What if Pepper Potts had designed the Iron Man suit, and Tony Stark had just stolen the credit? What if, after stealing the suit back, a penniless Pepper had to move into a crappy apartment with her friends Thor, Superman, and Wonder Woman? And what if, to pay the rent, and maybe a little bit for revenge, the super powered roommates decided to rob Tony for all he’s worth?
That, in a nutshell, is the premise of Caper, Geek and Sundry’s web series created by Amy Berg and Mike Sizemore. Berg was a writer on Eureka and Leverage, and tonally Caper feels like a mash-up of those two shows. It’s a light, poppy take on a sci fi world filled with complicated, diverse people, but built on an engine of righteous outrage that drives the Robin Hood antics of Leverage and, well, the entire superhero genre.
Caper stars Abby Miller (recently on Justified) as Penny Blue a.k.a. the Machine, an out of work engineer who can’t afford her rent, let alone repairs on her robot armor. In fact, her old employer/boyfriend Sam Clarke (Joel Gretsch) is preventing her from getting a new job in an attempt to drive her, and her armor prototype, back to his company. So her roommates—Dagr, a.k.a. the Viking (Hartley Sawyer), Alexia, a.k.a. the Amazon (Beth Riesgraf) and Luke, a.k.a. the Trooper (Henry Shum, Jr)—convince Penny to rob her old boss.
To save on time (and budget), all of the superhero action is told in comic book art. Any time they suit up to fight crime, the live action transitions to a few animated panels, before getting back to the business at hand. There’s never a question of whether they can succeed as good guys. The question of the first season is whether they can be (non-powered) bad guys, and considering the title of the last episode is “Worst Bad Guys Ever,” the answer is probably, “no.” From the first episode, we know the heist goes wrong. But we don’t know how, or even if, they get away with it.
The show is a ton of fun. The main heroes are both stereotypes (The Boy Scout, the Genius, the Warrior, the Dumb Hunk) and complicated people with backstories that motivate them to be both superheroes and corporate burglars. It’s filled to the brim with genre actor guest stars, including Scott Bakula, James Callis, and Colin Ferguson. And it’s nice to have a superhero show with two female leads (thought it’d be nice if they weren’t the only two women in the show).
Perhaps the best part of Caper is that it’s a quirky look at how civilians adapt to living in a world of superheroes. A liquor store clerk is ecstatic to have a strange man walk in and ask, “what year is it?” A CEO who certainly is not a super hero is happy to lead the press on about the possibility that he is, because it’s good for business and his ego. And of course there’s the ever-present fact that fighting super villains may be the right thing to do, but it doesn’t pay the bills. This contrast between super-powered feats and mundane annoyances is of course the cornerstone of the Marvel universe, and maybe a certain other show should be taking notes on how it’s done.
(In fact, if you want further proof that Amy Berg should be the show runner on Disney’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., please watch the sketch Berg wrote about S.H.I.E.L.D. hiring a new graphic designer.)
Each episode is about ten minutes long, which means you watch the first seven on a long lunch break. New episodes are released every Wednesday on YouTube, Hulu, and of course the Geek and Sundry site itself.
Caper is fun, silly, flippant, clever writing that shows what you can do in big crazy world when, like our heroes, you have no budget.