Working Through The Queue: Birdgirl Season 1 (2021)
I saw a quick article a while ago about this being released and then it felt like there was no real promotion afterwards. Turns out it aired in April and I never heard anything about that when it hit. Now that could just be me not being tuned in, but as a fan of Harvey Birdman I was pretty excited to hear about this and it would have been great to see some major promotions going on because it's pretty damn fantastic. What's really great about it is that if you've never watched Harvey Birdman (and I do recommend you do) you can pick this right up and enjoy it. It contains the same frenetic energy and humor of the original but it is entirely its own show, and I think overall I enjoyed it even more than Birdman.
The story follows its titular character as she's named the CEO of her deceased father's company, Sebben & Sebben. The trick is her father named Birdgirl the CEO, not Birdgirl's alter ego Judy Ken Sebben. This creates a huge mental health mess for her, one that she navigates with her telepathic friend Meredith the Mind Taker.
The first episode is an incredibly well paced setup that gets you introduced to all the main characters and the core push of the series, which is Judy growing into the position of CEO and working through the corrupt company's many ins and outs while also being a superhero. This includes fighting a giant evil toilet, an invasion of therapy Share Bears, internet trolls, and more.
What's missing from the original Birdman show is the presence of Hanna-Barbera stock characters, which I honestly think is a good thing. We're past the point where Cartoon Network has nothing else to do with their old roster besides telling stories with Boo Boo as the Unibomber or Secret Squirrel going to trial for indecent exposure. The studio is repacking all of its efforts with those character into the show Jellystone!, so that means Birdgirl gets to introduce its own principal cast and develop new personalities. And it does so with gusto.
The voice casting is fantastic across the board, and mixed with the animation's crisp style and strong facial emoting I felt that every character was incredibly well realized and gradually developed. Paget Brewster's inflections and tones killed, while Kether Donohue's turn as Birdgirl's secretary Gillian and Negin Farsad's role as Meredith both the spotlight numerous times. But seriously, everyone is pretty damn great.
I'm seeing an obnoxious amount of whining online about how it doesn't measure up to Birdman, plus a few more obnoxious mentions about its largely female cast. Which, y'know, saw that coming a mile away but it's still incredibly annoying. As I said earlier though, if I had to choose I think I would say I think I enjoy Birdgirl a tad more. It doesn't require you to appreciate references to 50+ year old characters, and while I do like that stuff I think this is the stronger story for that reason. Despite all of its (enjoyable) chaos and quirky energy, you follow multiple character arcs and their friendships developing, whereas Birdman was a sequence of (enjoyable) segments deconstructing childhood characters into legal deviants. While Birdgirl still has some of those elements and maintains the tone of its predecessor exceptionally well, it feels like it understands that there are new audiences out there and so it expanded it's narrative structure a bit.
All six episodes are streaming on HBO Max right now, or you can watch them with ads on the Cartoon Network website. If you enjoyed Birdman you'll most likely enjoy this, but if you're a fan of stuff like Archer, Frisky Dingo, or the Venture Bros then I think you should check it out as well.