Cartoon Network (2005), Turner Home Entertainment/Warner Home Video (July 24, 2007), 2 discs, 151 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, Not Rated, Retail: $29.98
Harvey Birdman comes back for one final volume of representing disgraced Hanna-Barbera characters in court. And, when the situation arises, he gets to be a hero once again, be killed off, and end the series.
The Sweatbox Review:
In order to enjoy Harvey Birdman, one must be ready to forgive the show for desecrating so many classic Hanna-Barbera characters. While watching the first set of episodes, I took the stance of, “If you’re going to skewer my old favorites, you had better do it up FUNNY,” and I thought that the writers had come through pretty well. So, while a part of me resented what they had done to Apache Chief and Fred Flintstone— and especially poor little Boo Boo— I had to admit that they had managed to tickle my funny bone, in a somewhat guilt-producing way. Now, having watched this volume, I still have mixed feelings about the show; but again I found myself laughing more than I was wincing, so give ‘em credit.
This third and final DVD collection sees the series come to a close, as superhero-turned-lawyer Harvey Birdman takes on more clients culled from the Hanna-Barbera library. It’s a pretty clever concept, really, with my main reservations having to do with the somewhat adult nature of the program. I have to remind myself that I am far closer to 40 than 10, and I should quit being such a prude, man. So, as you read through these episode descriptions below, just try to go with the flow. It goes much easier that way. As before, these episodes run about twelve minutes each, and I found the last thriteeen episodes to be even more cohesive in regards to storytelling then the first dozen or so. Each episode carries a strong (if nutty) narrative, which helps to sell the insanity of the show.
Turner Classic Birdman – Turner Classic Movie’s Robert Osborne hosts a “lost” episode of the original Birdman, entitled Busy Day For Birdman. Actual footage from the 1960s Birdman is used and gloriously manipulated, with new voiceovers by Harvey Birdman’s voice actors. This serves to nicely tie together the two versions of Birdman, while also humorously commenting on the animation shortcomings of the original, e.g. “Here comes a spider… with only six legs!!!” Very cute episode.
Free Magilla – Magilla Gorilla is busted out of Peebles Pet Shop by masked animal lovers whose affection for Magilla diminishes sharply as he continually tells exceptionally weak jokes littered with terrible puns. Mr. Peebles goes to Harvey for help, while the firm’s top man Phil Ken Sebben goes fishing with Peter Potamus and the Potamus nephews. Maurice Lamarche continues to provide great renditions of classic Hanna-Barbera voices here with his takes on Peebles and Magilla.
Return Of Birdgirl – Birdgirl, who is in reality the daughter of Phil Ken Sebben, wakes Harvey at 4 am to introduce him to the case of Dr. Quest and Race Bannon attempting to become a legal couple. Later, Birdgirl accepts a date with her clueless father in order to not compromise her secret identity… and she almost takes things way too far. The Quest/Bannon case is taken to the highest court there is— on the Justices League’s orbiting satellite.
Mindless – Harv takes in two stray cats, not realizing that Top Cat and Benny The Ball intend to use his place to run rackets. This is Harvey Birdman at its best, using old characters in a way that is both faithful to their origins and yet hilariously corrupt.
Identity Theft – Yakkee Doodle wants his old name back (no longer liking “Chemical Castration” as a moniker). “Eliot” from the duplicating service plans his revenge on Harvey, who is apparently the perpetrator of many duplicating crimes. In The Duplicator’s mad plan for revenge, Harv is duplicated, with the best scene coming when all the Birdmen running around drive X The Eliminator crazy.
Sebben And Sebben Employee Orientation – This faux training film is a nice change of pace, offering just as many laughs per minute as the more conventional episodes. As an added bonus, we find out what horrible office accident cost Phil his eye.
Shazzan – Harv’s protégé Peanut (the sweater-wearing Birdboy) takes the case of unlawful imprisonment for the genie Shazzan, while Harvey defends his jailor, none other than Judge Mentok. By this time in the show, Mentok has been established as the main judge on Birdman’s trials, and he gets plenty of good lines, not to mention a fun Superman: The Movie parody.
Incredible Hippo – Harv takes on the case of Atom Ant’s eviction from his home by the Environmental Protection Agency. When Potamus accidentally ingests some of Atom’s excrement, he changes into a hulking, raging green monster. Harv’s jealous colleague Myron Reducto enlists Inch High Private Eye to help him destroy Atom Ant.
