Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Birds of Prey" (Laeta Kalogridis, 2002 - 2003)



Episodes Directed by …

Brian Robbins
Michael Katleman
Chris Long (2 episodes)
Craig Zisk
Jeff Wollnough
Jim Charleston
James Marshall
John Kretchmer
Shawn Levy
David Carson
Joe Napolitano
Robert J. Wilson

Episodes Written by …

Laeta Kalogridis (2 episodes)
David Herschel Goodman (2 episodes)
Melissa Rosenberg (3 episodes)
Adam Armus
Kay Foster
Edward Kitsis
Adam Horowitz
Hans Tobeason

Julie Hess

Based on the DC Comics Characters Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Series Executive Produced by …

Laeta Kalogridis
Ron Koslow
Hans Tobeason
Michael Katleman

Series Produced by …

Adam Armus
Nora kay Foster
Adam Horowitz
Cathy M. Frank
Peter Giuliano
Edward Kitsis
Melissa Rosenburg

Series Cinematography by Christopher Faloona and Clark Mathis

Series Production Design by Jaymes Hinkle and Michael Helmy

Series Costume Design by Chrisi Karvonides-Dushenko and Sara Markowitz

Series Editing by Robert A. Ferretti and Michael Stern

Original Television Soundtrack Composed by Mark Snow and Roxanne Lippel

Ashley Scott ... Helena Kyle/Huntress
Dina Meyer ... Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle
Rachel Skarsten ... Dinah Lance
Shemar Moore ... Jesse Reese
Ian Abercrombie ... Alfred Pennyworth
Shawn Christian ... Wade Brixton
Mia Sara ... Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn
Brent Sexton ... Detective McNally
Rob Benedict ... Gibson Kafka
Kristofer McNeeley ... Frankie Spitz
Callie De Fabry ... Gabby
Steve Hytner ... Dr. Franklin Rominic
Maggie Baird ... Mother
Chris Ellis ... Larry Ketterly
Joe Lala ... Crowley
Amanda Michalka ... Young Dinah Lance
Aaron Paul ... Jerry
Roger Stoneburner ... The Joker
Mark Hamill … The Joker (voice)
Bruce Thomas ... Batman

After Batman disappears following his final confrontation with the Joker, New Gotham is left under the protection of a trio of three female protectors.


Key Episodes:

“Prey for the Hunter”
“Three Birds and a Baby”
“Sins of the Mother”
“Primal Scream”
“Lady Shiva”
“Feat of Clay”
“Devil’s Eyes”


When it comes to the realm of live action television, pre-existing properties never seem to be given their proper due. "Robocop" was out in one season. So was "Blade" for that matter. The "Terminator" yarn, "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" didn’t fare much better either.

And as far as DC is concerned, it seems that the Man of Steel is the only one capable of maintaining any substantial length of time on the live action tube.

But following the breakout success of "Smallville" and its re-interpretation for the origins of a young Clark Kent, the WB Network felt that the time was right to capitalize on DC Comics’ other big name, to an extent and quite indirectly.

Coupled with a desire for Batman to return to form following the fallout with 1997’s "Batman & Robin" and a strong feminist streak, audiences were given 2002’s "Birds of Prey."



An undetermined amount of time has passed since the final recorded sighting of Batman, who fled Gotham City in devastation after both the murder of Selena Kyle/Catwoman and the paralysis of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (Dina Meyer) at the hands of the Joker.

Now, the city of New Gotham is patrolled by a new crime-fighting duo.

Helena Kyle (Ashley Scott), the meta-human powered daughter of Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne who acts as a field agent under the moniker of the Huntress and Barbara herself. Now wheelchair bound, she goes by the alias of Oracle, an expert in computer science who uses her digital prowess to aid Helena’s crusade whenever possible.


Together, and with the aid and support of Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred Pennyworth (Ian Abercrombie), the two bring a young runaway named Dinah (Rachel Skarsten) into the group. A Meta-Human with powers of clairvoyance and mental capacities she’s only beginning to tap, Dinah as a teen also represents the rambunctious nature of youth as she attends New Gotham High School, where Barbara Gordon teaches.

Helena also has her hands full with trying to find a reliable ally in the Police Department namely in the form of Jesse Reese (Shemar Moore), an honest Detective out to discover the identity of the mysterious vigilante cleaning up New Gotham’s streets. But Helena might find something more than just an ally in Reese; something more romantically based.


