Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law is a show on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, now complete after its fourth season. The basic premise of the show is that thirty years later, the superhero Birdman of the 1967 show Birdman and the Galactic Trio has given up the ghost and gotten a real job as a lawyer. The show premiered on December 30th, 2000. The first season (due to a variety of mitigating circumstances) did not conclude until June 2003. The second season ran from January 2004 to November 2004, and the third season ran from July to October 2005. The fourth and final season began in October 2006; the final episode was aired on July 22, 2007.
The show plays heavily off the fact that its creators have access to a great number of beloved characters (just about anything of Hanna-Barbera). Many of the other characters around the show, including other lawyers, judges, or just plain people are characters from either Birdman or other shows. Harvey's boss is Phil Ken Sebben, who gave Birdman orders in the old show. Other lawyers seen on the show include Myron Reducto, Stan Freezoid, and Vulturo, all villains from the original Birdman show. Judges include Hiram Mightor (who has not really appeared since the first season) and Mentok the Mindtaker. Nearly every episode finds Harvey defending a character from an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon, usually transformed into a grotesque by the magic of parody (as well as the assumption that cartoon characters act more adult off-camera) in order to address the topic for the episode.
Harvey is usually accompanied by his faithful eagle companion and paralegal, Avenger, as well as his legal assistant/drug peddler/son Peanut. He has also on occasion been assisted by Bird Girl (Phil's daughter in disguise), defended by Peter Potamus (a hippopotamus with a penchant for gambling, a womanizing streak a mile wide, and a significant attachment to the phrase "Did you get that thing I sent you?"), and stalked by X the Eliminator (an assassin hired by F.E.A.R. in the original show to bring back the crest on Birdman's helmet: now his obsession). The introduction and development of these characters really shows how much the show has matured over the years, as nearly all have become far more dimensional (with the exception of Phil, who's just
Phil): Peanut was not acknowledged to be Harvey's son until he hit Superty, Peter Potamus has revealed himself to be a grade-A lawyer who nonetheless never does any work, and even Avenger once left Harvey to pursue a career as Vulturo's paralegal after the death of her rival.
Episodes are highly varied as to how important the actual case is — in at least one episode Harvey spends no time at all as a lawyer — but most every one has some overriding theme which is addressed in and outside of the courtroom. These range from Grape Ape being accused of steroid abuse, Harvey discovering that he is at risk of skin cancer and becoming addicted to tanning cream (he gets his powers from the sun), the Jetsons returning to sue the present for polluting and ruining the future, or Harvey himself being faced with a class action suit from all of the villains whom he had injured while a superhero.
The humor of the show is quite a lot more intelligent than many of the other shows on Adult Swim, relying far more on satire and pun than on bizarre stoner humor. Most of the jokes are either visual or aural puns which are delivered extremely quickly and can easily be missed, references to long-gone shows or even single episodes of long-gone shows, or humor stemming from the aforementioned parody of the guest characters. The writing is top-notch and as a result, most every episode is highly rewatchable. Part of the show's gift is that the writers have an exacting sense of where the viewer's attention will be, and can sew together scenes where you really need to be able to rewind to catch all of the humor ("Was that really Dick Cheney preparing to saw Speed Racer in half?").
The animation style of the show is also unusual: although the first season was done traditionally, with writing, voice-acting, and scripting done in-house but animation done in Korea, the second through fourth seasons were made using Macromedia Flash. Although the difference is not really apparent to the viewer (in fact, the appearance of the show has arguably improved since the change, owing to tighter control), the creators can make episodes much faster and much more directly representative of what they wanted. It is a decision shared by several other shows on Adult Swim, most notably Sealab 2021, which goes so far as to have most sets and many characters directly from the original series. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the future, as the quality of such production goes up and the cost goes down.
If you have not seen Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, you really should. Whether or not you remember the characters, in their original incarnations, in reruns, or in remakes, you will enjoy this show. It expects that you are smart, that you have a good sense of humor, and that you're willing to laugh at the absurdity of, well, everything. At this point, the entire run of the show is out on DVD, it still airs regularly, and it has a large and devoted enough fanbase that you will soon be part of.
- Bannon Custody Battle
Race Bannon sues Dr. Benton Quest for custody of Johnny and Hadji.
- Very Personal Injury
Apache Chief sues a coffee company for hot coffee which spilled on his lap and made him lose his superpower of growing large. A larger suit develops of superheroes (including Black Vulcan née Super Volt, who became a regular character) who have been discriminated against by the Superfriends.
- Shaggy Busted
Shaggy and Scooby-Doo are tried for possession of cannabis.
- Death by Chocolate
Boo-Boo (of Yogi Bear) is accused of being the Unabooboo, wanted for sending explosive cookie bouquets to government and industry targets.
