Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law is a show so wonderfully bizarre, wildly unpredictable, and oddly humorous it is not bound by the laws of continuity, so it doesn’t matter where you jump in. Volume Three collects episodes #27 through series finale #39; these shows premiered from August 2005 to July 2007. It is just as good a place to start as any.
The series uses a concept similar to that of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, updating an old Hanna-Barbera superhero, but instead of a talk show, Birdman appears in a courtroom show working as an attorney for Sebben & Sebben. The episodes are 12 minutes long and feature the talents of Gary Cole, Stephen Colbert, and a number of talented actors in a variety of roles. Guest appearances include Lewis Black as Elliott, The Deadly Duplicator, Michael McKean as Evelyn Spyro Throckmorton, and for H-B fans, cartoon voice veteran Frank Welker in the finale.
The cases involve other HB characters in ridiculous yet plausible circumstances. This collection includes Top Cat involved with illegal gambling, Atom Ant being cited by the EPA for high radiation levels in his home, and in an amusing post-modern tweak, “Identity Theft” pokes fun at how a number of Hanna Barbera cartoons, Scooby Doo, Speed Buggy and Jabberjaw, had the same premise (a group of kids solving mysteries) and characters (Shaggy, Tinker, and Clambake respectively).
Fans of Birdman and the Galaxy Trio and 1960’s H-B cartoons will recognize the cast, albeit in appearance only. Avenger, a purple eagle that was Birdman’s sidekick, now works as his legal secretary. Falcon Seven, Birdman’s superior, is now Phil Ken Sebben, his boss at the law firm. Former villains also show up. Reducto and Vulturo are opposing attorneys, and Mentok the Mind Taker is a judge. But don’t worry; the scales of justice are balanced as The Mighty Mightor, a former star of his own superhero cartoon, is as well. Plenty of other characters from the H-B library are here as well, with the strangest deviation coming in the form of Peter Potamus as the irritating, sex-obsessed co-worker. In this volume, he develops the ability to turn into a creature similar to The Incredible Hulk.
The wildest shows of the set occur outside the courtroom. “Turner Classic Birdman” is hysterical with TCM’s Robert Osborne introducing a “discovered” classic episode that the creative team has messed with. There is also a funny industrial orientation video for new employees joining the law firm Sebben and Sebben.
The language on the two-DVD set is censored, which as usual is funnier than hearing the curse words. There are special features that show behind the scenes with the voice actors, deleted scenes, storyboard animation, and a joke timeline of the running gags throughout the series, so every appearance of Inch High Private Eye and every utterance of Black Vulcan saying, “In my pants,” is revealed.
The show is a lot of fun if you can keep up with the rapid-fire pace. An awareness of the character’s previous incarnations aren't needed to enjoy the show, but they do make it more rewarding. Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law currently still airs on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network.