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New "Birdman" Is Anything But Speedy

by on May 1, 2004

“High Speed Buggy Chase” has Harvey defending the talking jalopy on reckless driving charges. Toon Zone’s critics pop the hood and run a diagnostic.

Matt Wilson
As sluggish as the original Hanna-Barbera Speed Buggy cartoon it takes off of, Harvey Birdman‘s “High Speed Buggy Chase” is a sputtering jalopy that out of gas before it ever reaches a destination.

The plot has Birdman defending Speed Buggy after he rampages along a local highway—a case that’s complicated when Avenger quits to go to work for Vulturo, who is prosecuting.

It’s not only Speed Buggy’s whose timing is off: the episode itself seems to have a clogged carburetor. At some points it mimics Family Guy‘s quick-burst gag structure, with extremely short scenes ended by cutaways. (Expect to see the briefcase transition card a lot.) But then there are two painfully long—and mostly jokeless—scenes shoved back-to-back that waste three minutes which could otherwised have been spent ramping up the Speed Buggy jokes. There’s a separate plot that has Funky Phantom trying to get a will written out after he has already died. It’s an interesting idea, but it goes nowhere.

Matthew Williams
Harvey Birdman, which boasts an airing schedule that makes “The Ultimates” look like it comes out regularly, can be hit or miss at times. When it hits, as it often does, it can be brilliant. But when it misses …

Unlike such previous episodes like “Dabba Don” and last week’s “Devlin”, which contained marvelous parody and satire, one gets the feel that they didn’t really have a good idea on wht to do with the central Speed Buggy character. Instead, the highlight is a smartly-written B-plot involving the Funky Phantom that nicely spotlights that character’s insane paranoia. It also includes a hilarious rap sequence around midway through the episode.

But the whole story is too unfocused and the execution poor, with too many dead moments that neither contain a joke nor extend the plot. It’s a nice attempt at constructing a more character-based plot, but it doesn’t come off.

Karl Olson
It was only a matter of time before Harvey Birdman spoofed court cases involving long-distance, high-speed highway chases. Will Speed Buggy do hard time, or was he simply the victim of forces outside of his control? Meanwhile, will Birdman find a new bird assistant when Avenger takes a job with Vulturo? And what makes the Funky Phantom so funky anyway?

Well, I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s definitely another enjoyable episode of Birdman, keeping up the momentum from the earlier episodes. From the opening scene, it’s quick, breezy, and warped. However, thanks to some to some well-placed, William Street-signature, awkward silences, and one of the best, oddest, and funkiest musical numbers I’ve seen from any William Street original to date, the episode is bumped up another notch. Meanwhile, the animation is getting tighter and more dynamic by the episode, especially in the musical number, which makes excellent use of 3D-Cel Flash—I hope they find an excuse to use more of that in the future.

All in all, the episode works wonderfully from start to finish, so it gets a 4.5 out of 5 (minus .5 because pervy ol’ Peter Potumus’ shtick is getting old).

Patrick Star
The humor is there, the visual gags are there, but in “High Speed Buggy Chase” the timing is definitely off, lacking the quick humor of “The Devlin Made Me Do It.” Meanwhile, Peanut has been a lot funnier this season. And it’s nice to see Vulturo again.

Memo to the producers: Mentok is funny, but he needs to take a vacation.

“High Speed Buggy Chase” premieres Sunday, May 2, at 11:30pm (ET).

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