- Shoyu Weenie
A Japanese band sues Jabberjaw for plagiarizing their song.
- The Dabba Don
Fred Flintstone is accused of being Frederico Flintstoni, a Mafia don.
- Deadomutt Part 1
Blue Falcon is hired as a new partner at Sebben and Sebben, and Harvey is found with the corpse of Dynomutt, Falcon's sidekick.
- Deadomutt Part 2
Harvey is tried and sentenced to death for the murder of Dynomutt.
- X, The Exterminator
X the Eliminator returns after thirty years to claim the crest on Birdman's helmet.
- Blackwatch Plaid
After a series of imagined thefts, Phil imposes constant monitoring and a color-coded alert level system to ensure safety.
- Trio's Company
The entire cast becomes romantically involved with a woman named Gigi, culminating in a mass marriage.
- The Devlin Made Me Do It
Stuntman Ernie Devlin is accused of teaching children to attempt dangerous stunts resulting in their injury.
- High Speed Buggy Chase
Speed Buggy is on trial after leading police on a high-speed chase. Meanwhile, Avenger quits to work for Vulturo, and Harvey looks for a replacement.
Harvey becomes addicted to tanning cream after being told that he can't be in the sun any more.
- Back to the Present
The Jetsons file a suit against Earth of the past for melting the polar ice caps and flooding their world.
- Grape Juiced
Grape Ape has his gold medal withdrawn at the Laff-a-Lympics because of allegations of steroid abuse, and Gigi is pregnant
with Harvey's baby?
- Peanut Puberty
Peanut begins to get his superpowers, while Doggie Daddy is threatened with euthanasia for biting a man.
- Gone Efficien
Sebben and Sebben hires Dvd, an efficiency expert who whips the firm into shape. Harvey has to cope with trying to get a name change for Yakky Doodle and managing a job at the Greek deli which has been built in his office.
- Droopy Botox
Harvey successfully defends a plastic surgeon against a botched botox injection for Droopy. Phil showers him with money and everybody goes out and gets plastic surgery while Harvey is wracked with guilt over what he has done.
- Guitar Control
Quick Draw McGraw is arrested for carrying a concealed guitar, which he claims he needs to enforce justice.
- Booty Noir
Reducto falls in love with Black Vulcan's girlfriend, whose great booty he can't bring himself to shrink.
- Harvey's Civvy
A class-action lawsuit is brought against Harvey by all of the villains which he has injured. The lawyer leading the charge, Shado the Brain Thief, challenges Mentok's powers.
- X Gets the Crest
X the Eliminator finally gets the crest on Birdman's helmet, and their roles reverse.
- Bird Girl of Guantanamole
On Take your Daughter to Work Day, Phil's daughter dresses up as Birdgirl and tries to help Harvey. Phil starts hitting on the new masked stranger.
- Turner Classic Birdman
A rediscovered episode of the original show, never before seen, is presented.
- Beyond the Valley of the Dinosaurs
Harvey, Peanut, Phil, and Peter Potamus are all sucked back in time and must make their way back to the present.
- Evolutionary War
Captain Caveman is outraged that his son can't be taught evolution in school. Harvey must prove that evolution is real.
- Free Magilla
Mr. Peebles's store is attacked by animal-rights activists, and all of the animals in it are freed, including Magilla Gorilla.
- Return of Birdgirl
Birdgirl helps Harvey again, this time to help Benton Quest and Race Bannon establish a legitimate legal partnership.
Mentok loses Spyro's mind while mind-swapping to avoid the boredom of court, and Harvey is tied up in an illegal gambling operation being managed by the stray cats he's taking care of.
- Sebben and Sebben Employee Orientation
A video intended to introduce new employees to working at Sebben and Sebben.
- Identity Theft
Harvey is cloned multiple times by The Deadly Duplicator, and a crack team of lawyers is thus formed.
- Mufti Trouble
Avenger releases Shazzan, a genie, who wants to sue the man who trapped him in a vase.
- Incredible Hippo
Peter Potamus becomes a superhero, while Atom Ant is tried for illegal radiation levels in his underground home.
Harvey goes to his high school reunion, leaving Reducto to babysit Peanut. Judy refuses to believe that Phil is really dead and goes looking for him.
Harvey ousts Peter Potamus as the head of Sebben & Sebben, while Judy is kidnapped by X.
Devlin is sued for making dangerous toys, while X embarks on a self-improvement campaign.
- Juror In Court
Harvey is cloned that he can be both a lawyer and a juror, leading to Mentok realizing that the same jury has been present in every single episode of the show — so every single case must be retried!
- The Death Of Harvey
Phil returns from the grave, Harvey must redo every trial in the show, and some villains decide to attack.