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Warner Home Video presents
Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law: Volume 2 (2004-2005)

Harvey Birdman: There comes a time when every young superhero starts to get their special powers.
Peanut: What do you know, Harvey?
Harvey: Not a lot!

- (Gary Cole, Thomas Allen)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: January 26, 2007

Stars: Gary Cole
Other Stars: Stephen Colbert, Thomas Allen, John Michael Higgins, Peter MacNicol, Maurice LaMarche, Chris Edgerly, Phil LaMarr, Tom Kenny, Wally Wingert, Diane Michelle, Debi Mae West, Doug Preis, Steven Jay Blum, Fred Tatasciore, Grey DeLisle, Rob Paulsen, Kym Whitley, Sunda Croonquist, Mark Hamill, Bill Farmer, Mary Birdsong, Steve Landesberg, Larry Morris, Paget Brewster
Director: Richard Ferguson-Hull

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (occasional mature humor)
Run Time: 02h:32m:00s
Release Date: October 10, 2006
UPC: 053939765922
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BB A-

DVD Review

In the annals of cartoon-dom, the premise of the Cartoon Network/Adult Swim series Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law probably ranks as one of the more bizarre. In 2000, creators Michael Ouweleen and Erik Richter dug deep into the late 1960s/early 1970s catalog of Hanna-Barbera characters to build a universe where a relatively obscure superhero is the titular lawyer, whose cases involve familiar faces like The Jetsons, Quick Draw McGraw or Doggy Daddy, all accused in one way or another of very grownup charges. Each ep only runs about 12 minutes, but in that time there are a ton of double-entendres, uber-obscure references and an unescapable sense that someone has put acid in the animator's water cooler.

Harvey Birdman (voiced by Gary Cole) as the series lead is a B-level entity himself, originally seen as part of the 1967 Hanna-Barbera series Birdman and The Galaxy Trio; he was essentially a sort of a stripped down version of DC Comics' more famous Hawkman, with huge wings and the obligatory superhero mask. He still wears the mask and wings, but he's added a suit, and although he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he works for the demented law firm of Phil Ken Sebben (voiced by Stephen Colbert). Sebben's the eye-patch/tuxedo-wearing boss known for spewing some of the show's best nonsensical bursts of dialogue, and late into this second set we're introduced to his daughter Judy (voiced by Paget Brewster), who adopts the alter-ego known as Birdgirl. This results in some uncomfortable, awkward comedy between the two. Funny, but uncomfortable.

Other random strangeness comes regularly from Birdman's assistant Peanut (voiced by Thomas Allen), an unhinged individual based loosely on the old Birdboy character, the mind-reading judge Mentok the Mindtaker (voiced by John Michael Higgins) or the size-obsessed Myron Reducto (also voiced by Stephen Colbert). And just to twist my fond memories, a character like Peter Potamus (now a lawyer!) becomes known for his frequent and foul bathroom visits, which is a mental image that may have scarred me permanently.

This two-disc set contains the final seven episodes of Season 2 (see Volume One for the first four) and the first seven eps of season three. Even with the animation now done completely in Flash beginning with season two, the show still retains its intentional stylistic nod to the minimal movement of the original Hanna-Barbera material. If it wasn't for such glaring differences as subject matter that is often filled with sexual comedy (see Peanut Puberty) or the not so thinly veiled topical humor (Guitar Control) this could very well be a relic from the late 1960s.

Maybe it was because I grew up with so many of these characters, but it's the cases themselves that I find both odd and appealing. Things like Droopy getting a bad case of Botox, Quick Draw McGraw facing "weapons" charges, the Grape Ape accused of using steroids or Magilla Gorilla brought in during a case involving the teaching of evolution. It's like Ouweleen and Richter have gone into my childhood memories of these characters and dropped them into a meat grinder, with the resulting memory sausage ending up so hysterically wrong that it somehow seems right. But it doesn't take a full bore memory of the Hanna-Barbera canon, because I have a teenage daughter who doesn't really have the same knowledge of many of those old shows/characters, but that doesn't prevent her from laughing just as much as I do, because funny is funny.

