Amazon’s Prime’s The Boys (8 episodes) has a contemporary setting, except for its superheroes and the fact that they’re an accepted part of the everyday world. More than merely accepted, they’re celebrities. When one (of seven) retires, their sponsor/owner Vought corporation rolls out the replacement in a televised gala reminiscent of the BBC’s announcement of the next Doctor Who. The heroes’ pictures are on cereal boxes, soda bottles – you name it. They’re reputed, naturally, to bring villains great and small to justice. And they’re truly powerful: freaks of nature, perhaps thousands of them worldwide, who audition to stand among Vought’s few.
Shortly after the programme begins, the humdrum world intrudes. Hughie (Jack Quaid) talks with his lady-love Robin (Jess Salgueiro). This is Amazon Prime, so their conversation is loaded with barely-disguised sexual innuendo. They don’t seem exactly chaste, so the question is, will he make Robin an honest woman? Of course. They’ll begin living together: true love conquers all, particularly when there are no strings attached. But as they hold hands, she a few inches into the street and he on the sidewalk, Robin suddenly disintegrates in a rain of blood, leaving poor Hughie with nothing but her hands.
A-Train (Jessie Usher), one of the heroes, suddenly materializes and jabbers he’s after a bank-robber, no time to lose. And you can bet, Hughie wants revenge, especially when Billy Butcher, a rogue FBI agent (Karl Urban), tells him there were no reported robberies at the time A-Train demolished Robin.
Meanwhile, Anne January, aka Starlight (Erin Moriarty), auditions for the superhero vacancy. She’s pure and naïve, an idealist who wants “to save the world”. She wins the spot but quickly finds herself in the corrupt Vought world, one of international business connections, political favours (from the left and right) and crass immorality. Within minutes of entering the Vought command center, The Deep (Chace Crawford) immediately propositions her by dropping not just his pants but everything else and forcing her to have sex. Her fellow superhero Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) cynically tells Anne to accept it.
F-words and other vulgarities pepper the lines like a wave of locusts descending on Egypt; even a couple of 10-year-olds spice things up in the first scene. And nudity? Almost as bad as you’d guess.
About two-thirds into The Boys, either a thunderstorm or the show’s hail of f-words knocked out my television, and I couldn’t finish episode one. What will happen? My guess is that Anne and Hughie will meet, work together to expose the corrupt Vought, and, by the end, start living together free of messy marital bonds. Will I watch more of The Boys to confirm my suspicions? Not on your life: avoid it like an Egyptian plague.