Judge Erich Asperschlager was so inspired by Harvey Birdman that he took a law school correspondence course and drank a case of Red Bull (though not necessarily in that order).
Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law: Volume Three closes the books on the classic Adult Swim series. Though some of the early-episode magic is gone, fans of the series will enjoy the focus on favorite and returning characters, the running gags, and the shocking (unless, of course, you read the episode title) series conclusion.
Facts of the Case
This third DVD volume presents Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law's final 13 episodes:
• "Free Magilla"
• "Return of Birdgirl"
• "Identity Theft"
• "Sebben and Sebben Employee Orientation"
• "Incredible Hippo"
• "Harvey Birdman, Juror in Court"
• "The Death of Harvey Birdman"
I feel sorry for the poor schlubs who had to suffer through watching the entire Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law series on TV. Harvey Birdman's 39 episodes began way back in 2000 but didn't end until July 2007—with the final two episodes airing to coincide with the release of this third volume DVD set. That's a long wait. Now, thankfully, new fans can watch this hilarious Hanna Barbera send-up from start to finish, without all that annoying thumb-twiddling.
Like the original Adult Swim series Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law was born out of repurposing classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters. In Harvey's early episodes, its writers clearly reveled in their freedom to tweak hallowed characters like Fred Flintstone and Scooby-Doo, turning them into mob bosses and dope fiends. They smartly mixed second- and third-tier characters (like Speed Buggy and Inch-High Private Eye) with big-name players like the Jetsons, which helped keep the series fresh.
However, these final 13 episodes show a certain cameo fatigue. Instead of dredging up unused Hanna-Barbera properties, these stories are written primarily around the series' main characters: Harvey Birdman (Gary Cole, Office Space), Birdgirl (Paget Brewster, Andy Richter Controls the Universe), Phil Ken Sebben (Steven Colbert, Strangers With Candy), Peter Potamus (Chris Edgerly, TMNT), X the Eliminator (Peter MacNicol, 24), and Mentok the Mindtaker (John Michael Higgins, Arrested Development). It's not a bad decision (there's plenty of comedic gold to mine from the central cast). It's just different.
Two of the best episodes aren't traditional Harvey Birdman stories at all: "Turner Classic Birdman" presents a "lost" Birdman episode, parodying the original 1960s series by giving those classic characters the voices and personalities of the current show, while "Sebben and Sebben Employee Orientation" sends up utopian introductory films shown to new hires at large corporations (Turner Broadcasting, perhaps?). Though fresh and funny, these episodes reward a working knowledge of the series' running gags and character quirks, adding to the sense this final volume is best watched by those already familiar with Harvey and Co.
As those who own the first two volumes—or most any other of the Adult Swim DVD sets—can tell you, the packaging and presentation for Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law: Volume Three is great. It comes in a faux battered leather "case file" slip case, and the folded DVD holder features hilarious fake news stories, advertisements, and a "Message from the Publisher" (a.k.a. Phil Ken Sebben). This is the kind of packaging we'll miss once we move into the inevitable all-digital age (though we'll likely be too busy serving our robot overlords to notice).
There's a good slate of features on this set: deleted scenes, a character overview, a "timeline" for the series' running gags, an X the Eliminator origin story comic book (from the episode "Grodin"), and the voice actors goofing around. The only disappointment is the complete lack of commentary tracks (especially since the first two volumes had them). At the very least, they should have included commentaries for major episodes like "Turner Classic Birdman," "Sebben and Sebben Employee Orientation," and "The Death of Harvey Birdman." Oh, well. Maybe when they release the "Complete Series."
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Because this third DVD set is more focused on developing existing characters than introducing new ones, and relies so heavily on running gags, this is not the place to begin if you're new to the series; you're better off starting with (no surprise) Volume One. I wouldn't count this as a negative except the move away from the "Harvey defends a new Hanna-Barbera character each week" formula means familiarity with the series as a whole is more important (the "joke timeline" and character overview features help, but not enough).
This brings me to my second criticism (one that applies to most of the Adult Swim DVDs, not just Harvey Birdman): there aren't quite enough episodes in this box set to justify the $29.99 MSRP. You can certainly find these sets for less, but if you want to watch the entire Harvey Birdman series, it's going to set you back about 60 bucks. That's for 39 episodes, sure, and I understand the Adult Swim production schedule is more sporadic than other series, but at less than 15 minutes per episode, the price seems a bit steep.
Cost concerns aside, Harvey Birdman is funny stuff, especially if you're old enough to remember the Hanna-Barbera characters they skewer.
This should go without saying, but this series puts the "adult" in Adult Swim—it's a cartoon, but it's not for the kiddies (unless you want them asking why Peter Potamus and that lady are wrestling on the desk). If you're of age, though, and have never seen Harvey Birdman, there's no better time to check it out. This third volume is a fitting conclusion to the series (just be sure to bring your hanky).
Not "Bweoop"-ing Guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• X the Eliminator Comic Book
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