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Harvey Birdman,
Attorney at Law

In an off-hand remark on an episode of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, the super powered host mentioned a spin-off for fellow '60's Saturday morning refugee Birdman. A couple of years later, the winged wonder even guest-hosted for Space Ghost. As a joke, using Birdman this way would be pretty one note. Fortunately, ME Productions had a better idea.

Instead of entering the world of late-night television, Birdman went to law school. He emerged with a not-so-secret identity (Harvey), a sharp suit and a keen sense of legality, if not the justice he once served. Practicing both criminal and civil law, Harvey fights for the rights of faded cartoon stars in the Hanna-Barbera stable. Perhaps luckily for him, most of his arch-enemies followed suit and entered the courtroom.

Luckily for us, Cartoon Network has released the first two seasons of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law on DVD.

Packaged as a slim law book (Harvey grows tired easily), the two-disc set includes such classics as "The Dabba Don" and "Death by Chocolate," in which Yogi Bear's sidekick Boo Boo becomes a terrorist. Though the Adult Swim show tackles a lot of popular characters, it's always been impressive how obscure some of the characters are.

Case in point: "The Devlin Made Me Do It," in which Harvey defends stuntman Ernie Devlin when a boy injures himself duplicating one of the Evil Knievel wanna-be's stunts. You don't remember Devlin? He had his own show for one season, and clearly he went to seed after losing his shot at Saturday morning stardom.

Others temporarily returning to the limelight include Speed Buggy and Inch High Private Eye. If you have fond memories of these characters - wow. It's impressive you even have memories of them at all. But the show creators clearly know their stuff, and have come up with a variety of ways to mock with love. Even Charlie Chan and the Amazing Chan Clan make a comeback, disguised as a Japanese pop group named Shoyu Weenie.

So the humor isn't always highbrow.

Unlike Space Ghost, Harvey Birdman does not rely on as many uncomfortable pauses to get laughs. The show takes an almost opposite tack, filling each episode with throwaway bits that may go by too fast. Now, of course, you can watch them over and over.

A few of the episodes include commentary, and deleted scenes. Most of those scenes never got past the pencil test phase, but the jokes still work. For the infamous episode "Shaggy Busted," the producers include pencil test alongside finished scenes, showing the painstaking detail that goes into making even the quietest visual joke work. Or maybe the inkers got tired.

Fans of Stephen Colbert, a major contributor the show, also get a chance to hear Harvey as voiced by the Daily Show reporter. It's an interesting interpretation, but one that would have worn thin quickly, as the disc notes.

Offering a tantalizing glimpse of a future cult phenomenon, the disc also includes a trailer for a non-existent live-action movie adaptation. Not enough of us watch Adult Swim to make it financially viable, but...fanboys can dream.

Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, Vol. 1

Derek McCaw


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