Duckman: This Is What The Hell You Should Be Staring At

Being the devout lover of oddball animation that I am, I've been spending the last few weeks catching up on Duckman, one of the best--and most overlooked--prime-time cartoon shows from the immediate post-Simpsons era of the mid-1990s. While it only aired in obscure time slots on the USA Network from 1994 to 1997, Duckman was an animation pioneer in many ways:
  • It featured two characters, the androgynous talking teddy bears Fluffy and Uranus, who were killed in horrible, absurd ways in almost every episode, years before South Park did the same to thing to Kenny.
  • It featured an episode-length parody of/tribute to Star Trek, complete with original Trek cast members, years before Futurama did the same thing.
  • It featured an episode-length parody of Hope/Crosby "Road To . . . " movies, years before Family Guy did it too.
  • While it was excessively raunchy in episode after episode, it never veered into the unbearably nauseating--quite an accomplishment for a show with a title character who is deeply involved in auto-eroticism.
  • It never relies on endless streams of non sequiturs to carry its episodes. Then again, you could argue that the entire world where Duckman takes place is just one big non sequitur unto itself. Your call.
  • While it was cancelled way before its time, it at least avoided the state of ongoing, on-air living death that has befallen The Simpsons for almost a decade.
  • While not a pioneering fact, you should at least know this: If anyone ever asks you what the true meaning is behind Donny Darko or Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, tell him/her to watch the third season Duckman episode, "The Once and Future Duck". It's the alternate timeline tale to end all alternate timeline tales--and in less than a half hour to boot!
Overall, the writing is clever, the animation is strange and grotesque, and the voice cast is top-notch. What's particularly worthy of notice is Jason Alexander's work as Duckman himself. It's a rare thing of beauty when an actor's particular vocal talents effortlessly match the animated role for which he/she is cast, and this is one such instance. Alexander's performance perfectly articulates the unhinged libido, raging temper, and barely concealed insecurities of Duckman; if you watch this show for any reason, this is it. It's uncanny how spot-on it is.
So, if you haven't seen Duckman yet, by all means do so now. All four seasons were released on DVD in 2009, so be sure to load all of 'em up on your Netflix queue and go get ducked up.


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