Duckman was a show that started out markedly well but never managed to find an audience. USA gave it four seasons more than one imagines it would normally receive from a cable television network nowadays, considering its controversial content and admittedly low ratings. But the 1990s were a different time and USA had more patience back then. And after a cult audience traded VHS tapes of all four seasons for many years, CBS released the first two seasons in the fall of 2008. 2009 has started out with the back half of the show being released onto DVD as seasons three and four have been released.
Duckman (Alexander) is a private detective of astonishing incompetence. While his partner Cornfed (Gregg Berger) solves most of the cases, hes left to deal with his family: Ajax (Dweezil Zappa) is his oldest son and is as dumb as a rock. Charles and Mambo (Dana Hill and Elizabeth Daily) are his youngest sons, twins who share the same body. Bernice (Nancy Travis) is his sister in law and head of his household, his deceased wifes identical sister to boot, who doubles as a foul-mouthed antagonist.
Throw in an arch nemesis whos stunningly more incompetent than he is in King Chicken (Tim Curry) and Duckman was the animated opposite of The Simpsons in nearly every way. Running late at night on USA – right before Up All Night with Gilbert Gottfried – Duckman is the sort of father even Homer Simpson would look down to. While he shows some love to his family, hes a sexual deviant whos more offensive than Andrew Dice Clay at a N.O.W convention.
Seasons three and four is when Duckman became a bit more focused in terms of its story and plot. Whereas the first two seasons were more random jokes that followed a story line, the latter half of the series became much more focused. And decidedly funnier for it, as the jokes were revolving around the story as opposed to being funny and incorporated into the story by sheer force of will.
And its sheer brilliance as even 10 years removed from the airways its still markedly hilarious. Some of the jokes are a bit dated, obviously, but the series was written to be funny as opposed to be funny in the moment. It hasnt aged as much because the stories are designed to be good, funny stories as opposed to riffing on the days headlines. Its why 10 years later its still markedly funny. Ending on a cliffhanger, the series has no true resolution but stands in the vein of South Park and Family Guy as truly adult-oriented comedy.
Presented in a full screen format with a stereo sound, the series has a decent a/v presentation. There was a certain amount of care put into the transfer but it isnt the best, at least compared to a lot of its contemporaries. On a lesser system it will be ok, but if you have a very good one then a lot of its flaws will be exposed.
There are two interesting, if brief, looks at the crafting of the series with Walk Cycles, Expressions and Pencil Tests and Selected Storyboard Scenes from “I, Duckman” that gives you a look at the series Unaired Pilot, though not in completed form (it has storyboards where unfinished parts of the show would be) and lays out the framework for the sort of show it wound up becoming.
At the end of season four, you want more Duckman. Its sad that the series never was revived, but a decade ago things like that didnt happen. Whereas Family Guy can get resuscitated, its interesting to see a series like Duckman because it took a different trajectory from where The Simpsons wound up going as both started at roughly the same time as more “adult-oriented” cartoons and yet The Simpsons is destined for television immortality and Duckman is a cult favorite for those around to see it.
While the extras arent worth much, the show itself is markedly funny and worth the viewing.
CBS presents Duckman (Seasons 3 and 4). Created by Everett Peck. Starring Jason Alexander, Gregg Berger, Nancy Travis, Dana Hill, Pat Musick, Elizabeth Daily, Dweezil Zappa. Running time: 1077 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: 1.6.2009. Available at Amazon.com.