Western Animation: Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
Who is the man in the suit? Who is the cat with the beak?
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law (2000-2007) is a comedic American animated television series created by Williams Street for Cartoon Network's [adult swim] block starring Gary Cole and Stephen Colbert.The series follows the adventures of Harvey Birdman (Gary Cole), now an attorney at a law firm run by his former boss (Phil Ken Sebben, voiced by Stephen Colbert) and other Hanna-Barbera characters (most notably Peter Potamus as well as Birdman's sidekick Birdboy, now called "Peanut", who was now an ultra-competent sociopath). Their clients, in their cases, are mainly their fellow Hanna-Barbera characters, in cases that tend to address longstanding fanon theories about them (like Race Bannon and Doctor Quest are lovers or The Scooby Gang are stoners). Most of Birdman's enemies from his 60s era show turn up as opposing lawyers or even judges, most notably Large Ham Mentok the Mind Taker (a judge) and Myron Reducto (also voiced by Colbert), who turns into a frienemy of Birdman before his untimely death.The show was arguably the break-out hit of the original batch of Adult Swim shows that debuted in 2001, but suffered mightily after the initial six episode run. The series fell victim to a massive case of Schedule Slip with huge gap between airings and only 2-3 episodes airing within a single year. The series retooled itself after the first season as well, becoming a workplace comedy instead of a law show, with the cases taking the backseat to the antics of Phil Ken Sebben and his wacky schemes, which almost all involved humiliating and tormenting Harvey. Birdgirl was also introduced (as Phil's daughter) as Birdman's unwanted female sidekick, who while competent in the courtroom, almost married her father due to her slavish devoting to the old school rules about never revealing one's secret identity.The reformat ultimately backfired on the show, when Colbert, whose characters were now front and center and drove most of the show's plots, dropped the show to focus full-time on The Colbert Report. This meant getting rid of Reducto and Phil Ken Sebben, who, despite being fan favorites, were ultimately killed. In the end, the show was finally cancelled, and ended with Harvey saving the city from a rampaging monster, only for Sebben to come Back from the Dead and accidentally crush him with a bus.The series received little merchandise from Adult Swim, which included figures of Sebben and the giant bear. A PSP game was also created by Capcom), that used the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game engine; it suffered mightily, however, as the absence of Colbert and his voice double forced Capcom to cast a poor replacement voice, who was widely disliked.
Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Lawcontains the following tropes:
Achilles' Heel: Mentok's mind-taking can be blocked both by aluminum foil and by metal skull plates.
Actor Allusion: When the office workers mistake Phil's brother for Phil himself.
Except Harvey, who married her more ore less for that purpose.
Aroused By Their Voice: The female member of Shoyu Weenie does a Serge Gainsbourg-esque number when she takes the stand.
Mentok: Forget mind-taking, I'm taking up lip-reading.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: One scene in "Blackwatch Plaid" has Reducto try to prove to Harvey that his phone is bugged by saying terrorist buzzwords into it, before devolving into less serious things (the last one is actually accompanied by a Sting).
Reducto: Hello. Mail bomb. Assassination. Fertilizer. Same-sex marriages. Patagonia. Nader for president.
Art Evolution: Potamus went from having ordinary humanoid hands to flat hippo limbs in season 3.
The show went through three different art/animation styles: The pilot, which was animated by J.J. Sedelmaier Productions in New York; then eight episodes which were outsourced to Rough Draft Korea; and finally, domestic again using Flash animators.
Ascended Extra: Various characters from the original Birdman cartoon, especially Mentok, Reducto, Birdgirl and X the Eliminator.
Within the show itself, Peter Potamus and to a lesser extent the bear.
Barack Obama: He often appears as a background juror—before running for president, even!
Battle Discretion Shot: In "Very Personal Injury", Harvey Birdman shows various clips of Apache Chief thwarting evil, except the video footage only shows various spectators commenting on the heroic feats; Apache isn't on-camera. In one instance, the camera focuses on a dog licking himself instead of Apache Chief.
Birdman: ...It's on here, right?
Beam-O-War: "Get ready to feel the power... OF ATTORNEY!"
Berserk Button: Don't let Peter Potamus find out you got that thing he sent you without telling him. Later in the series, he even goes so far as to turn into the "Incredible Hippo" due to his frustration over opening a little mustard pack.
Mentok isn't too fond of other people using mental powers in his court.
Don't let Reducto see "the perfectly miniature" Inch High Private Eye.
BFG: Parodied with X's death ray, which is far too big and unwieldy to be used practically (there's also the fact that it's a giant console that he drags around with him.)
