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Television Review

It’s a bird, it’s a plane . . . it’s another superhero show

David Lyons stars as Vince Faraday, a superhero without super powers but with a special cape that helps him fight crime. David Lyons stars as Vince Faraday, a superhero without super powers but with a special cape that helps him fight crime. (Justin Lubin/NBC)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / January 7, 2011

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Perhaps Tina Turner said it best: “We don’t need another hero.’’

With the glut of snazzy suit-clad crime fighters clogging the big screen — and suffering serious injuries on Broadway — it’s hard to muster enthusiasm about another vigilante donning a disguise.

But that’s not stopping NBC from giving it a go with “The Cape,’’ premiering Sunday at 9 p.m., and moving to its regular Monday 9 p.m. slot on Jan. 17.

Vince Faraday (David Lyons, “ER’’) is an upstanding cop on a corrupt force in the fictional Palm City whose world is upended when he’s framed for a series of murders by a perpetrator known only as “Chess.’’ Although he doesn’t have superpowers, former soldier Faraday becomes the titular hero — nicking his alter ego from his son’s favorite comic book — with the help of a special cape on loan from the leader of a gang of circus performers-cum-bank robbers. Comely, justice-seeking blogger Orwell (Summer Glau, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’’) joins his fight to clear his good name for the disgraced family that thinks he’s dead and thwart the nefarious efforts of a villainous billionaire CEO, Peter Fleming (James Frain, “True Blood’’) — who is, of course, Chess.

Those battered by the network’s last tangle with the super-powered — the once-promising, gradually maddening, and finally sputtering “Heroes’’ — may be understandably wary of getting to know the man behind the mask. But the first couple of episodes offer reason for cautious optimism.

While little about “The Cape’’ could be deemed fresh — from its noir-ish “Dark Knight’’-esque color palette to the sometimes boilerplate dialogue — the show has several elements going for it.

Chief among these is the unexpected humor peppered throughout. From a running gag about the lameness of his moniker — “Well, you’ll work on it,’’ says one grateful recipient of the Cape’s derring-do — to the malevolent mirth Keith David brings to the role of Cape mentor (and leader of the circus freak bank robbers) Max Malini, the show has fun where it can. Executive producer Tom Wheeler also occasionally brings a pleasing comic book eye to shot composition.

In addition to David, Frain is charismatically loathsome and the guest cast is a likable lot that includes Brit bruiser Vinnie Jones as the unfortunately complected henchman “Scales’’ and “West Wing’’ alum Richard Schiff as a comically apoplectic bureaucrat.

Working against “The Cape’’ is the kind of stuff that commonly works against shows like it, namely the logic busters. Wouldn’t Vince’s son recognize his voice when he visits him as “The Cape’’? Why wouldn’t the Cape just kill Chess when he has one of several opportunities? Would a regular dude — awesome cape and impeccable workout regimen notwithstanding — really bounce back as quickly as Vince does from various beatings?

But this is fantasy, of course, and there’s a promising sense of self-reflection in the show’s foundation. At one point, after a particular fancy besting by the Cape, Fleming/Chess gives a chuckle that seems to say “well, maybe this could be a little fun after all.’’ Hopefully, the same will be true of “The Cape.’’

Sarah Rodman can be reached at rodman@globe.com.

THE CAPE

Starring: David Lyons, James Frain, Summer Glau, Jennifer Ferrin, Keith David

On: NBC, Channel 7

Time: Sunday night, 9-11