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Couch Potato – I'll Take The Case!

Some of you may be young(ish) enough to remember the mid-seventies superhero cartoon SUPER-FRIENDS, which introduced many young gays-and-lesbians-to-be to the heady joys of Aquaman’s form-fitting chain mail Speedo, Wonder-Woman’s wonder-bra and the joys of lycra, respectively. Those of you even closer to the Pre-Cambrian era may recall BIRDMAN, a pretty stupid Hanna-Barbera cartoon about a bird-themed superhero who got his powers from the sun. So, has anyone ever wondered what happened to the Super-friends after the last of the hippies was defeated and the ‘Me’ generation was born? Or how a crap superhero from a show no-one remembers makes ends meet when saving the world won’t pay the gas bill? Or whether Shaggy and Scooby were always getting the munchies and giggling for… pharmaceutical reasons? Well, wonder no more, because a hilarious, insane and ribald cult-hit animated series has come along that will answer all your questions whilst simultaneously desecrating all your childhood heroes. Get out your legal books (the ones with pictures) as we cross-examine HARVEY BIRDMAN: ATTORNEY AT LAW (Saturdays, SBS-1:45am)

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BIRDMAN, the original late 1960’s cartoon, was crap. Birdman’s powers were a] flight (which most superheroes seem to be able to do – even ground based dudes like the Flash can just get on a plane) and b] dressing like a bird – again, you don’t have to be super-powered to do this – you can just be suffering from a full blown psychotic episode. Fortunately, Birdman, unlike other superheroes (coughAquamancough) was apparently aware of his limitations, and so he went to law school, got a job at the more… or less prestigious law firm Sebben & Sebben, and now spends his time defending various other cartoon characters from yesteryear from various charges, misdemeanours and felonies.

That’s the fiendishly simple concept behind this mad genius of a program, in which Harvey (voiced by actor Gary Cole from AMERICAN GOTHIC) and his team of incompetent nitwits take on a different case involving a classic cartoon character in each episode. Various episodes have featured Shaggy and Scooby Doo being busted for Marijuana possession live on COPS (‘Like, it’s the Fuzz! Floor it Scoob!’ ‘…Reah, Rookay!’); Super-friend’s Apache Chief being unable to grow gigantic after getting hot coffee spilled in his lap region; Fred Flintstone’s alleged mob connections; George Jetson and family returning from the not-so-distant future to sue the 20th Century for destroying the ecosystem; Johnny Quest and his… partner Dr Bannister petitioning the state of California for the right to marry and Captain Caveman wanting evolution to be taught in schools.

So many cartoon classics of the seventies and eighties are parodied during the course of the average episode that even someone with only the vaguest knowledge of Hanna-Barbera cartoons will find something to laugh at.  Former villains from the old Birdman cartoon now pop up as Birdman’s opposing counsel, the hilarious Reducto (voiced by Canadian satirist Stephen Colbert), a tiny Martian with a shrink-ray and obsession with all things tiny; Mentok the Mind-Taker whose status as a Judge in no way impedes his ability to be evil and read the minds of everyone in his court whenever he wants (pointing to successive children: ‘You: You’re going to die in 23 years of a coronary embolism. You? You’re going to live in Tuscany with your mother… and your boyfriend! You: Telemarketer. You:? You will raise poodles. And not the big kind that win prizes. No, the annoying little kind that go bap! bap! bap! bap! bap! bap! bap!’); and Harvey’s greatest foe, X- the Eliminator, who has become completely fixated on Harvey to the point where every time he attempts to ‘Eliminate!’ his great rival/crush, people think he’s trying to ask Harvey out on a date.

Which brings me to my next point, this show is huuuge with the gay themes. Harvey Birdman himself is often implied to be in a gay relationship with Yogi Bear’s pal, Booboo the Bear (in several episodes spoofing the film JAGGED EDGE);  Harvey’s boss, Phil Ken Sebben (Stephen Colbert again) describes himself as ‘bi-curious’ when flirting-nearly naked in a sauna with Black Vulcan; and Harvey’s devious sidekick Peanut is shown in one episode ‘popping his superhero cherry’ by defeating a male super-villain and the experience is treated like the aftermath of a gay sex encounter.

If you grew up watching American cartoons in the Seventies and Eighties, you must watch this program. If for nothing else than for the sight of that irritating little bastard Scrappy Doo being torn apart by Harvey’s pet eagle and fed to its nestlings!

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