The Return Of ‘Harvey Birdman’

It’s A Better Country, Slightly, With Him Around

The world has gotten a lot weirder since there was a new episode of Adult Swim’s Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.  Actually, that would be an understatement at a time when everything is an shouted overstatement. Did anyone imagine a future stew that included a porn star, Kanye West, incarcerated toddler immigrants and a fightin’-mad Supreme Court Justice nominee? And these are just a few Oval Office-adjacent ingredients.

Thank goodness the animated Birdman has returned for a one-shot, 23-minute (with commercial break!) blast of feel-good, warp-speed silliness called Harvey Birdman: Attorney General. It first aired on Oct. 14 on Cartoon Network. We know by now that revivals of beloved cult TV shows are typically a bad idea, like burying a dead cat or child in an Indian burial ground and expecting it to come back just as engaging. But by keeping it to one episode, for now at least, the show returns in top form with its ringer voice cast (Gary Cole, Stephen Colbert, John Michael Higgins and Paget Brewster for starters) and a joke density that doesn’t pale next to modern critics’ cartoon darlings such as Rick and Morty.

We last saw Harvey Birdman killed by a bus. Yes, it’s explained how he returned. The world he now lives in includes eyepatch-wearing Phil Ken Sebben as the 46th-and-a-half President of the United States, with no memory of having gotten there. Peter Potamas is an Alex Jones type, spouting conspiracy theories on Hippo Wars and selling red 46.5 POTUS hats. Birdman has gotten married and is cranking out ghostwritten airport-themed thrillers from Maine with titles including, “Overheadless Compartment” and “The Slayover.” It doesn’t take long for the threads to come back together as Harvey gets called back to figure out how Phil took the White House. Series favorites Mentok the Mind Taker, Reducto and Birdgirl (the actual Attorney General, not Harvey) show up in time for a special “Inaugurpeachment.”

Fans shouldn’t expect trenchant political commentary beyond a dig at Jill Stein, a racist Keebler Elf in the cabinet, and a superhero who saves the day after stepping out of Barack Obama’s presidential painting. “Harvey Birdman” never claimed much in the way of a coherent plot or social commentary. It was about fast, fast, fast jokes, ridiculous characters, and Gary Cole’s buttery baritone. That’s all here and more, even that very funny standing bear who shows up for no reason. If you never saw the original show, you’re excused. This will be more confusing than funny. Birdman fans, however, get served a feast, tremendous, top-drawer, really classy and not at all sad. Don’t let the other failing media tell you otherwise. It’s worthy of the biggest audience in presidential history.

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Omar Gallaga

Omar L. Gallaga is a technology culture writer, formerly of the Austin American-Statesman, but he's not interested in fixing your printer. He's written for Rolling Stone, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Television Without Pity, and NPR, where he was a blogger and on-air tech correspondent for "All Things Considered." He's a founding member of Austin's Latino Comedy Project, which recently concluded a two-year run of its original sketch-comedy show, "Gentrifucked."

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