Bi the Way: Harvey has had relationships with both genders. As usual for the show, it's mostly played to make things bizarre. A frequent male lover of his is Boo-Boo.
Big Brother Is Watching: "Blackwatch Plaid" has Phil install cameras and blatantly spy on everyone in the office after someone apparently steals all of the (non-existent) things from his office.
Break the Cutie: Harvey Birdman is the poster child for this trope, especially after the retool.
Brick Joke: Reducto running and screaming like a mad man to something that freaked him out earlier in the episode.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Peter Potamus. He's perverted and lazy to operatic heights, but the few times we actually see him lawyering, he's amazing.
Camp Straight: Peanut, through all his effeminate mannerisms and pink sweater vests, is not only straight, but quite the player.
Catch Phrase: Many. The Season 3 DVD has a feature that lists all the common gags and plays all occurrence when selected. Also an excellent example of playing with a trope, as there is a lot of humor derived from altering or recontextualizing the catch phrases. As an example, Peter Potamus' catch phrase is, "Did you get that thing I sent ya'?", one episode has him worshipped as a god named "Sentcha", and another has a scene where Harvey makes him cry by saying he's never received any of the things Potamus sent him.
Peanut: In America, it is customary to celebrate business deals by blowing things up.
Continuity Nod: In "Gone Effiecien...t", Phil threatens to take Harvey's furniture away if his performance doesn't improve, using the line, "Chairs are for earners." In "Sebben and Sebben Employee Orientation", when the perks of working for Sebben and Sebben are listed, one of them is "Chairs (for earners)".
Crossovers: Arguably the entire premise of the show
"Blackwatch Plaid" is jam packed with these whenever Secret Squirrel and his accusations of flashing are involved. A few are even lampshaded during Harvey's defense speech, when Mentok starts yelling "I'll say!" whenever he says one.
Done by Phil about his death, complete with lampshade. "Ha ha ha! Foreshadowing."
Also done more subtly by the doctor in SPF, telling Harvey that some day he will die. Maybe from the sun, maybe not tomorrow, but some day! Probably painfully, too. Doubles as a [[visual pun]], as you can see the doctor take out his golf clubs and go for a walk outside after telling Harvey to shade himself. (Get it? Fore-Shadowing? Come on, now.)
Forgot I Could Fly: Harvey, while contemplating a way to break out of prison and watching birds. He remembers in the finale.
The trust fall was also high enough off the ground that Harvey's ability to fly should have made the window a non-issue.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: Often. It was even lampshaded in the episode "Free Magilla", with a parodic list of side-effects for a medication, which scroll by very fast and end with, "You are very fast with the pause button. Congratulations."
Doubles as a Visual Pun. In the opening sequence, if you pause right after "Who is the man in the suit?," RAY RANDALL in huge letters can be seen for a split second behind Birdman's silhouette. Ray Randall is Birdman's secret alter-ego in the original series, and is thus, the man in the suit.
Doubles as a Mythology Gag. In one episode, Birdman's mugshot reveals his full name, "Harvey R.R. Birdman," implying that this is the same Birdman from the original series.
G-Rated Drug: The tanning crème in "SPF". With Peanut playing the part of drug dealer:
Peanut: First taste is always free, with P to the N-U-T.
Grumpy Bear: That angry cop that told Harvey to get down in "Booty Noir".
Groin Attack: One of the few times Harvey uses his beam attack, it's straight into Reducto's crotch for shrinking him in the middle of an oral argument — and doesn't skip a beat. Also, any episode involving Apache Chief.
Apache Chief(when he wasn't the victim for once): Doesn't feel so great, does it?
Arguably used earlier when he argued that Fred Flintstone was not guilty of violating the RICO Act because he had Identity Amnesia. This one, he was more successful. Then it turns out Fred never was the mob boss, Barney was.
Knife-Throwing Act: In a moment of Getting Crap Past the Radar, Peanut is trapped in a genie's lamp with a woman. He says they're going to go on a "magic carpet ride" and asks her to hand over a roll of nearby rope. Later on, when said genie releases his captives, Peanut appears with the woman tied to a giant target, having apparently been doing such an act the whole time.
Not to mention X! the Eliminatorrrrrrr! When he's not being a clingy Harvey-stalker.
And Spyro, who is apparently an actual actor, is overly theatrical in and out of court, at one point staging a scene from Pagliacci while prosecuting a mob boss.
