Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law

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Who is the man in the suit? Who is the cat with the beak?

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law (2000-2007) was a comedic American animated television series created by Williams Street for Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block. The show revolved around the day-to-day activities of a law firm staffed mainly by superheroes and other characters featured in 1960s-era animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera, particularly Birdman and the Galaxy Trio.

The main character is Harvey Birdman, a 1960s superhero who has traded in most of his superpowers for "power of attorney", and now works at the Law firm Sebben & Sebben, under Phil Ken Sebben ("Falcon 7", his boss in the original show). In each episode, Birdman has to deal with all manner of hassles at work and in the courtroom while defending such clients as Fred Flintstone (accused of being a mob boss), Secret Squirrel (accused of public indecency), Boo-Boo Bear (accused of being a mad bomber) and other iconic Hanna-Barbera characters from The Dark Age of Animation -- bringing new meaning to the phrase Lawyer-Friendly Cameo, indeed. His most common opponent is the neurotic supervillain-turned-prosecutor Myron Reducto. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law was known for its fast-paced jokes and pop-culture references.

It also spawned a single game of the exact same name, similar to a tongue-in-cheek Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (understandable, as it was made by Capcom), with loads and loads of In-Jokes and references.


Tropes used in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law include:
  • 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.

Everyone: "He's back! Phil's back! Phil's back!"
Random Employee: "Stephen's back!"

Phil Ken Sebben: So, I got this tremendous opportunity! My own law firm! Might put my name in the title! Get a big S-shaped desk! Great for interviews! A spin-off, if you will!
...
Harvey: So... you're leaving us?
Phil Ken Sebben: I wouldn't say that. I'll just be extremely busy on the new show, err, firm.

  • Anal Probing: Phil Ken Sebben mistakenly believes The Jetsons are Greys--not time travelers--and that they're out to give him an anal probe.
  • Anything That Moves: Gigi.
  • Art Evolution: Potamus went from having ordinary humanoid hands to flat hippo limbs in season 3.
  • 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.
  • Ascended Fanon: Arguably the main joke of the series. The majority of Birdman's cases are based around popular fan theories (Doctor Quest and Race Bannon are actually a gay couple, the Scoobie gang are stoners,Top Cat is really a pimp, etc.) and headscratchers (why can't you see Apache Chief or Grape Apes genitals, despite their respective sizes?, why is Secret Squirrel apparently naked under his trench coat?, etc.) related to old Hanna Barbera cartoons.
  • Audio Erotica: The female member of Shoyu Weenie when she took the stand.

Mentok: Forget mind-taking, I'm taking up lip-reading.

  • Back from the Dead "Ha HA! Final episode stunt-casting!"
  • Bait and Switch Credits
  • Barack Obama: He often appears as a background juror--before running for president, even!
  • 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".
    • To be fair, mustard paks are frustrating.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • Judy works very hard to become one on purpose.
  • Butt Monkey: Harvey, in some episodes.
  • The Cameo: A Street Fighter character is hidden in each chapter of the video game.
  • Camp Straight: Peanut, through all his effeminate mannerisms and pink sweater vests, is not only straight, but quite the player.
  • Catch Phrase:

Peter Potamus: Did you get that thing I sent you?

    • Also,

Phil: Ha ha! Double entendre!

    • Not there, there!
    • "In my/your/his pants..."
    • I'LL take the case!
    • Back off!
    • Mind Taker. * mind-taking sound effects*
    • Crest on Birdman's helmet!
    • Deedle-eedle-ee.
    • * zips-up pants*
    • That's Mind Taking, baby!
      • Yeah, there's a lot of these. In fact, there's a special feature on the Season 3 DVD where it lists all the common gags and plays all occurences when selected.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: A good portion of the characters, but especially Phil Ken Sebben.
    • Oh, and Peanut.
      • "Who's feeling Peanutty?"

Peanut: Who's getting made?
Birdman: What?
Peanut: So, what, you don't think they're going to open the books for me?
Birdman: Why does it always feel like we're having two different conversations?
Peanut: Let me tell you one thing, Petroni. When Peanut comes heavy, he comes HARD
Birdman: Ah, much better.

    • And of course, Judy Ken Sebben, aka Birdgirl. It runs in the family.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Phil Ken Sebben and Peanut.

Peanut: "In America, it is customary to celebrate business deals by blowing things up."

Phil: "Ha ha! Multiple entendre!"
Phil: "Roll of quarters... Wait, that's not a roll of..."

    • "Deedle-deedle-ee."
  • Downer Ending: Screw the "Everybody Laughs" Ending, Harvey dies!
    • Somewhat averted by the Fridge Logic.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Reducto is absent in the last few episodes. As far as anyone can tell, he died when he was hit by that clown car.
    • They compacted him. Inch High was at the funeral.
  • The Eeyore: Droopy Dog.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even The Deadly Duplicator can't stand $28 chimichangas!
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Parodied. People will laugh at the end of an episode for absolutely no/very little reason... except at the one when Scrappy was taken away to be eaten by Avenger.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: In Dabba Don, A scene showed Harvey waking up with Jabber Jaw's head on his bed.
  • Expy: Mentoks father is an expy of both Marlon Brando and Jor-el.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Maybe. It does not help that Phil's uncovered eye isn't particularly good either.
  • Flanderization: Peter Potamus' first lines were "You get that thing I sent you?" As he turned into a major cast member, this phrase became a significant part of his characterization.
  • Foe Yay: Played with a lot with X's feelings towards Harvey. Also was the focal point of Peanut Puberty, where fighting supervillains is used as a direct metaphor for sex.
  • 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: In one episode, Phil loses his eyepatch in a game of gin, and a few jokes are made about the now-visible eye being disgusting (even though the viewer can't see it). Freeze frame in one quick shot of him walking towards the camera reveals Inch-High PI, in an otherwise empty eye-socket.
  • Fridge Brilliance: It never comes to mind until after the series ended, but the doctor in the episode with Harvey's "mole" was completely right in that he was going to eventually die, and quite painfully too.
  • Fridge Logic: Harvey dies, but didn't the Duplicator make a second, identical Harvey in the previous episode? Where's that guy?
    • Clone Phils using them as target practice?.
  • Fun Size: Reducto's constant threats to shrink his enemies ("I'll make you fun-sized!") named this trope.
  • Gag Penis: Inch High, Private Eye

Phil: Ha ha! (shakes head sadly) Not to scale...

