During the early years of Adult Swim, the programming block offered up quite a few animated shows that had short runs after their in-house programs. For a while I would write to the channel that they were criminally overlooking one of the animated series that could easily be a pioneer for their original shows such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Harvey Birdman and Sealab 2021. Where was Duckman? I even emailed them asking if they could get Duckman reruns on the air. But there was no response. When Comedy Central was running animated shows to match up with South Park, there was no Duckman on the schedule. Where was Duckman? Sadly this neglect of Duckman‘s legacy will lead to know explaining what was Duckman.
Before USA Network became a massive marathon of Law & Order, the channel wanted to create programs that reflected the cheesy and sleazy films that aired on weekends as part of its Up All Night overnight shows. One of the shows that got green-lit was based on a comic book about duck private investigator with a confusing family life and an attitude that wasn’t family friendly. Duckman immediately grabbed an audience on Saturday nights before Rhonda hosted Assault of the Killer Bimbos and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. Jason Alexander was able to give voice to a character that was more disturbing than his George on Seinfeld. Eric T. Duckman was a private investigator that was always on the verge of failure at his low rent detective agency. He didn’t work alone. Cornfed (Gregg Berger) was a sensible no-nonsense pig who could stay a bit more focused than his partner. His two teddy bear-ish assistants Fluffy and Uranus were always there to annoy him with their chipper attitudes. This could be enough for a strange animated series. But there would be another side of the show: Duckman’s family.
His son Ajax (Dweezil Zappa) is a bit slow to grasp things. While Charles and Mambo are pair of genius twins, they share a single body. Duckman’s wife had died a few years back, but he has his workout addicted sister-in-law Bernice (So I Married an Axe Murderer‘s Nancy Travis) helping him with the kids and riding his ass. He also has his mother-in-law (SpongeBob SquarePants‘ Brian Doyle-Murray) in the house. But he can only tell if she’s alive when she farts. It’s a confusing homelife that Duckman is constantly trying to avoid.
The Zappa connection goes deeper than Dweezil since Frank Zappa’s music pops up in the early episodes which adds to the insanity of watching a naked duck solving crimes. Frank passed away while the first episodes was in production.
The episodes are wonderfully freaky when the libidinous Duckman can’t help himself when a lady comes a calling with a case. “Gripes of Wrath” has him investigate why men only want his female clients for their bodies. He has to act professional and it hurts him. “Papa Oom M.O.W. M.O.W.” has Duckman save the president’s life except his heroic moment happened because he was trying to get his hands on two women nearby. “It’s the Thing of the Principal” has Ajax elope with his vice principal in a time before this was in the news every week. Joking the Chicken” gives us a taste of Duckman’s major nemesis – King Chicken (Rocky Horror Picture Show‘s Tim Curry).
Duckman deserves so much more love than he gets. The show lasted 70 episodes when animated shows often barely lasted half a season. Jason Alexander’s voice brings a twisted charm to his dirty old man with feathers. It’s good that Duckman: The Complete Series can be seen on DVD so you can enjoy what made USAs on Saturdays in the mid-90s such fun.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The animation has that gritty edge feel that looks so fine on the screen. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. Things sound great when Ajax talks. The episodes are Closed Captioned.
Commentary Tracks on “I, Duckman” with Everett Peck and Jason Alexander.
Original Promo Spots (1:33) was how USA pushed the show when it debuted back in 1994. They weren’t afraid to put a pervy waterfowl on Saturday night TV.
What the Hell Are You Staring At? (29:45) is a investigation inside Duckman. The cast and crew reflect on making a show that pushed what you could do with a leading man that refused to wear pants.
Designing Duckman (12:53) covers how it went from a comic book to a animated series. Everett Peck draws and talks.
Six Degrees of Duckman is an interactive guide to the animated cast.
Video of the Original Animatic Drawings and Animation from Unaired Pilot (15:44) includes talks with Everett Peck and Gregg Berger. It’s a mix of animated scenes and storyboards from when they sold the concept.
Walk Cycles, Expressions and Pencil Tests (1:15) shows how you make a character walk matters to their character.
Selected Storyboard Scenes from “I, Duckman” (2:59) give a sense of how you set up a scene with a lot of action.
CBS DVD presents Duckman: The Complete Series. Starring: Jason Alexander, Gregg Berger, Nancy Travis, Dana Hill, Pat Musick, E.G. Daily & Dweezil Zappa. Boxset Contents: 70 episodes on 10 DVDs. Released: February 6, 2018.
Tags: Duckman, Frank Zappa, Jason Alexander, Seinfeld