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Harvey Birdman,
Attorney at Law Volume 3

Who is the man in the suit? Who is the cat with the beak? If you know the answer to those questions, you've probably already tasted the power of attorney, the power that comes from the golden rays of the sun. Most definitely you got that thing I sent you.

Maybe you also got that a few weeks ago, Adult Swim closed the book on their ultimate post-modern trashing of the Hanna-Barbera universe, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. In an episode titled "The Death of Harvey Birdman," the once brave and competent superhero doffed the Brooks Brother suit and took the final stand against the first case he ever tried - a giant monster ape thing whose punishment was to be buried, Doomsday-style, deep beneath the Earth's crust.

Of course, it's not nearly as heroic as it sounds, especially since that 39th episode was preceded by 38 that made Birdman seem a barely competent buffoon. And we loved every minute of it.

Volume 3 of the DVD collection saw release shortly afterward, and like its predecessors, it's a great record of a great show. On the heels of the complete Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, this volume also warps its origins, including an episode that starts out like the classic Hanna-Barbera show. "Turner Classic Birdman" calls attention to the many strange storytelling quirks of the original show, and actually provides a bridge (shaky, though) between that series and this.

Most of these final episodes also break the formula set in the first season. In addition to "Turner Classic Birdman" (hosted, of course, by Robert Osborne), volume 3 includes "Sebben and Sebben Employee Orientation." Like its title promises, that's all it is - the most twisted, wrong employee orientation film in history.

It also turns into a serial legal drama, with actual continuity serving for more than running jokes. Peter Potamus gets irradiated and turns into a misunderstood Marvel monster. Characters die and the consequences reverberate to the end. Yet it stays funny.

We never find out what the bear was doing there, but the DVD also includes a guide to several of the running gags, delivering a highlight reel which may be unnecessary. It's always worth just re-watching the whole episodes.

In one episode, X the Eliminator (Peter MacNicol) gets a motivational evil life coach who advises him to develop a coherent origin that will explain his hatred for Birdman. That origin gets the comic book treatment as an extra. Maybe it's not crucial stuff, but for a fan, it's pure gold.

The DVD packaging feels like an extra in itself. With a slipcase looking like a battered law notebook (just like the first two sets), the interior parodies a lad magazine with a curious mix of sensibilities. If Maxim were animated and published in 1962, it might look like this, bringing the series full circle with its feeling of being from another time yet strangely fresh.

So it's the last of Harvey Birdman. Adult Swim will put on plenty of other stuff that will have its rhythms, its sensibility, its limited animation. What that other stuff won't have, though, is that thing.

Only Harvey has that thing.

Derek McCaw

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