4 out of 5
Created by: Michael Ouweleen and Erik Richter
covers season 1
The easy take on this is that it’s a gender-spun version of Harvey Birdman: Harvey is supplanted by Birdgirl / Judy Sebben (daughter of Phil Ken Sebben, Harvey’s boss from the original show); Meredith the Mindtaker is now working with Birdgirl, swapped in for Mentok the Mindtaker – the latter being Harv’s enemy; BG has a female assistant, and is often supported by another key female staff member, Evie. Yeah, that’s the easy take, but it’s at a disservice for a show that’s just as consistently hilarious, inventive, and insane as its parent show, absolutely inheriting the same tone – thanks, co-creators Michael Ouweleen and Erik Richter – and then fully standing on its own as a new thing. The rapid-fire jokes and the general flow of plots – Harvey’s episodic lawyerly hijinx leading to nonsense; Judy’s workplace hijinx as CEO of Sebben & Sebben leading to nonsense – match, and Paget Brewster comes back as the voice of Judy, but we’re like twenty years on from Harvey Birdman, and comedy has evolved during that time, allowing Birdgirl to emerge with a wholly new perspective, informed by the same wry eyes. So it’s not just a swap: it’s a proper sequel.
The cast is quite fantastic – Brewster’s timing is perfect; Kether Donohue as BG’s obsessive assistant, Gillian, is another highlight – and then all the colorful characters who filter through match their particular attribute as needed, more importantly hitting all of the non-stop joke beats. While the more “grounded” nature of the series – owing to not needing to work in Hanna-Barbera characters, and thus sticking us with a mostly human, un-super cast, occasionally requires episodes’ writers to sort of force things into a path where they can ramp up – the modern setting is also a boon, as we can juxtapose the confuzzled Judy against the wonders of social media and the internet; the show gets to be both of-the-moment and playing fish-out-of-water humor at the same time.
Harvey Birdman was always one of my favorite Adult Swim shows, very much representing an era before Aqua Teen encouraged tons of creators to force the random and weird agenda on tons of here-and-gone shows over the past couple of decades. I’ve loved a lot of that stuff, but HB was a series I could return to more often; from which memes and whole episodes are permanently stuck in my head, recalled for an easy chuckle. And Birdgirl has brought that style back exactly, maintaining its own unique vibe at the same time.