Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law
Since September 2001, the titular avian lawyer of Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law
has come to the aid of numerous animated defendants as part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Voiced by Gary Cole
, Birdman has provided counsel to mostly Hanna-Barbera-derived creations, from a Sopranos
-esque mafia don Fred Flintstone to busted stoners Shaggy and Scooby Doo. The series will take flight for the last time on Sunday at 11:45 pm/ET with the episode "The Death of Harvey." TVGuide.com spoke about the not-so-somber passing with series creators Erik Richter
and Michael Ouweleen
TVGuide.com: How are you guys coping with Harvey's death?
Michael Ouweleen: We went through the usual seven stages of dealing with loss.
Erik Richter: Fortunately we were able to compress it to about 46 seconds so we could overcome it lightning-fast. Seriously, though, it was kind of an abstraction as we were writing it, but it really hit us the last couple of times we recorded. Everybody was showing up and we were realizing this would be it.
TVGuide.com: You named the final episode "The Death of Harvey." At what point did you decide to completely forego the element of surprise?
Richter: [Laughs] What's funny is that you always see shows that have really thought-out titles for each episode — like it'll be a cool pun or something. We have always spent zero time on titles. I think we called it that as shorthand at one point, and it just ended up being called "The Death of Harvey." I guess we were kind of leading with our chin there.
Ouweleen: You know, when we first started it, we had this plan for the last 10 episodes where we would kill off characters one by one until there was only one left. We didn't end up doing that, but we knew we wanted to blow it up a little bit.
TVGuide.com: David Chase received criticism for the ambiguous way in which he ended The Sopranos. Did that influence your decision to end Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law in an unambiguous fashion?
Ouweleen: I wish we could say yes.
Richter: No, but I'd like to take this opportunity to say [about The Sopranos], "What in hell other way is the man going to end the show?!" Any other way would be cliché. It was perfect the way David Chase did it. Let's use that counter to the way we ended our show.
TVGuide.com: Did you guys exhaust Hanna-Barbera's stable of characters, or were there characters you wish you could've incorporated into episodes?
Ouweleen: At some point it switched over and we'd gotten through all the characters we wanted to use. We started getting more interested in the regularly occurring characters. But there were some that weren't fully owned by Hanna-Barbera that we wanted to mess around with but never got to, like the Snorks.
TVGuide.com: Ah, yes, the underwater Smurfs....
Ouweleen: Yeah, we always wanted to do a case with the Snorks that had to do with them being genetically modified, like gene research gone bad, or overfishing.
Richter: That's what gets us up in the morning — thinking about all the possibilities with the Snorks.
TVGuide.com: Do you worry about what Stephen Colbert (the voice of Harvey's boss, Phil Ken Sebben) will do to make ends meet now that the show is done?
Ouweleen: We send him care packages and such, just to make sure he's doing OK.
Richter: It's sad, really, the turn his career has taken. I ran into him the other day. He had a sign and was hanging out on Olympic and La Brea. I would like to say I rolled down the window and attempted to talk to him, but I just pretended I didn't see him.
Ouweleen: He didn't have any bills small enough to give him anyway.
Richter: Yeah. It's really sad what's happened to him.
TVGuide.com: On a happier note, any chance of a spin-off? Maybe you could do a Laverne & Shirley-type thing with Peanut and Judy Ken Sebben.
Ouweleen: That's an idea. Actually, we have considered "Peter Potamus, Medical Examiner."
Richter: The emphasis would be on "examiner," not a lot of the "medical."
TVGuide.com: If that doesn't work out, will you be doing something else for Adult Swim?
Ouweleen: We've been talking to those guys about doing something else. We're cooking up some stuff.
Richter: They're very generous about working with the folks who have proven themselves. Everybody gets an opportunity to do another show. Hopefully, we won't screw it up.
TVGuide.com: Some of the Adult Swim stuff can be pretty far out there. Does Cartoon Network give you the freedom to do whatever you want?
Ouweleen: We don't get a lot of notes. Weirdly, my day job is that I'm in charge of development for the kid series on the network and all I do is give notes. So Adult Swim is a completely different thing. We don't get paid what David Chase gets paid, but then we don't have notes and we get a lot of freedom. [Pause] Wait, he probably doesn't get notes, either. Eric, we have to talk about this after the interview.
TVGuide.com: I think I better wrap things up then. Be honest: Even though Harvey has died, will he live on in your hearts?
Ouweleen: Yeah. After a rocky start, we finally got a team that was great. It's kind of sad that just when it was running well, it's over, but we saw the wisdom in ending it now. Harvey will never unintentionally jump the shark.
Richter: He will always live on in our hearts, and the other characters will live on in the various other parts of our bodies.
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