Cast: Jack Quaid (“The Hunger Games”), Karl Urban (“Star Trek”), Elisabeth Shue (“Leaving Las Vegas”), Antony Starr (“Banshee”), Erin Moriarty (“Captain Fantastic”), Chace Crawford (“Gossip Girl”) and frequent guest star Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”)
Airs: The eight-episode first season premieres Friday on Amazon.
The premise: Based on the best-selling comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, “The Boys” follows the misadventures of Hughie (Jack Quaid), an average guy who works at a small electronics store. His life is turned upside down when his girlfriend dies due to the careless actions of a superhero. Unable to take legal action but still wanting justice, Hughie reluctantly teams with the mysterious Billy Butcher (Karl Urban). The mismatched pair takes on superheroes who don’t live up to their well-mannered image.
The showrunner for “The Boys” is Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”), who is also an executive producer. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who founded Point Gray Pictures (“This is the End,” “Neighbors,” “Blockers”), also are executive producers.
Highs: Marvel, DC and other comic publishers have given us an image of the super-abled as individuals who fight for truth and justice. But what if a superhero also needed to make a living using their abilities, with all the issues that come with that challenge? After all, even a superhero has to eat and have a place to live. Right?
That’s the premise at the heart of “The Boys,” where superheroes have all the needs, wants and desires of regular people. In this world, they’re an unusual combination of superstar athlete, pop star and folk hero come to life. And as with any famous person, that comes with a long list of perks — money, special privileges and most important, an ability to stay above the law. This naturally leads to some unsavory behavior.
If you think the latest professional athlete screw-up is bad, just imagine what a superhuman could not only do, but also get away with. Sweeping anything bad under the rug is Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue), who runs Vought International. This multibillion dollar corporation has organized superheroes, providing them with a home base, equipment and a well-organized public relations team. Image is everything for Stillwell. So when Hughie’s girlfriend dies, a check is cut, a rote apology is given and life moves on. But not for everyone.
For Hughie, the curtain has been pulled back. Thanks to Billy, he gets a firsthand look at the corruption behind closed doors and doesn’t like it. Much to her surprise, neither does a young, new superhero.
The latest supe to join the upper echelon of heroes known as The Seven is Annie (Erin Moriarty), code name Starlight. Honest, humble and hardworking, she’s always wanted to help others. After joining Vought, though, she slowly realizes that the heroic ideal is a PR veneer. The plot lines involving Hughie and Annie overlap in a clever and fascinating way.
Lows: This is a superhero series unlike any other. Some might be disconcerted to see costumed heroes behaving dishonorably. Any kind of debauchery that brought down a famous politician, athlete, musician or other public figure is done by superheroes in “The Boys.” If you like your fictional role models to be a clear black and white, this is not the show for you.
Grade (A-): The darker side of superheroes is an area that’s been explored before but not with nearly the intensity and thoughtfulness you’ll see in “The Boys.” An action-packed drama with touches of humor, this is a TV series you won’t want to miss.
Gazette TV critic Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.