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?

  • Hanging Judge: "Let's convict ourselves a bear!"
  • Sued for Superheroics
  • Ho Yay: "Wow, that's a man kiss..."
    • X and his friend, Zardo,
      • X's obsession with Harvey borders on this on occasion.
  • Identity Amnesia: Spoofed.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Scene changes are marked by a quick shot of a gavel banging, or briefcase opening, etc on a brightly-colored background.
    • Woo-Ka!
  • Insanity Defense: Harvey tried to use this to get Devlin off (the first time). He forgot this was a lawsuit trial.
  • Instrument of Murder: Quick Draw McGraw's 'El Kabong' guitar.
  • Insufferable Genius: Spyro, Mentok. Lampshaded when Harvey tries to make small talk with Spyro, and quickly understands why none of Spyro's school buddies kept in touch.
  • Kavorka Man: Potamus.
  • 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.
  • Large Ham: Mentok the Mind Taker, when he's not being a Deadpan Snarker.
    • 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.
    • "I am SHADOOOOOOO The Brain Thief!"
    • Also, Vulturo, another bird-themed lawyer, who always initially comes across as a Wicked Cultured aristocrat, but eventually degenerates into mwoh hohn hon hnyaaaaaooonn...
  • Let's Get Dangerous: The Series Finale where Birdman actually gets to have heroic moments.
  • Lost in Transmission: The "Sebben & Sebben New Employee Orientation / Juicer Instruction" video
  • Male Gaze: When Harvey is trying to get Birdgirl off his back, he drops her off at her house. She gets out of the car in a manner which Birdman can't help but notice.

Birdman: Now you stay out of my office until you're all grown u- (sees her skintight costume as she's exiting) uh, uh, gone to LAW SCHOOL!

  • Match Cut: In the new employee training episode, a shot of a helicopter fading into a shot of Phil Ken Sebben with a similarly shaped pipe in his mouth.
  • Me's a Crowd: Done in one episode by the Deadly Duplicator.
  • 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.
  • Maurice LaMarche: Various guest characters.
  • Mythology Gag: The episode "Turner Classic Birdman", which is in the style of a classic Birdman episode. Introduced by Turner Classic Movies' Robert Osbourne.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Apache Chief batting away an approaching meteor in "Very Personal Injury":

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>

  • 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.
  • No Indoor Voice: Mentok and Phil Ken Sebben.
    • Phil Ken Sebben: I'M SORRY I CAN'T HEAR YOU. I DON'T KNOW IF YOU NOTICED, BUT I'VE GOT JUST THE ONE 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.
  • Oh, Cisco: Every episode ends like this.
  • Only Sane Man: Poor Harvey.
  • Parental Incest: Phil is overwhelmingly attracted to Birdgirl. He is apparently the only person in the world that doesn't know she's his daughter. Birdgirl, always a slave to the Superhero Sidekick Code of Conduct, is willing to marry him in order to maintain her secret identity. Thankfully, Phil finds someone else he's more attracted to before the marriage can go through: Aunt Phillis.
  • 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.
    • Peanut shooting off his beams in the bathroom.
  • Power Perversion Potential: How Zan knew Wonder Woman was taking a bath at one point.
  • Psychic Powers Mind Taking, baby! Booo-WEE-oooh!
    • Also "Shadoooooo! The Brain Th..."

"Oh no you don't. No "brain thieving" in my courtroom, you understand?. This is mind taking country, partner. You got it? Good."

  • Refuge in Audacity: Seriously, how did they get away with some of those jokes?
  • Running Gag: "Cookies/noses on dowels", "In your pants", "Snackerdoodle?", "Did you get that thing I sent ya?", Phil's poor vision, etc.
    • ...I think.
    • Huh. I wonder what that means?
    • Did... did a lobster just fly past?
    • Ha ha! Double entendre!
    • I couldn't hear that, with the one eye!
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: BEUOOOOWEEEEUOOOOOOOOOOP!
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Spoofed. The Jetsons claim to be from the "far off year of 2002" while standing next to a calender marked "2004".
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: More than just the obvious ones covered by Crossover. For example, the bus that runs over Phil Ken Sebben has an ad for The Colbert Report on the side.
  • Sleeps with Everyone but You: Harvey is the only person G.G. isn't eager to make out with/screw.
  • Something Else Also Rises: Apache Chief
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Elliott Taggart, the Deadly Duplicator. That's two L's and two T's!
  • 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.
  • Tsundere: Arguably, X.
  • Tonight Someone Dies: The last episode is titled "The Death of Harvey Birdman".
  • Trust-Building Blunder
  • The Un-Reveal: How Phil Ken Sebben lost his eye, in "Sebben & Sebben Employee Orientation".
  • Unsound Effect: Birdgirl has done this, Batman-style on at least one occasion.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Birdgirl.
  • 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.