Television Man by Aidan Morgan
“Gonna find my TV, gonna hold it tight, gonna watch me some televised delight”
—a desperately lonely Television Man
Since the dawn of civilization, humankind has enjoyed looking at drawings and finding ways to make those drawings move, either by wiggling them slightly or threading multiple images through a projector at high speed. Birdgirl (Adult Swim) and Invincible (Amazon Prime) are no exception.
Do they differ from non-animated shows like Law & Order: Organized Crime (NBC), which brings network viewers the return of Eliot Stabler as he seeks justice for his dead wife? Yes and no. In this essay I will examine the ways in which Birdgirl and Invincible are like yet another Law & Order spinoff, as well as the ways in which they are different.
Birdgirl: Pure Chaos
The primary way in which Birdgirl and Invincible are different from Law & Order: Organized Crime is that I have seen the former two shows but not the latter. But since I’ve watched multiple episodes of Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: The One with Vincent D’Onofrio, Law & Order: The One that Didn’t Last Long, Law & Order: The Reality Show-looking One and Law & Order: CSI Miami, I feel that gives me enough of a leg up to conclude that Birdgirl and Invincible are also different in that they are good shows, whereas L&O: OC is going to be another knee on the neck of American television’s love affair with police brutality.
Like L&O: OC, Birdgirl is also a spinoff from a series about lawyers. Unlike L&O:OC, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is not part of the Law & Order universe but one of Adult Swim’s first animated productions. Birdman was a deeply weird deconstruction of old Hanna Barbera cartoons, featuring the petty problems of washed-up characters. Birdgirl leaves behind the Hanna Barbera connections to explore the personality of its protagonist, voiced once more by Paget Brewster.
Birdgirl is pure chaos, a holy fool with a grappling gun who destroys everything she touches in the course of saving the mega-corporation of which she inexplicably the CEO. Her shrinking violet alter-ego is Judy Ken Sebben, the daughter of the regularly dying (and reappearing) business tycoon Phil Ken Sebben. Will the two personas be able to balance each other’s needs? The six-episode series runs Sundays at midnight on Adult Swim, but the pilot is available for free on YouTube.
Invincible: Hoo, Boys
Invincible is adapted from Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and Cory Walker’s long-running comic series. Steven Yuen plays Mark Grayson, the unassuming teenage son of Omniman (J.K. Simmons), Earth’s greatest hero. Once Mark inherits his father’s powers, he begins to realize that his dad may not be the hero he claims to be. With its gory antics and parade of morally checkered superheroes, Invincible is clearly meant to capitalize on the success of Amazon Prime’s The Boys. It’s not as gleefully cynical as its predecessor, but Boys fans will probably love Invincible.
In conclusion, I believe that Birdgirl and Invincible are shows that have many similarities with and differences from Law & Order: Organized Crime, but only one of those three will pretend that we’re supposed to be unironically rooting for its chaotic and violent protagonist.