props – this is much more than the fan-series I half expected it to be. Of course the show cannot deliver on shots of The Machine or the other superheroes in action, but it knows this and wisely doesn't try. Instead it delivers these (and the credits) in animated stills in the comic book style, which not only deliver the action the show cannot do, but does it in a way that feels cool and right – ie it never feels like the comic strips were a compromise so much as a cool way of doing it even if more money was available.
The cast are surprisingly good too, all buying into the humor and having good delivery – I would have liked some out and out funnier stuff in there, but they play it for the amusing card well. I was surprised by the faces I knew as well. Of course in the main cast Riesgraf catches the eye due to Leverage, but Miller from Justified (such a different role!) is also very good in the lead role while Shum and Sawyer may have simpler comic characters but both work as such. More memorably the casting director has done a great job to get a lot of sci-fi references in the supporting cast and credit to the show for not overdoing their roles due to getting them, they play a part, be a reference and then move on. There are almost too many to remember, but we have a flash of Aldis Hodge (Riesgraf's Leverage partner), Quantum Leap's Scott Bakula, Ross (Frost from Aliens), Callis (Battlestar Galactica), Helen Slater (Supergirl) and Len Wein (Marvel writer) – and I'm sure there are names/faces I didn't catch or recognize in there. It is quite the surprise to find so many cool reference points in here.
The 9-episode series did not totally blow me away but I was pleasantly surprised by it in terms of how very professional it was, how likable and enjoyable it all was and how tickled I was by the many references in the casting and dialogue. I would have liked it to have delivered more out and out laughs than it did, but it was for sure good enough for me to join others in hoping for a second season, because frankly, Caper was fun – and I like fun.