Duckman: Seasons 1 & 2
Most of us grew up sitting on the living room floor watching cartoons. This was just the way we spend most Saturday mornings while in grade school. Those cartoons were fairly harmless. Sure, there was a certain level of violence that many modern day scholars have denounced but the vast majority of us didn’t become serial killers so it couldn’t have been all that bad. The fact is many of the favorites we had back then were not specifically intended for a school age audience. Cartoons usually began as animated shorts that were shown as part of an evening at the local movie theater. In more recent years cartoons with very adult themes began to become popular. In some ways this trend can be traced back to animated features like ‘Fritz the Cat’ in 1972 which took the ever popular cat character and turned him into a drug addled sex crazed lunatic. With cable television offering a channel for just about every imaginable taste more of these adult geared cartoons became popular. Of course this was lead by ‘South Park’ but there were others just as demented and twisted. One such cartoon series in under consideration here, ‘Duckman’. This animated television series was created by Everett Peck and it is definitely not for the children. Do not let them near this show unless you want children’s protective services knocking at your door. The show originally aired on the USA basic cable network ‘Up All Night’ Saturday night horror flick show. The late hour of its airing didn’t seem to hurt with the target demographic of high school and college boys and besides this was shown in the early nineties when most homes had a video tape recorder. Even with the late time slot many parents still complained to the network. This is in line with the philosophy engendered by the creators of ‘South Park’ where success seems to be directly related to the number of people you offend. Although this series is all too often overlooked when people discuss the strange end of the animation spectrum but fortunately Paramount remembered. The series ran for four seasons from 1994 to 1997 and now Paramount is releasing the first two on DVD. This is a great chance to see some pretty twisted stuff so don’t miss it.
The main character is Eric Tiberius Duckman (voiced by Jason Alexander). The middle name is an obvious nod to Star Trek’s James T. Kirk but this character is nothing like him. Duckman ekes out a meager living working as a low end private investigator. The fees he gets barely keeps the cable television on for his kids. Speaking of them there are three, well sort of three. The eldest is Ajax Duckman (voiced by Dweezil Zappa) who is a surfer dude teenager. Then there is Charles and Mambo Duckman (voiced by Dana Hill, Elizabeth Daily and Pat Musick). They are conjoined twins that share a body with two separate heads. They are also both geniuses. The mother of the children was Duckman’s late wife Beatrice (voiced by Nancy Travis). Living with Duckman and the boys is Beatrice’s twin sister Bernice, also voiced by Travis who takes on most of the female voices here. Bernice is a neat freak which is a great source of consternation to Duckman. Considering Duckman’s complete lack of parental abilities it is up to her to take care of the boys. Every private detective, even one as broken down as Duckman, needs a side kick. Here we get Cornfed Pig (Gregg Berger). He is an expert in a variety of fields including several forms of martial arts, VCR ad air conditioning repair. The later two are far more lucrative than what he makes with Duckman. Also required for the genre this series spoofs is a bad guy. The man who hates Duckman the most is arch-enemy George Herbert Walker ‘King’ Chicken (Tim Curry), another flimsy pun on the first President Bush. King Chicken has hated Duckman since high school where he was the constant target of Duckman’s bullying. Duckman has two teddy bear office assistants, Fluffy and Uranus (Pat Musick) who typically try to make him into a better duck; an impossible task. Duckman is lazy, obnoxious and a bit of a pervert. Rounding this highly dysfunctional set of characters off is Grandma, Duckman’s nearly comatose mother in law who has a large problem with flatulence. This is definitely not the type of cartoon we grew up watching.
The very first episode sets the stage for what is to come. We see a human nurse running wildly down a hallway. Her breasts look like she was shot from behind by two missiles which bounce around as she runs. Yes, there is more than a little bit of sexualized humor in this series and it was mentioned that the target audience was teen boys. The nurse exits her workplace, the County Hospital for the Criminally Insane and Tall and Portly. The style of animation is crude. The perspective is often pushed to give a surreal look to the scenes. She picks up the red telephone, which is conveniently the only thing there, and screams into it. In typical cartoon fashion we see her screams go through the wires and blow the hair off the police officer that answers. This is another technique used throughout the series; making fun of the way cartoons break the laws of physics and reality. The cop pushes a button that sends the Duckman single into the sky. Duckman is shown in a smoking jacket reading a book in his library when he sees the light on the clouds. Of course this is only his fantasy which is clear when it turns into a game show where the women in the audience throw their bras at Duckman. In the ‘real’ world Duckman is upset that he has never made a mark in the world at all. He is determined to be someone special. He awakens to is dismal room and when the pack of cigarettes is empty licks the ashtray. If you think this is disgusting there is plenty more in this three disc set to plummet to darker depths.
Aside from the fact that this cartoon series is depraved and sick it is funny. It is a great satire of many of the things that make pop culture although some of the references are a bit dated at this point. Overall if you are not among those out there who are easily offended this is a great addition to your collection. The DVD is released by CBS Paramount and as always do a great job of it.