In many ways, Duckman could be considered a classic amongst the adult cartoon medium. Perhaps it’s because the audience for such a show has either grown up or continued to watch the always-on South Park, but you just don’t see much of a presence for adult animation on TV anymore outside of Comedy Central and whatever Fox TV has airing currently. Still, back in the early to late 90s, it was a great time to be an adult animation fan as we saw some truly original and truly offensive cartoons that came to be a presence on network blocks late at night.
Get the themes of superheroes out of your head–Duckman is anything but. A lewd, alcoholic, sex-starved, and murderous duck, Duckman (voiced by Jason Alexander) goes through life barely making enough money to pay his alimony and cable TV bills, all the while accompanied by his much more capable sidekick Cornfed. With a fully fledged hot temper and an “I Don’t Care” attitude Duckman is as offensive as he is entertaining.
Despite a solid cult following, I made an odd face when the set arrived at my door. In the recesses of my mind the title sounded familiar and the art style, reminiscent of something from Ren & Stimpy or Beavis & Butthead, was also familiar but I knew I had never seen it. Although new to me, I settled in not knowing what to expect from a show about a talking duck with bad manners and was pleasantly surprised by how well the show held up over the years. True, the animation is dated beyond belief, but the stories and elements are tried and true and never once did the series, from a writing standpoint, feel like it was from over a decade past.
From the various talent included in the show (including Tim Curry and Gilbert Gottfried), it’s clear there was a lot of love put into the show. Despite this the earlier episodes, as with most seasons, seemed wildly uneven, with the show finally hitting its stride by the second season. It’s nice that both seasons are included here, with the final seasons due sometime later in the year, but with only four seasons Paramount may have been better suited to have just released the entire series in one go rather than split it up until seasonal volumes.
Still, fans are likely to swarm to this set since this is the first time it’s seen the light of DVD. The series itself did win me over with its crass and rude humor, but it wasn’t quite the stellar series I had hoped for when I started watching it. Oddly enough for a show about talking animals and an animation style akin to a nightmare, the series is oddly grounded in a faux-reality that you can relate to. It’s not something that will enthrall you from beginning to end, but occasionally you may find yourself saying “Hey, that lewd, alcoholic duck screaming obscenities on my television is right!”
Overall the series comes Recommended, simply because of how well it’s held up over the years. There are some truly laugh out loud moments on this set and as bitter a duck as he is, he is very relatable. Although there is toilet humor to be sure, the humor here really is of the mature nature in that it’s quite intelligent in-between the burps and farts.
Duckman – Seasons One and Two arrives in a thin-pak slipcase duo, with two thin-paks housing the three discs of the set as. On the rear of the thin-paks are episode titles and disc descriptions and inside is a collage of images from the show as the backdrop behind the discs and, of course, the discs themselves with their non-flashy plain greywash disc art. . The sets menus are intercut with clips from the show that seemingly end without finishing (tested this on several players and they all cut off the last half a second of audio from the clips). The video for the set is what you’d expect from a series this old, with plenty of grain and film artifacts popping up, but for the most part it’s a solid transfer with well defined blacks and colors. The audio, a Dolby Surround 2.0 mix, is laid back with clean and clear dialogue throughout the set.
Surprisingly our first extra out of the gate is a commentary on the pilot with Everett Peck and Jason Alexander. Sadly this commentary is rather mediocre and despite a short run time, there are dead audio moments and the dreaded “this is what’s happening on screen” discussions. Still, Peck and Alexander do offer some insight into the series itself and its history, so fans will want to give it a listen, although they’re likely to be very disappointed that this is the only commentary on the entire set. The first disc extras finish up with some promo shots for the series.
The second disc (and the last with extras), contains an array of featurettes to check out. The first is a retrospective documentary entitled “What the Hell Are You Staring At?” (29:45) which interviews cast and crew about the history of the series. “Designing Duckman” (12:53) talks about the design and look of the show, while “Six Degrees of Duckman” is an interactive featurette that allows you to select profiles of the characters in the show to get bios, images and short clips of them.
Overall a decent set and one with a surprising level of extras for a rather show that’s been out of the spotlight for so long. It’s great that the cast and crew were able to return after all of these years and offer their thoughts on the project and Jason Alexander’s return especially is welcomed as he adds insight into the series not only as the voice of the main character but also the time he spent on the show itself. There is plenty to enjoy about the series and the extras here, however few there are, are informative and worth checking out if you enjoyed the series. Well worth your time and Recommended.
Duckman: Seasons One & Two is now available on DVD.