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'The Cape' takes off on NBC

Heroes usually deflect praise, saying they're just ordinary folks thrust into extraordinary circumstances.

When firefighters storm into blazing buildings, soldiers hurl themselves on live grenades and commuters pull strangers from hurtling trains, that's the standard, humble response.

Vince Faraday (David Lyons, "ER") is such a character in NBC's ambitious "The Cape," premiering tonight.

"He's an ordinary man trapped in an extraordinary circumstance," Lyons says. "He is a family guy first and a fighter second. And when his family is taken from him, he only has one option left, and that is to fight for them."

Faraday is a solid American, a vet who played Little League and whose dad was sheriff. For more than 200 years, the Faraday family has lived in Palm City, a fictional West Coast metropolis that Faraday takes pride in policing.

Then the police department becomes privatized, and in a series of fast-action sequences, Faraday is framed for a series of murders and presumed dead. He becomes The Cape, his son's favorite comic book hero.

This setup requires plenty of action, and Lyons does his own stunts.

He has no innate superpowers but has a phenomenal cape, spun from spider silk stronger than Kevlar.

Faraday is a great cop, a terrific dad to his young son and a loving husband forced into a hellish alternate universe where, as The Cape, he views his former life from the outside.

It gets weirder.

The Cape winds up with a band of bank robbers who resemble the cast of "Cabaret" -- only nastier and more disaffected. Like so many bandits, though, they have their own code of honor and harbor The Cape.

Their leader is Max (Keith David, "Death at a Funeral"), a magician. Given his felonious nature, one would expect Max to be a bad guy, but he's quite decent when it comes to mentoring The Cape.

Then, there's the uber-CEO, Peter Fleming (James Frain, "True Blood"), the epitome of a sophisticate. Frain describes his aloof character as "a billionaire's billionaire. He is charming and roguish."

He's also evil. By night, he's the demented serial killer Chess. If those bodies don't pile up fast enough, by day he's Fleming, a capitalist of such gross proportions he considers murder part of the cost of business. And he's hellbent on world domination.

Fleming, CEO of ARK, is on a mission to privatize all industry and services.

"There is something very interesting about privatization, and corporations that have values that are larger than certain nations, and becoming nation-states unto themselves," show creator Tom Wheeler says.

The essence of the show boils down to a good guy in a cape, fighting for truth, justice and yes, the American way.

"He is a superhero in training, and I use the term 'superhero' with quotation marks," Lyons says. "It is a different thing because he doesn't believe he is a superhero, and that is what makes him really interesting. He is on a singular journey to reclaim his life, and the only way to do so is through his character, The Cape."

As The Cape, he trains as if he were competing in the superhero Olympics, yet Faraday is ultimately a broken human.

"The heart of our story and the message we are trying to send is that a person's love for their family knows no limits," Glau says. "And Vince, he is willing to do whatever he needs for his family."

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