Episodes on Volume 2:

Season 2Back to the Present
Original Air Date: 05/16/04

Blackwatch Plaid
Original Air Date: 01/01/04

Grape Juiced
Original Air Date: 05/30/04

Peanut Puberty
Original Air Date: 06/06/04

Gone Efficien...t
Original Air Date: 06/13/04

Droopy Botox
Original Air Date: 07/18/04

Guitar Control
Original Air Date: 11/02/04

Season 3
Booty Noir
Original Air Date: 07/24/05

Harvey's Civvy
Original Air Date: 07/31/05

X Gets the Crest
Original Air Date: 08/07/05

Bird Girl of Guantanamole
Original Air Date: 08/14/05

Beyond the Valley of the Dinosaurs
Original Air Date: 08/28/05

Evolutionary War
Original Air Date: 09/04/05

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: There isn't quite as a pronounced attempt to give the show a distinct retro color palette, as was done with the first block of episodes. Colors look much brighter (perhaps the all-out shift to creating the show in Flash has something to do with that) and the transfers carry strong edges and well-defined outlines.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Nothing fancy here, just a solid 2.0 stereo surround track that is front-centric and not overdone. Character voices are clear at all times, and while the presentation doesn't get particularly showy, the mix works well for the material.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
9 TV Spots/Teasers
3 Deleted Scenes
7 Featurette(s)
9 Feature/Episode commentaries by Michael Ouweleen, Erik Richter, Stephen Colbert, Thomas Allen, Maurice LaMarche, John Michael Higgins, Peter MacNicol, Paget Brewster, Gary Cole, Chris Edgerly, Richard Ferguson-Hull, Jeff Brody, Jeff Henshaw, Victor Beitzel, Bryan Capik, Les Harper
Packaging: Tri-Fold Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Like the first Birdman release, the presentation for this set is cleverly done. The slipcase looks like an old, tattered law book (as with Volume One) while the tri-fold inner case is meant to be Birdgirl's copy of Reducto's 3 Hour Law School Course Book. There are all sorts of doodles and scribbles (Reducto Is A Poophead) and even a sample of Judy Ken Sebben's "lawyer signature" tests, as well as wacky course/episode descriptions.

Spread across the two discs are nine episode commentaries, all but one featuring creators Michael Ouweleen and Erik Richter. They're joined individually by Stephen Colbert (Blackwatch Plaid, Booty Noir), Paget Brewster (Bird Girl of Guantanamole), Thomas Allen (Peanut Puberty), Gary Cole (X Gets the Crest), Maurice LaMarche (Guitar Control), John Michael Higgins (Harvey's Civvy), Peter MacNicol (X Gets the Crest) and Chris Edgerly (Beyond the Valley of the Dinosaurs). Funny stuff for the most part, very self-mocking, with the Colbert, Allen and MacNicol input being especially entertaining. It's not often you hear a reference to bleeding out of the anus on a commentary, or the interpretation of a homosexual relationship between two superheroes.

The only commentary track that doesn't feature Ouweleen and Richter is on Evolutionary War, which has director Richard Ferguson-Hull, compositor Jeff Brody, animator Jeff Henshaw, ink and painter Victor Beitzel, animator Bryan Capik, animator Les Harper, lead animator Steve Vitale, animator Mario Orlando, animator Adam Fuchs and a sound guy who's name I couldn't make out. That's a lot of folks for an 11 minute episode, and at one point I thought the entire track was just going to be people introducing themselves.

Disc one also features some double-entendre-filled excerpts from a book called Superty, which parallels the "growing up" theme from the Peanut Puberty ep.

Aside from the previously mentioned commentaries, disc two also has some additional supplemental material, beginning with three quickie deleted scenes (:15s, :18s, :20s) presented storyboard style with black-and-white artwork. Naked Scene: Clothes-less Animation Pass (:44s) is a goofy courtroom scene purported to show the animation before clothes are added to the characters. Hence, naked characters with their naughty bits covered by the Harvey Birdman crest. CGI Clip: Evolution of a Scene (01m:11s:) looks at the ballroom scene from Evolutionary War, following it quickly from pre-viz on through the reflection tests. There are also a set of nine assorted Birdman promos (05m:17s) used on Cartoon Network.

Record of Records: See The Actors! (04m:32s) shows Paget Brewster, Gary Cole, John Michael Higgins, Maurice LaMarche and Thomas Allen in a small picture-in-picture box recording their dialogue while the finished scene plays out on the full screen. Behind the Scenes (06m:14s) has things like footage of Paget Brewster recording her commentary, input from the creative team and a casual, thumbnail look at how the show is put together. Bluetube Moments: Fun With Audio (03m:18s) gives centerstage to Michael Kohler, and we see him putting together the sound effects and music used on the show.

On the silly side is Mr. Passerby Video: Hey, Mr. Passerby!: A Music Video (01m:56s), a hodge-podge of scenes cut together as a promo of sorts. Birdman Stripper: Legal Briefs (:42s) has fan Courtney Sexton doing a dance down to his underpants

Each episode is one chapter, and optional subtitles are available in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

This is some seriously weird and funny stuff, presented in easy-to-swallow 12-minute episodes. The bizarro quotient is very, very high, and that's alright with me. Plus, the packaging is nicely done, too.

Highly recommended.

 


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