Lest we forget Birdgirl, who is usually the most vocal and eager member of what she, and she alone, calls the "Birdteam". Also... her inner monologues about her secret identity are not so inner, and tend to actually end up being broadcasted to everyone. Over a loudspeaker. Or on the Jumbotron at a sports game.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: One scene in "Blackwatch Plaid" has Phil announce to the company that one of his new security measures is to install a news ticker in the lunchroom. Cut to the next scene in the lunchroom, where there's now a news ticker on the bottom of the screen, which even sticks around to the courtroom scene afterwards, with Mentok trying to read off of it for a few seconds before finally turning it off.
Meta Twist: Prior to the final episode airing, it was announced that said episode would be a single half-hour episode instead of two fifteen-minute episodes. They advertised an ending in which the viewer wouldn't believe that it's the ending. It was a regular fifteen-minute episode.
Apache Chief: that fireball won't be hurting anyone now.
<cut to a scene of an alien celebration of "One Million Years of Civilization" being interrupted by an incoming meteor>
Among fandom, this is applied to Stephen Colbert as far as the show's downfall. After retooling it into, effectively, "The Phil Ken Sebben Show", Colbert quit and the show frantically and ultimately failed, to fix things after putting all of their eggs into Colbert's basket.
In particular, Colbert's refusal to contribute voice work to the PSP version, led to the game's failure.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Caricatures of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Antonin Scalia appear as extras in a few blink-and-you'll-miss-it scenes and (then-future) President Barack Obama is often a juror.
Phil Ken Sebben:I'M SORRY I CAN'T HEAR YOU. I DON'T KNOW IF YOU NOTICED, BUT I'VE GOT JUST THEONE EYE!
Shado, the Brain Thief has no indoor monologue. Everything he thinks is broadcast like a reverberating PA system cranked Up to Eleven. This results in everyone covering their ears in an attempt to quiet the noise (even though it's being spoken directly to their heads), and at one point, a custodian even takes a broom and starts poking an actual PA system, thinking that's actually the case.
Phony Degree: Birdman's law degree came from a diploma mill.
The Plan: Mentok. Especially with Shado in the episode Harvey's Civvy, but really pretty much anything he does.
"That's mind-taking, baby!"
"Accept no substitutes!"
Power High: Harvey, who gets his power from sunlight, discovers that suntan lotion can provide the same effect. He quickly becomes addicted to the rush, and starts spending all his money on lotion, until his friends are forced to stage an intervention.
In the pilot, when Dr. Quest says he says baseball isn't as important as doing hard work to make things more decent, Vulturo replies: "More decent than baseball?! Dun dun dunnnnnn! Nothing further!
Schedule Slip: One of the main downfalls of the series. While the first season aired on schedule, the remaining episodes aired all over the place, with one or two airing then a gap of nearly a year before the next batch aired. Potentially mocked in "Turner Classic Birdman":
Robert Osbourne: You may have heard of the animated show Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. In fact, if you're persistent, you can sometimes still catch it late at night on cable.
Self-Serving Memory: At the end of one episode, Harvey has a flashback of a scene at the beginning of the episode, except the scene looks incredibly different, with characters present that weren't there the first time and elements that don't even seem possible such as a scuba diver floating in the middle of the room.
The scene in "Unabooboo", where Harvey uses his typewriter and discovers that it matches the writing of the Unabomber-esque notes, is adapted almost scene for scene from an 80's thriller named Jagged Edge which had a similar premise.
Elliott: They made a mistake on the tag, and I had to send out for a new one! Harvey: Wait, isn't that the sort of thing you do— Elliott: (dramatic chord) SILENCE.
Take That: Blackwatch Plaid is pretty much a satire of the US' draconian post-9/11 national security practices (especially the color-coded chart that the episode is named after.)
Technology Marches On: Spoofed with X's death ray, which is a button-covered, desk-sized console that uses vacuum tubes and takes half a minute to charge up (once X can find an electric outlet) before firing (or a vacuum tube blows out) that he nonetheless treats as a portable weapon.
Also spoofed when The Jetsons (from the far off year of 2002) try to sue the present. George convinces the court room that a punch card reading "Jury-O-Matic" computer is more efficient and reliable than an actual jury.
Presumably deliberately with the DVDs that Mr Peebles (...ssssssssssssssssssss) receives in "Free Magilla". They're inserted into and played on a VCR. Complete with segments that have been recorded over.
Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: X the Eliminator's introductory episode starts with a flashback where he's first hired to steal the crest on Birdman's helmet. X wonders why they didn't just hire him to, you know, KIIIIIIIIIILL HIM?, to which they react with shock and horror.
You ALL Look Familiar: The same people are in the jury in every case; this leads to Judge Mentok overturning all of his previous rulings at the end of the second to last episode and letting all of the convicted run amok.