Babysitter – Something really bad happens to Phil just as Harv is leaving for his high school reunion. At the reunion, Harv gets stuck dancing with an unattractive woman. Meanwhile, Potamus takes over the firm with drinking buddy Cubby McQuilken, and Reducto baby-sits Peanut. Yes, this one’s action-packed! Funny, too.
Birdnapped – Birdgirl is now running the firm following the ouster of Potamus and McQuilken, but in such a high-profile position she has great difficulty concealing her secret identity, especially as she is in deep, deep mourning for her father. Oh, and X struggles with his efforts to have Harvey over for dinner.
Grodin – The ever-frustrated X hires a life coach to become more evil and finally kill Birdman. Harvey’s latest case sees him representing the over-the-hill daredevil named Devlin once again, who this time is being sued for selling a defective toy based on himself.
Harvey Birdman, Juror In Court – The Duplicator is enlisted by the court to make an extra Harvey so that he may serve on the jury in a trial he is also working in. Potamus rather ironically has Birdgirl investigated for sexual harassment.
The Death Of Harvey Birdman – Um, well, yes… the title kinda gives it away. The great thing, though, is that Harvey gets to once again fly as Birdman in order to protect the city. This is after having to re-try ALL of his previous cases as a result of a court ruling last episode.
I have to admit to having developed a liking for this show, and there’s not a dud in this bunch of episodes. What I most appreciate is that, despite the over-the-top stories and characterizations, it never fully disintegrates into the mess it could have so easily become. Even though we see the show deal with notions of incest, planned murder, and various forms of debauchery, it somehow all is done with a sense of fun while telling real stories… more or less. That’s why even a clean-cut guy like myself can find something to like in the show, which admittedly takes delight in crossing lines that Bill and Joe never came within a country mile of approaching.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Things start out shaky with Birdman Characters (0.31), which is a not-useful montage thing that I can’t believe someone was paid money to compile. Things improve from there, though. None of this is necessary, but most of it is somewhat fun. The Origin Of X, The Eliminator gives an interactive, closer look at the comic book story that appeared in Grodin. The Deleted Scenes on the disc are pretty cool— storyboards (with dialog) for two full episodes, including scenes that did not make it to animation, are shown; plus individual scenes from four other episodes. The Joke Timeline includes montages of all the series’ running gags (or “recycled jokes” if you are being less charitable), such as appearances by The Bear and The Clown Car, plus Mentok’s “Bweeeeop” sound that he makes.
Final Record includes a few odds & ends. Noises (1:08) features some manic footage of the voice actors. Potamus Prank (2:15) has a practical joke that the directors pulled on voice actor Chris Edgerly. Lastly, Citizen Inane (1:17) has Maurice Lamarche trying to crack up Gary (Harvey Birdman) Cole by speaking in his Orson Welles voice.
The outer slipcase follows in line with previous volumes, having the appearance of a worn law text, but with naughtiness there once you look closer. Inside, the digipack is designed like a somewhat raunchy men’s magazine (though little worse than what’s already on the newsstands). Reading through the package provides some fun, and you can see that a fair bit of work went into the design and artwork. Warner used the same full digipack as has been used before for Harvey Birdman, so no overlapping discs or ridiculously thin slipcases..
Ink And Paint:
These episodes look bright and shiny, as they certainly should given that they are largely produced in the digital realm. Given their origins, it is hard to know sometimes whether things such as shimmering are really due to the transfer, or the technology used to create the cartoon. Regardless, The crisp picture does include some video noise but generally looks very nice.
I really don’t think that the audio is of monumental concern in a show like this, but credit must be given for producing a pleasing enough stereo sound field that adequately reproduces the dialog and quirky sound effects. No other languages are offered, but there are subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
If you are a traditionalist that believes that old cartoon characters should be allowed to rest in peace once their time has passed, you may not appreciate Harvey Birdman. The cover of this DVD set, showing Potamus in a compromising (and decidedly sexual) position with Lady Justice, serves notice that the contents are NOT for children, despite featuring many cartoon friends from our childhoods. Part of me still thinks this show never should have gone ahead, but I cannot deny enjoying practically every minute of it. That’s because, at the end of the day, you can tell that the creators also have some affection for these Hanna-Barbera creations, and their send-up is all done with a nod and a wink. So relax, and (if over the age of majority) enjoy the zany exploits of Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?