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Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law V3

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Friends of mine have been encouraging me to check out HARVEY BIRDMAN, ATTORNEY AT LAW for a while now, but for various reasons I’ve never had the chance to take in anything more than the odd episode here and there. Fortunately series three has just landed on the Madman catalogue, so in the guise of *working* I was able to sit down and take in the final volume of Harvey Birdman’s work as an Attorney.

Much like SPACE GHOST, COAST TO COAST before it, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at law (HBAAL) picks up the life of a former Saturday morning, cartoon superhero, years after their days of fighting super-villains and defending the earth are over. Although, in Harvey’s case, while he has abandoned the life he lead in BIRDMAN AND THE GALAXY TRIO, he still manages to keep the streets safe by working, as the name of the show states, as an Attorney.

My appreciation of (almost) all things Adult Swim and Williams Street has been abundantly documented here on eol, and I’m pleased to say that once again the pairing has produced another instant classic. HBAAL is as sharp as the best to have come before it. It isn’t quite as random as some of their previous offerings, and manages to stay on the coherent side of altogether surreal. Which should make this a little more accessible than some of the other, more off the wall, series to bear the Williams Street brand.

This final volume of Harvey’s adventures begins, fortunately enough, with an episode titled ‘Turner Classic Birdman’. Typical of the minds behind this series, the majority of the footage used to create this episode is actually taken from the 60’s series Birdman and the Galaxy Trio. While I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with this show, this episode served as a great starting point as it documents Birdman’s history and explains (as best as can be expected) how it is that he went from crime fighting Birdman to legal eagle (sorry).

For anyone old enough to remember the days when Saturday mornings were ruled by Hanna-Barbera will get a real kick out of this show, as constant childhood memories are dredged up and made fun of. Much of the humour found in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law stems from the was these cartoon characters — be they superhero, talking cat or crime solving (most likely, pot smoking) beatnik — are plonked, unceremoniously into the real (well, real enough) world: Magilla Gorilla is ‘liberated’ from Melvin Peebles’ store by Animal Rights Activists. Harvey ends up on probation when Benny, a cat he adopts off the street, invites Top Cat and the rest of the gang over and they establish an illegal casino in Harvey’s apartment. Tinker (from the show Speed Buggy) hires Harvey to represent him in an identity theft suite filed against Shaggy (from Scooby-doo), the evidence is quite damning.

Not happy with just lampooning the stable of Hanna-Barbera characters Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law often features none-too-suble parodies of characters and story-lines from other cartoons and comic-book sources. It doesn’t try to be edgy or political, or make social commentary of any sort, instead Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is packed to the rafters with running gags, non-sequiturs and a truckload of regular characters (all classic Hanna-Barbera folk too). This is just good — mostly clean… I’m looking at you Peter Potamus! — silly fun.

Despite not having seen the first two volumes of this show (a situation that will be remedied in short order), Volume 3 feels very much complete, plus the 2nd DVD has some great extras too! Not the least of which is a fantastic (and unique, in my experience) set of timelines of the running gags, in which you get to see every instance of a gag’s appearance, along with which episodes they happened in. To top it all off, this is some of the highest quality animation I’ve seen from the Williams Street guys… Ok, so that’s not really saying much, but the animation is great and often surpasses the brilliant Hanna-Barbera material which inspired it. [source]

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3 Comments

    Hee, love Harvey ^__^ Favourite episode is the Cookie Bouquet ones…

    Need to get the dvds though as I only see the odd ep…

  • Harvey Birdman is nothing short of damn brilliant, and the more I hear about it, the more I want it. Well, the more I want my brother to hurry up and buy it so I can borrow it off him.

    Honestly, whoever writes this show needs to pat themselves on the back. It’s not just that the jokes are twisted and clever, it’s that there’s so damn many of them crammed into each ep. Lobsters in the breeze, for example. Honestly, who comes up with something like that?

    It’s kinda sad to know it’s all over… but, on the other hand, it’s good to know that the show got to end on its own terms, and didn’t become yet another beautiful show who’s life was cut short before it could have its, well, last laugh. (Ha, ha.)

  • @Gazebo. Like anything this insane there’s always the opportunity to make more episode (or specials, or something), but I completely agree. I love that they gave the series an ending… even if they did give Harvey’s boss the same ending a couple of episodes earlier.