Why you should watch... Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law

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Gary Cole as Harvey Birdman
Stephen Colbert as Phil Ken Seben/Myron Reducto
Thomas Allen as Peanut
John Michael Higgins as Mentok the Mindtaker
Chris Edgerly as Peter Potamus
Maurice LaMarche as Various
Peter MacNicol as X, the Eliminator
Grey DeLisle as Debbie
Erik Richter as Avenger
Phil LaMarr as Black Vulcan
and Paget Brewster as Birdgirl

Back in the 1960s there was an average at best children's cartoon called "Birdman and the Galaxy Trio" a cartoon divided into two sets of stories, one starring the titular Birdman and the other starring Galaxy Girl and her two colleagues Vapor Man and Meteor Man. The show was very lackluster and after two years it disappeared off into the vaults destined to never be thought of again. (Except as "How not to do it")

That is until Michael Ouweleen and Erik Richter decided to create a spin-off inspired by Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. The character Birdman had made an appearance on SG:C2C previously (with the first name Harvey) and it seems this is what sparked HB:AtL into existence. Of course, this technically means HB:AtL is a spin-off from two separate shows, one of which is a spin-off itself. I guess it's a 2 ½nd generation spin-off mutant bastard child thing. But despite this it's a surprisingly good show.

HB:AtL deals with Harvey's life after his time as a superhero, as to be expected from the title of the show Harvey has become an attorney since he hung up his suit for the last time. Likewise many of the super villains he previously encountered have also given up their various nefarious plans to move into law. Harvey spends much of his time working as a criminal defense attorney or civil litigator in Sebben & Sebben's law firm (Phil Ken Sebben was previously known as Falcon 7 on Birdman) and he has various Hanna-Babera characters of old as clients. The list of his clientele includes Atom Ant, Fred Flintstone, Inch-High Private Eye, Scooby and Shaggy, Droopy, Captain Caveman and the Jetsons.

The show is a short 10 minuted animated affair that derives it's humor from pop culture references, humanisation of superheroes/villains, observations of Hanna-Barbera inconsistencies/strangeness and good old slapstick. It ran for 39 episodes (with a 20 minute finale) and just about every episode is filled to the brim with quality comedy. The short run time ensures that not a single moment in the show is wasted, there's a constant, well-paced movement from one event to the next and the jokes never let up. The animation style is clean and detailed - some jokes are placed on screen for less than a second: so there's plenty to see on a second or third viewing. (It wasn't until my third viewing of this series that I spotted the Kevin Costner/Waterworld/Mutant joke for example.)

The character acting is just top notch, Gary Cole portrays a Harvey who's barely able to keep it together with pitch perfect dialog. Stephen Colbert is phenomenal as the paranoid Reducto and the strange and off-beat Phil Ken Sebben. But for me personally it's the performances of John Michael Higgins as Mentok and Chris Edgerly as a truly perverted Peter Potamus that entertain me the most. This is not to take anything out of the other actors involved in the project, even the guest stars are superb (especially Frank Welker reprising his role as Freddy) and there's never a dull character or performance from anyone.

Harvey Birdman is one of the best in the range of 'adult' cartoons out there, it looks good, sounds amazing and has almost peerless comedy. It's fantastic fun for the generations that grew up with the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons and very watchable for others. I really can't recommend it enough, It'll only take approximately 400 minutes of your life to see all of it, but you'll certainly want to go back and watch it all again and again.

All that remains is for me to ask:

"Did you get that thing I sent you?"


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