Tv Review: Harvey Birdman Attorney At Law

Harvey Birdman was the first series which made me fall for Adult Swim, taking a fairly obscure character from the sixties Hanna Barbera show Birdman and the Galaxy Trio and changing him from being a superhero to a lawyer. Birdman and the Galaxy Trio isn’t actually that great – you can watch an episode here – but the Adult Swim series created by Michael Ouweleen and Erik Richter is one of the finest things they’ve ever done, simply because it’s so ridiculously and deliriously silly, yet also manages to work as a mockery of lawyer shows, a satire of kids tv, and include anti-George Bush / republican sentiments.

Birdman (Gary Cole) is mixture ego, bluster, weariness and hope and it’s a fantastic combination for a lead character, and he’s actually a surprisingly good lawyer, normally winning his cases, the majority of which featured characters from better known cartoons including Scooby Doo, Droopy, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, and Top Cat amongst many others. It also contained a rich selection of supporting characters many of whom provided the strongest laughs, with Birdman’s boss Phil Ken Sebben (Stephen Colbert, as great as you might expect) being my personal favourite, but dick-ish sidekick Peanut and the overly excitable Birdgirl were always reliably good value too. The series ran for four impressively funny seasons until it came to an end in 2007, and the final episode saw Harvey die, but thankfully it seems that didn’t stick.

Now back for a new special, it only left me wanting more. In it Phil Ken Sebben is president, which is alarming stuff considering his right wing beliefs (and that he used to go hunting with Dick Cheney, which rarely ends well), in what I originally thought was going to be a Trump allegory, but it turns out that somewhat amazingly Phil is less evil than Trump, mainly as he has no memory of how he got elected and wants out of the job asap. So he hires Harvey as his Attorney General and asks him to find a way to impeach him. And then launches a nuclear missile, because it’s “So me”.

harvey birdman main

Peter Potamus is now somewhat beautifully an Alex Jones type, and fully aware of the truth concerning how Phil was elected, and true to character he spills the beans and it turns out Mentok was behind it all, revealing how it was “The perfect crime…until I told you about it”. Unfortunately for all involved proceedings are far more complicated as along with Phil’s nuclear missile Amazon have fired one off as well because, well, we all know they’re secretly evil too (This is a joke Amazon lawyers, honest, please don’t sue me). And so it’s up to Harvey and Birdgirl to save the day. Or let the world be destroyed. With a show like this I genuinely couldn’t predict the outcome.

Along with all of the above there’s some superb jokes throughout including Birdgirl taking out the secret service whilst monologuing out loud and yet again revealing her secret identity, along with Phil realising he never had an inauguration and so plans to celebrate when he’s finally impeached with an Inaugerpeachment party. Peter Potamus is hilarious as always, his death scenes especially, and whilst Peanut’s not in it enough when he is he’s as delightfully mean as he was in the original series. Throw in some great lines from Harvey himself, a charming song from Phil and Reducto (my favourite lyrics being “You’ve got tiny hands” / “Not proportional to my glands ha ha”, and an appearance from a still bitter X The Eliminator and you’ve got something all a bit special on your hands.

It even takes the time out to give us a brief description of how Harvey was brought back from the dead, a great advert for Mentok’s MindBreak device which includes the opening questions “Want to strangle your kids? Want to strangle other people’s kids?” and who amongst us can honestly say they haven’t wanted both things. Thanks to Reddit I’ve learnt that the creators apparently wish to make more, though further one off specials rather than a new season, and I truly hope they do as this shows they’re still more than capable of making exquisite comedy after all these years.

Related Links:
You can watch the episode on Adult Swim’s website right now.
Whilst the first ever episode is up on youtube.
An interview with Michael Ouweleen, Erik Richter about the new episode is here.

Alex Finch.

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