TV puts heroes to the test

America’s eccentric troupe of swim-capped crusaders is donning its collective spandex once again. The Aquabats, that endearing and addictive band of musical superheroes, is suiting up for a new adventure: The Aquabats! Super Show!

The series, which kicks off March 3 on The Hub, will follow the band as it mixes song-and-dance routines with misadventures and crimefighting, somewhat akin to the Monkees’ eponymous sitcom in the mid-1960s.

“A lot like The Monkees’ show meets … Batman,” said Christian Jacobs, executive producer and lead vocalist of The Aquabats. “But [it’s] also inspired by Flight of the ConchordsPower Rangers meets Batman meets Flight of the Conchords. There’s a lot of strange, wonderful, weird things that are happening.”

It’s a natural step for the band, which has been making weird things happen with one lineup or another since 1994. After all, The Aquabats built their image around a mythology of costumes, characters and the idea of fighting evil with music.

“We always thought this would be a cool kids show,” Jacobs said. “The inspiration for the band, anyway, was wacky television kids shows, fighting monsters and being goofy … [it’s] a good 15 years [that] we’ve been trying to make this happen.”

The Aquabats’ fans will immediately recognize the show’s starring characters: MC Bat Commander (Jacobs), Crash McLarson (bassist Chad Larson), Jimmy the Robot (keyboard and sax player James Briggs), Ricky Fitness (drummer Ricky Falomir) and Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk (guitarist and recent find Ian Fowles), all in their signature caps and goggles. But that’s not all.

“I guess the sixth Aquabat is Battletram, this big motorhome we drive around in,” Jacobs said. “In a lot of ways, it’s very Scooby-Doo.”

Each episode will run about 20 minutes and feature a mix of live action and interstitial cartoons, including fake, SNL-style commercial breaks. The soundtrack will be composed of familiar Aquabats staples and new songs written for each show.

And for the most part, viewers can expect a different and fantastical monster for the crew to face in every episode: Jacobs confirmed there will be battles with bad guys ranging from giant mole rats to mummies.

“The villains look right out of a Jim Henson muppet movie,” said network publicist JP Shields.

Jacobs also jokingly speculated about the increased risk for band-wide heart attacks that could result from a hectic schedule while filming a second season — principal photography is complete for 13 episodes, but the show’s future is still undecided.

“Every week I come to the conclusion that this is the most ridiculous thing ever,” Jacobs said. “Crash was covered in gophers and was supposed to jump into this really gross pond. It was cold. He was afraid of catching a disease … Eagle Bones got whipped in the eye by a giant laundry monster.

“We’re not 20-year-olds anymore, you know? We’re not in the best shape … I guess that’s part of the comedy, these out-of-shape guys trying to fight monsters. But we’d love to keep doing it forever.”

At the moment, what’s standing in the way of forever is the budget. The show is built around comically simplistic stunts and special effects, but songstress Dolly Parton might have said it best when she quipped,  “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”

Jacobs half-jokingly alluded to bake sales to pay for extra special effects, which account for the bulk of the expense, but believes it’s worth it to render the show’s unique look — so long as viewers understand that.

“That’s the only thing we’re a little nervous about,” Jacobs said. “That it’s supposed to look a little janky. It’s not like we can compete with, you know, Transformers, and we don’t want to. But I think kids today are hipper to irony and sarcasm.”

The Hub caters traditionally to children ages six to 11, and The Aquabats! Super Show! is, on the surface, written for kids. But Jacobs and company believe the series, like so many before it, has the potential for a greater audience.

“All the good stuff, like SpongeBob [Squarepants], is aimed at kids,” Jacobs said. “It’s definitely silly, but I think it will pick up an adult following as well.  We try to tap into that 11-year-old, pure kid mentality. That doesn’t really ever leave you.”


The Aquabats! Super Show! premieres March 3 at 10 a.m. PST.  on The Hub.