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There were a lot of potential roadblocks to me liking the 2019s ongoing Harley Quinn adult comedy cartoon. For starters I don't tend to like Harley Quinn in other shows, because I find the constant yelling and wacky persona nothing short of obnoxious. Then there's this thing about being an adult superhero cartoon comedy, which gives me flashbacks to the trash that was Pamela Anderson's Stripperella. Even the last Batman and Harley Quinn movie sets a bad precedent. Fortunately, the tv show manages to overcome all my misgivings.
The show depicts the reluctant break up of Harley Quinn and the Joker, with Harley deciding to set out as a respectable super-villain in her own right. Unfortunately, a lifetime of living as a sidekick and under the shadow of the clown makes this hard, and that's without even factoring in what any superheroes are going to do about it.
The danger of adult orientated comedy is that it risks falling into the trying too hard category, relying on gore and the word fuck whenever the writers can't come up with jokes that adults find funny. "Adult" often means "immature" here, and not every show manages to be like the first three seasons of Archer. Deadpool occasionally makes that mistake, and it occasionally happens with Harley Quinn as well (the opening line of a group of billionaires chortling about "fucking the poor" comes to mind), but there are so many decent jokes coming so fast, the occasional dud doesn't become an issue. Harley Quinn's comedy style is to go for a constant barrage of gags, and by not taking any single one of its characters seriously (Batman included), and that ends up working in the show's favour.
What's best about the show is seeing the comedy re-imagining of the entire DC universe. Chief Gordon is a ranting alcoholic, Bane is a mild-mannered wuss, Dr Psycho is a misogynist, and everyone gets to be their own comedy counterpart. Centre to it all is the odd-couple relationship between the boisterous Harley and her permanently dour roommate, Poison Ivy. As Harley sees it, "With your ability to control every single plant in the entire world, and my gymnastics, we can achieve anything!" Ivy is less than enthusiastic about the arrangement and is only in it to keep Harley safe.
Whilst that mismatch of personalities and powers often is the show's funniest element, all the characters in this show get to be fun, benefiting from the perpetually serious tone of the source material. I'm again reminded of Archer, in the sense that all characters treat each other like insufferable work colleagues: they hate each other but are stuck in the same space with each other forever. The result is something pleasantly surprising, and a nice antidote to Batman's default grimness.
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