01/04/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
region 1 DVD: pub: Warner Bros. 4 DVDs 541 minutes 14 * 43 minutes episodes with extras. Price: about GBP 8.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ISBN: 1-4198-0425-1). cast: Ashley Scott, Dina Meyer, Rachel Skarsten, Shemar Moore, Ian Abercrombie and Mia Sara.
check out website: www.wbtvondvd.com
What was supposed to be a sister show to ‘Smallville’ back in 2002, ‘Birds Of Prey’ failed mostly because there were so few elements of the Batman mythos it could use as they were tied up in the film franchise. Other than glimpses in the opening introduction, we don’t really see either the Dark Knight or the Joker. Other than an episode showing Oracle as Batgirl, no one is masked neither. A shame really because Batgirl looked nifty in costume.
We join the story several years after Selena ‘Catwoman’ Kyle had been assassinated and her and Bruce Wayne’s daughter, Helena (actress Ashley Scott) aka Huntress, was raised by Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl (actress Dina Meyer), herself incapacitated after being shot by the Joker and no longer being able to walk and becomes Oracle. The Joker’s plan was to send the Batman mad and who in the end left New Gotham City for parts unknown. He hadn’t even known about Helena until her parentage had been revealed. Alfred Pennyworth (actor Ian Abercrombie, who sadly died in January 2012) providing them the occasional support. There is also the arrival of Dinah Lance (actress Rachel Skarsten), another metahuman with psychic abilities ranging from psychosymmetry to telekinesis and who later discovers she’s the daughter of a certain Black Canary. Of all the members of the police force, only one, Detective Jesse Reece (actor Shemar Moore) believes there is something else acting behind the scenes with the more bizarre crimes. Hell, the Batman isn’t even a legend any more, just a rumour. Into this mix is the occasional appearance of psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel (actress Mia Sara) to sort out Helena Kyle’s aggression issues and who has her own mad agenda.
From this pilot, you’re into a ride of assorted thirteen episodes, the fourteenth being an earlier variant of the pilot, which still works well many years since its 2003 debut. I couldn’t help noting that some of the metahumans that turned up had more in common with Marvel than DC characters and it’s a shame that more couldn’t have been done with the latter, even if they were more adult children of other villainous peers. The appearances of Black Canary and Clayface had a bit more sparkle simply because it brought the series back to its own universe roots.
Watching the series, I couldn’t help but wonder why it never made it to a second series. Most opening American series tend to play with a lot of things before settling down for later seasons. If anything, ‘Birds Of Prey’ settled into a pattern rather too quickly, not allowing too much experimentation.
I think also another part of the problem was them not really knowing who their target audience was. Comicbooks are still very much a boy/man thing and although there is less of a problem in having ladies in titular roles, perhaps mixing in too much romantic overtones might have stilled that section of the viewers. From a crime-fighting perspective, there was enough combat to keep anyone happy and they actually talked while they fought, something that is sorely missed in the films for either comicbook universe.
The main extra is the ‘Gotham Girls’ cartoon series that grew on me. Season Three is one complete story which even with limited but stylised animation has a strong storyline. Set yourself forty minutes to watch each season through in one sitting.
The original pilot’s main difference was having a different actress playing Harley Quinn. If anything actress Sherilyn Fenn lacked the psychotic underlay that Mia Sara brought to the role.
If you’re looking for something to watch for a super-hero fix then this is rather good on many levels and is practically self-contained by them tying up all the loose ends at the end of the one and only season.
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