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What to watch: Birdgirl

What to watch: Birdgirl

Harvey Birdman is still dead. Long live Birdgirl... I think.


I haven't had a lot of time to watch TV, as of late. But there was something coming up on Adult Swim that I made sure to mark on my "must watch" list. When Adult Swim first came to be, one of the shows I made sure to watch whenever it came on was Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. It was super bizarre, it interpreted the old Hanna Barbara characters in ways nobody could have imagined, and it was funny in a "Ha HA! Random!" kind of way. So you can understand that I got excited when I heard that Birdgirl was getting a spin-off, especially because after DuckTales just wrapped up, I was aching to hear Paget Brewster's voice on television again.

Before I go any further, I want to preface this by saying that I went back to watch some of the old Harvey Birdman show on HBO Max before this pilot aired, in hopes of getting myself excited for the new show. Unfortunately, my big takeaway from that was... Birdgirl sucked as a character. She was hyperactive, obnoxious, and didn't fit in that Harvey Birdman world. (It really didn't help that daddy Phil Ken Sebben was so turned on by Birdgirl, which... ew.) So after seeing that, my expectations were... significantly lowered. I mean, how good can this be, especially if you're taking out Phil, who was part of what made the Harvey Birdman world so much fun?

The answer, as it turns out, is... well... Birdgirl is a work in progress. But after watching the first two episodes, I think I've come to figure out what the dynamic is supposed to be. I'll get to that in a second.

So what is Birdgirl? Well, now that Harvey is... well... dead (spoilers for a five-year-old ending), Judy Ken Sebben has settled into a life of working at her father's company by day and being a superhero at night. She's very flighty, oblivious, and really wacky. She's not exactly her father, but she's got some flashes of Phil in her, whether she recognizes it or not. Anyhow, the premise is that Phil is dead. What's funny is, Judy knows that Phil being presumed dead is like a Wednesday in her world, but they seem very certain that this is for real. (Don't rule out Phil showing up at some point if this show goes longer than a season.) That means Judy has to take over the company and the show is basically her adjusting to her new role, while also occasionally masking up as Birdgirl. To help her settle in, she has BFF Meredith the Mindtaker (presumably related to Mentok, but it's never stated), work masseuse Paul (hilariously nicknamed "The Feels" and appropriately voiced by the manic Tony Hale), and the buffed up Strongarm all working as part of her team.

As noted, this show's very much a work in progress. The humor isn't quite there yet in the way that it was for Harvey Birdman. The best thing I can say about it right now is that Judy/Birdgirl was actively annoying on Harvey Birdman, but now that she's the central character, she's a lot better. The reason for that is because of the shifted dynamic. What made Harvey Birdman so great was that Harvey was the straight man in a world of wacky cartoons. For Birdgirl, the dynamic has changed. She's working in an office filled with straight people and she's the cartoon character. When looking at it through that lens, the show works.

I'll be sticking with this one for a while. I've liked what I've seen out of the first few episodes. I still don't know how the show's going to fare in the long term, because people are going to expect Hanna Barbara wackiness and wind up with an animated office comedy. But I'm excited to find out. Birdgirl airs Sundays at midnight on Adult Swim. Good luck getting that theme song out of your head, by the way.

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