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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 22 minutes
• Audio commentary
• Behind the scenes featurettes
• Clothes-less animation
• Commercial spots
• Deleted scenes
• Music video
"When the citizens of the cartoon world find themselves in hot water and on the wrong side of the law, they turn to one man to save them from prison. When that guy doesn’t call back, they turn to Harvey Birdman, attorney at law."
Gary Cole, Stephen Colbert, John Michael Higgens, Peter MacNicol, Paget Brewster
Take that, Darwin.
Harvey Birdman used to be one of the many generic Hanna-Barbera superheros who saved the galaxy from the most ridiculous and retarded villains in existence. He has since settled down, getting his law degree from a prestigious three week course and landing a job at a big time law firm.
Aided by his trusty winged sidekick Avenger and his sarcastic ward Peanut, he fumbles and bumbles his way through court cases, hampered only by his own sheer incompetence. Court cases handled by Harvey in this volume include a debate over teaching evolution in schools sparked by Captain Caveman’s son, the effects of global warming after the Jetsons travel to the past, Droopy Dog’s botched botox surgery and Grape Ape’s use of performance enhancing drugs.
Foolish enough on his own, Harvey’s legal wranglings are hampered even more by his co-workers, including his egomaniacal boss, a hippo with a knack for sending “things,” a prosecuting attorney obsessed with shrinking things and a judge whose chief hobby is mind taking. It’s the most fun you can ever have with Hanna-Barbera cartoons and as an added bonus, this show actually has animation!
Harvey Birdman’s concept is funny enough to work on a basic level, but the show’s devotion to non-stop comedy makes it something truly special. No matter what’s transpiring front and center, there’s always an onslaught of sight gags and one-liners occurring in the background to catch you off guard. It’s truly possible to watch an episode three times and catch something new with each viewing.
Rather than treating its short running time as a limit and an excuse to sprint to the finish, the show embraces it and attempts to jam in so much comedy that it practically overflows. Well into the middle of its run by this volume, the show can now also rely on its established characters to provide trademark bits and pull off some truly bizarre scenarios.
Not subscribing to the mantra of "I y’am what I y’am," Olive consults Dr. 90210.
As talented as the writers and animators are, the show might not have pulled it all off without the wildly talented voice cast. Stephen Colbert is the highlight of the affair with his performances as Phil Ken Sebben and Reducto, the lawyer obsessed with making everything small. The hyperactive and breathless behavior of Reducto as he goes against his nature and falls in love with an onion booty wouldn’t be nearly as funny if not for Colbert’s great performance.
Harvey Birdman is a refreshing blend of comedy from the Adult Swim line-up that goes down a different route than its brethren. Instead of using awkward pauses and uncomfortable moments to generate comedy, it goes in the completely opposite direction and spouts out jokes like an ADD kid hopped up on Jolt Cola. It’s fast paced comedy that should make even the gloomiest curmudgeon laugh, doubly so if they’re familiar with classic cartoons.
Winning hearts and minds.
The DVD packaging itself is designed to look like Birdgirl’s three hour law school textbook. It includes plenty of in-jokes written by Birdgirl and some humorous episode descriptions. It’s always nice to see the humor from the feature itself extend into the packaging and promotional materials.
The highlight of the extra features are the audio commentaries on selected episodes. The show’s creators are joined by various voice actors to discuss the finer points of the show. Guests include acting superstars Gary Cole and Stephen Colbert.
The episodes are only about ten minutes each, so none of the actors really have any time to go in-depth on the workings of the show. On the flipside, there’s never a silent moment as the participants riff on each other and discuss the motivations behind particular jokes and all the time and effort that goes into them.
About that thing I sent you…
The featurettes run the gamut of subjects and provide entertainment as well as information. A naked segment of animation is included to titillate all the lonely Birdgirl fans on the internet and you get to see cartoon nerds at work as they animate the show in Flash. For once, the inclusion of commercials and television spots is a good thing as the short programming bumps are often as funny as the show itself.
Time to go back to Cuba, where nary a pic’a’nic basket lies in sight.