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Bravo for Heroes, Villains and Vixens

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

The heroes and villains are coming. Some are already here--in the movies: "Star Wars III," "Batman Begins" just ahead. So the Bravo cable channel has picked tonight to begin its new three-part series called "Ultimate Super Heroes, Villains and Vixens." Here with more on this series is DAY TO DAY TV critic Andrew Wallenstein.

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN reporting:

In its series "Ultimate Super Heroes, Villains and Vixens," Bravo has created a show that ranks the most memorable figures from not only movies, but television, comics and video games. Who cares whether they got the ranking right or not? The whole point is to get you yelling at the television set with your opinion.

Adam West, who played Batman on the notoriously cheesy 1960s TV series, narrates "Ultimate Super Heroes." His hammy line readings make for a breezy ride through entertainment history. But there were times I wanted to get off that ride. While Spider-Man and Superman were worthy inclusions, I couldn't believe they were put in the same league as Luke Skywalker, who any "Star Wars" fan knows has to be the most boring character in that franchise. Yet he makes the list while one of my personal favorites, Neo from "The Matrix" trilogy, is nowhere to be found.

Bravo's "Ultimate Super Heroes" got back in my good graces by making a few unorthodox but worthy picks. The show knows well enough not to take men in tights too seriously. So there's a few tongue-in-cheek heroes who chart high enough, like Austin Powers and the Mask. And then there's another of my favorites, a parody of a superhero called the Tick, who you might remember from comics and TV.

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Unidentified Man: (As the Tick) From this day forth, I will spread my buttery justice over your every nook and cranny. Hear me, oh city, my city. Your toast will never go bare again.

WALLENSTEIN: I always did love a superhero who had a way with words. Not that that's required to make the "Ultimate Super Heroes" list. How else to explain the inclusion of Conan the Barbarian, who was played by current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. But as screenwriter David Hayter notes, even a medieval swashbuckler like Conan fits the profile of a superhero.

(Soundbite of "Ultimate Super Heroes, Ultimate Super Villains and Ultimate Super Vixens")

Mr. DAVID HAYTER (Screenwriter): Forces of evil sweep into his village when he's a boy, and they kill his parents, and they take the boy prisoner. And he gets free and picks up a sword, and that again is the satisfying nature of the superhero myth, when the oppressed finally gains his power and his freedom.

WALLENSTEIN: If only Schwarzenegger was still as popular today among California's voters. Actually, he's one of the few who managed to make more than one list, reappearing on the second night's countdown of top villains for his role as "The Terminator."

Bravo does a better job with villains than it does heroes, but don't get me started on the vixens in night three. Catwoman in the top five? Sorry, but even Halle Berry's agent would disagree, as would any of the other three people who saw that character's recent movie. This "Ishtar" of the superhero genre is just one of the reasons this series will get you all riled up.

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CHADWICK: Andrew Wallenstein is an editor at the Hollywood Reporter. The series "Ultimate Super Heroes, Villains and Vixens" begins tonight on the cable channel Bravo.

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CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. Back in a moment with more of DAY TO DAY. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Wallenstein
Andrew Wallenstein is the television critic for NPR's Day to Day. He is also an editor at The Hollywood Reporter, where he covers television and digital media out of Los Angeles. Wallenstein is also the co-host of the weekly TV Guide Channel series Square Off. His essay on Holocaust films was published in Best Jewish Writing 2003 (Jossey-Bass), and he has also written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Business Week. He has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.