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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > TV > Duckman - Seasons One & Two + Duckman – Seasons Three & Four (Paramount DVD)

Duckman- Seasons One & Two + Duckman – Seasons Three & Four (Paramount DVD)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Episodes: B+



Before South Park, before Family Guy, before the crazy antics of Adult Swim…there was Duckman.  Duckman features a foul mouthed Duck Detective who has more issues than any duck ever should.  The series originally aired as part of USA Networks Up All Night programming lineup that catered to an older audience.  Duckman even had to eventually be bumped to a later time slot to appease parents that complained their children were still seeing the ‘mature material’ at its intended time.  The series is certainly targeted toward an adult audience, but unlike other series Duckman never uses bad language or gross-out tactics just for the hell of it.  Instead the series uses a brilliant blend of humorously witty satire along with sex, violence, horrible parenting, crime, and alcohol mixed to create a chaotically intelligent series.


The animated series stars Duckman (voiced by Jason Alexander; Seinfeld) as a wise cracking, abusive (alcohol…violence…you name it he’s done it), private detective who messes up, more than he cleans up.  Duckman works with his straight arrow, Joe Friday-esc, business partner, Cornfed Pig (voiced by Gregg Berger).  Cornfed knows pretty much anything, about everything; having held many previous occupations, being a Vietnam Veteran, and oddly enough having a Peruvian Medical Degree.  Cornfed picks up most of Duckman’s slack and is the one who solves most of the cases; though Duckman takes most of the credit.  Besides his private detective business, Duckman spends the other half of his time dealing with his family.  Duckman’s family consists of Ajax the dimwitted son with a heart of gold, Charles and Mambo the genius conjoined twins, Duckman’s intolerant sister-in-law Bernice, and Grandma-ma the flatulently comatose family member.


The series is smart on one level, with its profusion of film, pop-culture, and literature references; but concurrently uses highly integrated storylines give the series an even greater depth.  Duckman is hardly a throwaway series; every episode is interconnected with reoccurring characters, past episode references, and integrated plots that collectively make for a great experience.


The series has a great art direction that is extremely unique with no series before or after having the same charm.  Duckman is bright, colorful, and visually stimulating; but at the same time has a dark gritty side with varying shades and textures that appeal to the adult themed, pseudo-crime drama of the Duckman universe.


As if the main voice acting wasn’t enough the series also saw its fair share of guest stars.  The list of guest stars over the 4 Season, 70 episode span is huge.  Stars like Brendan Frasier, Estelle Getty, Ben Stein, and many, many more all made appearances on the series.  The stars recognized the quality of the series and the genius that was spun into every scene.  It was intelligent, it was funny, it was crude, it was Duckman.


But what is most surprising about Duckman, above all else, is how relevant the series still is.  It almost seems as though it never even had to try.  The series has such a fine balance of comedic irrelevance and satirical significance that its components are just as fresh as ever.  Where as South Park rips ideas from the headlines of today and Family Guy seems stuck on Star Wars and 1980’s references; Duckman was unique in that its pop-culture and literary references were timeless.  The series smart writing style makes it all the more memorable then, now, and always.


The technical features throughout the four seasons presented on the two sets here are not amazing, but get the job done quite nicely.  The picture is presented in 4:3 aspect ratio that demonstrates bright colors with a crisp image that is properly enhanced by solid black levels and contrast.  There are moments where the image does appear a tad blurry and there are instances of grit and debris throughout all four seasons, but nothing that is overly distracting.  The audio track is presented in a simple Dolby Digital Stereo that projects everything pretty evenly giving main priority to dialogue with the ambient and action noises coming second.  The sound is minimal to say the least, but it gets the job done crisply and adequately.


The box set for Seasons One & Two has 4-Discs with three of those discs containing many extras.  Disc One includes a commentary track with Jason Alexander and Everett Peck on the Pilot episode of the series.  Overall the commentary is pretty drab as it only offers an interesting tid bit here and there, but there is also a ton of silence that makes for a boring experience.  Disc One also includes some Promo Spots for the series and though fun and entertaining, there is not nearly enough.  Disc Two features several featurettes that investigate the workings of the series with specials like What the Hell are you Starring At: A Special Investigation Inside Duckman, Private Dick/Family Man which dives head first into the creative process surrounding the series, focusing mainly on cast/crew interviews to display how the creative series was dreamt up.  Also there is a featurette entitled Designing Duckman: Inside the Creation of an Anti-Hero from Comic Book Character to Screen Star (13 minutes) that delivers just what the title suggests as the crazy duck is taking from the comics to the television screen and the work that went into designing the scenery along with the evolution of the characters.  The third and final featurette on Disc 2 is entitled Six Degrees of Duckman that describes each main character on the series individually in a biography format that is very text heavy, but is better than other DVD sets as it presents small video montages of some of the characters’ ‘best’ moments.  In the end, the extras were certainly not the best this reviewer has ever watched, but they were a lot more extensive than I would have guessed.  Most of the time animated series such as Duckman get pushed to the wayside and never get a fair treatment as far as extras on DVD, but the box set for Seasons One & Two gave us more than was expected; too bad Seasons Three & Four don’t do the same.


The extras on the 7-Disc 48 Episode set of Duckman: Season Three & Four deliver only three featurettes that total less than 20 minutes of material.  First up is Video of the Original Animatic Drawings and Animation from the Unaired Pilot with Everett Peck and Greg Berger (15 min) and discusses how the series came to fruition with much of the show developing in phases.  A second featurette is Walk Cycles, Expressions, Storyboards and Pencil Tests that is just as lackluster as it sounds as it displays rough animatics (pencil drawings) of the characters as the would eventually be presented on the series.  The final extra is a featurette that displays some storyboards from the pilot episode “I, Duckman,” but overall is not very exciting.


Taken as a whole (between the two sets) the extras were nice, but more is to be expected.  The extras were no where near as bad as I would had anticipated, since so many animated series get the bare bones treatment; but in the end the series would have benefited greatly by having more commentaries, especially from Jason Alexander and fellow cast members.


From the first episode, the series took off like a beer and nudity magazine filled rocket.  There was never a slow, awkward point and there was never a time when it seemed enough, was enough.  The series was good from beginning to end and the episodes can be watched again and again.  I’ll tell you what the hell I’ll be starin’ at!



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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