Aquaman “Pilot” (part 4 of 11)

Fade up onto underwater footage of coral reefs, and the captions “Tempest Key, Florida” and “this morning”. Really? This morning? So the characters knew when I was going to watch this, and waited until today to start the plot? That was considerate.

An entire aquatic zoo of marine life swims by, with a buff, bare-chested young man moving easily among them. He swims by a great white shark, sharing a level of interaction that amounts to an office-corridor hey-Bob. “See the Dolphins game last night? Ha, ha, yeah, that joke never gets old.”

The guy slides into the patented Patrick Duffy Man from Atlantis body-wave, which is evidently how superhumans must move if they have the ability to breathe underwater. (I even saw Kyle XY doing it at the bottom of a local swimming pool last month.) Soon, he’s exploring a sunken wreck, and disturbing a concealed manta ray for no reason. Watch it, pal. If they can turn on the Croc Hunter, I have no trouble believing they would turn on you.

And do I even need to tell you that heavily sanitized “Caribbean” music is playing throughout all of this? Right now I’m looking around for a lobster getting ready to sing “Kiss de Girl”.

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The buff guy leaves the wreck, entering a part of the ocean that’s alive with dozens of sharks, and also a slew of smaller, tasty-looking fish that I honestly wouldn’t think of as part of a great white’s entourage. The guy pulls up so we can zoom in on him and notice, if we haven’t already, that he doesn’t have an aqualung or anything. So maybe, just maybe, there might be something unusual going on.

For emphasis, with exclamation points, we get a long, tight shot of the seahorse pendant around his neck. Hey… I know what’s going on here. That kid Arthur sold his pendant to some guy who can breathe underwater!

Caption contributed by Mark

“Hi, I’m Aquaman. No, really, I am. Hey, stop laughing, dude, I’m totally serious!”

I don’t know if this means anything or not, but I’m noticing our guy is emitting large periodic bursts of bubbles from his mouth and nose. Almost as if he were exhaling a normal quantity of air. I’m assuming that Aquaman’s amphibious lungs work by distilling oxygen from the water and converting it to carbon dioxide, which is then expelled in the usual human way. But most of what humans both inhale and exhale is nitrogen, and I doubt an amphibious lung would be all that concerned with nitrogen. So the volume of air coming out of his mouth should be significantly less if there’s no nitrogen. But since this plot doesn’t care how Aquaman’s powers work any more than, say, Superman II was concerned with explaining how Superman spits alpha particles out of his butt when he flies, that’s really all I’m gonna say about it.

Our hero turns and, very suddenly, takes off in a super-speed swim that feels exactly like the way Clark suddenly switches to top velocity on Smallville. Evidently both Clark and Arthur have only two speeds: “normal” and “holy shit”.

Arthur pulls himself up onto a boat called The Quint, no doubt a reference to the Robert Shaw character in Jaws. You know, the one who tried to kill the shark with a machete while it was eating him? Okay, great. References: 1, Plot: 0. And come to think of it, isn’t a professional shark-killer kind of an odd choice of name for sea-creature-loving Aquaman’s boat?

As he clambers on board we finally start getting some credits. In perhaps the most egregious incidence of Smallville linkage after Marthatlanna, the titles are done in exactly the same format: White Palatino font, with the names in all caps, bottom center on the screen. Look, guys, we know it’s a spin-off. Let me assure you, our biggest worry here isn’t that you’re not enough like that other show.

Anyway, the first credit is for Justin Hartley, who was a surprise replacement for the dude who was originally cast, Will Toale. Toale is a Matt Damon-esque model whose previous claim to fame was being Cosmo‘s “Guy Without His Shirt” for November 2003. Given the concept of this show, that’s no-brainer casting. But only a month before shooting, Shirtless Boy was yanked and the part was recast with Hartley.

