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Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

Warner Home Video presents
Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law: Vol. 3 (2005-2007)

"Birdgirl, what do you say? Will you go on another date with me?"
- Phil Ken Sebben (Stephen Colbert)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: March 07, 2008

Stars: Gary Cole
Other Stars: Stephen Colbert, Paget Brewster, John Michael Higgins, Lewis Black, Peter MacNicol, Robert Osborne, Maurice LaMarche, Chris Edgerly, Thom Pinto, Tom Kenny, Michael McKean, Debi Mae West, Grey DeLisle, Scott Innes, Steven Jay Blum, Phil LaMarr, Ferdinand Jay Smith, Erik Richter, David Koechner, Toby Huss, Omid Djalili, David Lodge, Frank Welker
Director: Richard Ferguson-Hull

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (occasional mature humor)
Run Time: 02h:50m:00s
Release Date: July 24, 2007
UPC: 053939793024
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B+B- C-

DVD Review

I'm something of a conceptual completist when it comes to a full run of a television series. I want a beginning. I want a middle. I want an end. I like to see the origins, the evolution and then some sort of fitting conclusion, which rarely happens today, as shows are canceled willy-nilly or worse, end with a dreadfully lame open-ended mess (Chris Carter, I'm talking to you) that leaves an opening for a return someday. Network writers could learn a thing or two from the demented minds of Michael Ouweleen and Erik Richter, the creators of the animated series Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law.

With this final 2-disc 13-episode block from the 2005-2007 seasons, the surreal weirdness of one of the strangest and enjoyable of the stellar Adult Swim lineup comes to its satisfactory and proper end. Not that I won't and don't miss it greatly, but to paraphrase Julius Caesar: it came, it delivered, it finished. Plus it was consistently lathered up with increasingly bizarre humor made even more bizarre via the radical reinventing of all those characters from the deep Hanna-Barbera universe, pushing them into legal cases that only a secondary superhero from the late 1960s could help.

So what's with all this giddy joy for a 12-minute cartoon? Let's recap, shall we?

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 then there's his daughter Judy (voiced by Paget Brewster), who adopts the sexy alter-ego/hero known as Birdgirl. This curiously results in some uncomfortable, awkward sexual tension comedy between the father and daughter. Funny, but oh so 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 scene stealing of 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 and distort 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.

That's the Birdman gist, and Volume 3 continues along the same el weirdo path as before. The dipping into the Hanna-Barbera past is a given, as with Magilla Gorilla getting mixed up with animal rights activists in Free Magilla, but episode three's Return Of Birdgirl hits it doubly hard. Aside from simply heralding the return of the talents of Paget Brewster—the plot once again revisits the "relationship" issues between Jonny Quest's Race Bannon and Dr. Quest. And in just 12-minutes there is not only a grand sendup of gay marriage, but there is a whole lot more of the "it's just wrong" wooing between the gloriously oblivious Phil Ken Sebben and Birdgirl, who in case you forgot happens to be his daughter.

There is, however, the loss of Colbert's Phil Ken Sebben for a good part of this set of episodes, which on paper would seem like a major hurdle to overcome. The temporary absence of Colbert's non sequitur king of a character is softened a bit by the introduction of the very angry Lewis Black as the very angry Deadly Duplicator, a villain naturally hellbent on Birdman's destruction. Black steps up as expected, giving the Deadly Duplicator a suitable place in the overall Birdman universe at a time when it needed it. Though to somehow overcompensate for the missing Colbert, all of this absurdly comical nonsense—and I mean from the entire run of the series—solidifies and is interwoven into the masterful final episode (the title itself is a bit of a spoiler, though it's clearly acknowledged in the menus), as the saga of Harvey Birdman comes to a close. And what a close it is.

Episodes on Volume 3:

Turner Classic Birdman
Original Air Date: 08/21/05

Free Magilla
Original Air Date: 9/11/05

Return Of Birdgirl
Original Air Date: 09/18/05

Mindless
Original Air Date: 09/25/05

Identity Theft
Original Air Date: 10/23/05

Sebben and Sebben Employee Orientation
Original Air Date: 10/16/05

Shazzan
Original Air Date: 10/2/06

Incredible Hippo
Original Air Date: 10/09/06

Babysitter
Original Air Date: 10/16/06

Birdnapped
Original Air Date: 10/23/06

Grodin
Original Air Date: 10/30/06

Harvey Birdman, Junior In Court
Original Air Date: 07/15/07

The Death Of Harvey Birdman
Original Air Date: 07/22/07



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

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: All 13 episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 fullframe. Colors are bright, and the richness of the overall palette is a huge improvement over the sometimes speckled look of Volume 1. As with Volume 2—when the series began being rendered in Flash—the edges are sharper, and black levels appear much more solid.

Nice.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented via a standard issue 2.0 stereo surround track. All very front-centric and basic, with character voices clean and clearly discernible.

Simple is as simple does.

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
10 Deleted Scenes
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Tri-Fold Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Another fine packaging presentation, this time the trifold case resembles a new Maxim-like men's magazine entitled Mandamus ("Barely Legal: The Intern Issue"), with the high point being a funny memo from Phil Ken Sebben that informs us how to "shillelagh your opponent in the age-old battle of the sexes and its many splendorous positions!"

Presentation aside, the extras content this time around is noticeably thin. Unlike the previous two collections there are no commentaries here, which is a little disappointing given the machinations the series goes through in this block of episodes. Instead, there's a quick Joke Timeline, which uses clips from the show's run to highlight the use of some of the more familiar catchphrases or sight gags. Birdman Characters (:33s) is basically a commercial/montage of the main players, while the clunky comic book format of The Origin Of X The Eliminator: A User's Guide is more work than its worth. Final Record (04m:44s) consists of three studio segments, showing the cast making an assortment of sounds, Chris Edgerly getting pranked and Maurice LaMarche squeezing off his killer Orson Welles impression, much to the delight of Gary Cole. A set of ten deleted scenes/animatics is also included.

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

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

The extras come up short, but the 13 episodes are still dangerously funny. As a proper sendoff, this is an example of the way a series should end. Strange and comical stuff abounds here, making this an easy case of being highly recommended.

 


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