So … I actually looked forward to seeing the new DC Universe streaming animated series Harley Quinn. I realize that with a subscription service, you can air programs with more “adult” content to them – language, for example – that you can’t do on Saturday morning network TV. I’ve seen examples of this in the past – when HBO used to air animated episodes of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, for instance, that show bordered into levels of Heavy Metal profanity and debauchery. Even some cable channels have added some ribald and vulgar animated shows to their lineups – Spike TV had an animation block with a show called Striperella, with Pamela Anderson voicing the the brass pole-polishing superhero. Er … yeah.
This wasn’t really what I was expecting.
I guess they were going for a vulgar comedy satire of the DC superhero world, but … man, they really messed this up. The series begins with Harley Quinn breaking away from her boyfriend / abuser, the Joker, and moves into a skyloft apartment with fellow villain Poison Ivy and her talking plants. Eventually Harley Quinn gets a cadre of supervillains to work as her posse, with her eventual goal to join the Legion of Doom as one of their main roster attendees.
And in between all that, there’s enough curse words and scatalogical references to make Louis C.K. blush.
On the face, the Harley Quinn series seems like a knockoff version of a much better and more fleshed-out genre satire, The Venture Bros., a show which examines the animated world of boy geniuses and super-criminal organizations and trying to keep a family together through all that. Harley Quinn, on the other hand, goes straight for the Carlin lexicography and doesn’t let up. And yes, all words are used. Whether they’re bleeped or not.
And the DC characters are also saddled with various quirks and gimmicks that aren’t normally part of their backstory. In one episode, the Penguin is holding a bar mitzvah for his nephew, which Harley and Ivy crash in the hopes of joining the Legion of Doom. Not that I really want to imagine the Penguin as the stereotypical hook-nosed caricature that has been saddled to Judaism for ages … I really don’t … and something like that in this show just made me cringe.
Then we get a character named Dr. Psycho, a two-foot nothing supervillain who has to rehabilitate his image because, while he’s in a battle with Wonder Woman, he refers to the superhero as a – hold it a second, checking my crossword puzzle book, what’s a four letter word that ends in “U N T” whose description is a nasty word for a woman? Yeah, he doesn’t call her an “AUNT,” if you’re wondering. Yeah, it’s low-brow humor. It’s toilet humor. It’s CBGB-bathroom toilet humor. And it ain’t funny.
Trust me, there’s a lot of satire one can go through on a show like this. If you want to spoof the film noir animation style of Batman: The Animated Series, I’m good with that. But that was accomplished with more success in Batman: The Lego Movie. If you’re looking to flesh out Harley Quinn’s “sexy and crazy” persona, there’s a new Birds of Prey movie coming out, as well as a second Suicide Squad film.
This show is a diversion … but it’s not exactly a worthy diversion.
And it makes me wish there were more Venture Bros. episodes in the future. We’re due for a new season at some point in time … aren’t we?