Caption contributed by Mark

“I was almost Aquaman, but I wasn’t quite shirtless enough.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the decision to ditch Toale apparently came out of the merger that created the CW network. It seems that the claque of WB people that Miles and Al had been working with were replaced by UPN people who reevaluated the project, and decided to re-greenlight Aquaman/Mercy Reef, but only if the lead was recast. Why? Well, the CW gave the usual non-explanation about “going in a different direction,” but I have my own ideas. Most of them having to do with the fact that Toale looks pretty sunny, and I doubt he could do “sullen” very well.

You know who also didn’t get the part? Alan Ritchson, who originated the role in the Smallville episode “Aqua”. Apparently, he was never even in the running. That’s rough. Questioned on this, Al Gough gave TV Guide the same line about going in a different direction. So far, that’s three different directions. The real problem with this show is that they never picked a direction, and stuck with it. All the way through to the closing credits, you can almost hear the producers muttering frantically, “Maybe it’ll work if we try this!”

Still on The Quint, Arthur goes through a door into the cabin. Evidently, this is where he lives, because the interior screams Bachelor Apartment. He only has time to grab a sleeveless tee before the door opens and the sheriff appears. In the first noticeable break from Smallville, where the sheriffs are always old and crusty, this sheriff is a stud in his early thirties who was probably in the next issue of Cosmo after the one Will Toale was in. Or would have been, if his face were a bit less evocative of Buddy Hackett. [Editor’s Note: The studly guy with Buddy Hackett’s face would be Kenneth Johnson, better known as Curtis “Lem” Lemansky on the best series of the last five years, The Shield. —Albert]

You know, I’m thinking that pretty soon there will be no parts on TV whatsoever for anyone whose waist or age is over 28. I mean, even the new Doctor Who is someone I’d ask out for a nice evening of Thai noodles and Off-Broadway theater. And he’s supposed to be 950.

Sheriff Studly wants to know where “A.C.” was last night at 10pm. A.C. doesn’t know, because he doesn’t wear a watch. Oh, the sacrifices of being Aquaman. Evidently, five dolphins were freed the night before from “Neptune World”. Wait, I think I’ve been there. Isn’t that the place with the Thumbelina diorama? I have to go back someday, because that was riveting.

A.C. denies he was there, but Sheriff Studly has a bunch of “Kodak moments” (yes, he actually calls them that) showing A.C. freeing the dolphins. I have trouble believing that A.C. would go to all that trouble and not take security cameras into account. But then again, he is a blonde superhero, after all. Ow! Hey, stop hitting me! Dang, I need to stop letting Pam Anderson read these over my shoulder. Geez, Pam, it’s not like I called him “babe”. I mean, he is a babe, but—Ow! Stop it! Go over there for a while and cool off, will ya! …Okay, no more dumb-blonde jokes. We’ll just take them as read. Don’t tell Pam.

Anyway, A.C. shrugs and says anyone could have faked the pictures. But Sheriff Studly, who presumably knows where the photos came from, just cuffs him and places him under arrest for breaking and entering, and “animal endangerment”.

Of course, A.C. hotly objects to the second charge. Unwisely switching to confession mode, he says he was “doing those dolphins a favor” because the theme park tanks were poorly maintained. The sheriff muses, “Yeah, the world’s full of misunderstood heroes.” True. Especially ones who are misunderstood by their own producers.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Fine, go ahead with the sodomy. I guess it’s part of the gig.”

Mark "Scooter" Wilson

Mark is a history guy, a graphics guy, a guy for whom wryly cynical assessments of popular culture are the scallion cream cheese on the toasted everything bagel of life. He spends his time teaching modern history at Brooklyn College, pondering the ancient Romans at the CUNY Graduate Center, and conjuring maps and illustrations for ungrateful bankers at various Manhattan monoliths. Readers are welcome to guess at reasons why he's nicknamed Scooter, with the proviso that all such submissions are guaranteed to be rather more interesting than the truth. Mark lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with a happy-go-lucky, flop-eared dog named Chiyo who is probably, at this very moment, waiting patiently for her walkies.

Multi-Part Article: Aquaman "Pilot"

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