But despite Batman’s absence, crime is still rampant; everything from aging mobsters and two-bit hoods to crazed Meta-Humans and even some of the legendary Dark Knight’s old rogues, such as Lady Shiva, Clayface and the one and only Harley Quinn (Mia Sara).

What’s a trio of beautiful girls to do?


Executive produced by current power player Laeta Kalogridis (she also executive produced James Cameron’s “Avatar” and Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island.”) the show WAS a ratings sweetheart initially but due to several concerns such as budget and waning attention, the series tanked after its first and only season.

Even so, “Birds of Prey” isn’t without its merits.

First and foremost it made the first attempt to revert the live action world of Batman back to some resemblance of gritty gothic darkness a good three years before “Batman Begins” and for that effort it’s to be commended.

The backbone of the show is an interesting one; the idea of a comic book melodrama resting on the shoulders of a female-dominant cast.

I loved that!

"Birds of Prey” wasn’t afraid to fully support the idea that women could defend an urban metropolis just as efficiently and theatrically as men.

Besides, as much as I love Batman, the man in me finds a distinct pleasure in watching Ashley Scott, body bound in tight leather with sexy, smoky eyes dishing out pain to criminals.

Aside from the clear sexual attraction, I just admire that the show was pro-feminism without getting preachy. There’s no “I am woman, hear me roar!” nonsense. Just women being women but also kicking ass, which all men should know they are more than capable of.

The cast, in turn, is wonderfully composed and headed by a trio of actresses that bring sophistication, beauty, wit, sex appeal and grace to each of their roles.

Character actress Ashley Scott has attitude to spare as the Huntress. On some occasions that runs the risk of getting annoying but overall she manages.


Rachel Skarsten is fairly decent, but not much more than that (if you look at her now, she’s certainly grown up! Can’t say the same for her career choices though as she was just recently featured in the latest “American Pie” direct to video farce).

My favorite of the ‘Birds’ is EASILY Dina Meyer as Oracle. First off holy hell; she’s GORGEOUS! That fiery red hair, sun kissed olive skin, those glasses.

And seeing her in the Batgirl costume?


But more than that, she has a presence about her in the role that, in its own way, reminds me of Kevin Conroy as Batman. Whenever Oracle is on screen, you’re definitely paying the most attention.


One of Barbara's greatest moments came courtesy of the episode "Lady Shiva," where a foe from the past returns to settle a score; not with Oracle but with Batgirl. In an attempt to sway unnecessary conflict, Barbara becomes Batgirl one last time to confront Shiva.


It's not a moment dictated and defined by the physical combat or the weight of Batgirl's appearance. Instead, it's driven by being grounded in a very personal, very genuine decision on Bab's part to not treat Shiva's return as a battle between hero and villain but a chance to make amends as human beings. It's a very emotional scene as well as her explaining herself and her actions to Helena.



While the male cast members do take a back seat, they aren’t without their own moments. The late Ian Abercrombie is no Michael Gough, but I did love whenever his Alfred was featured. And Shemar Moore has a great sense of wit and physicality as Reese which makes him more than a worthy professional and personal interest for Huntress.

Of course the show’s biggest claim for fans is obvious.
It gave us our first official flesh and blood Harley Quinn!

Delivered with charm and malaise by Mia Sara (for those who are having trouble recognizing her, she played the object of Matthew Broderick’s affections in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as Ferris’ hottie girlfriend Sloane), this adaptation of Harley isn’t as fun and bubbly as Arleen Sorkin, but it works to an extent. The finale “Devil’s Eyes” even allows us to see her in a modified variation on her classic Harlequin outfit!

“Birds of Prey” attempted to inject more nods to the comics than what “Smallville” did initially and I think that might have made the show suffer to an extent. I still regret that the series didn’t at least get a 2nd season (especially if “Smallville” can run for a grand total of 10!).


One of the shows best nods is probably “Sins of the Mother,” where its revealed that Dinah was actually adopted and her birth mother was Dinah Lance aka the Black Canary (the cameo role was performed by Lori Loughlin, formerly and famously Rebecca Donaldson on the sitcom “Full House.”) It was great whenever the show brought in comic characters such as Canary or Lady Shiva, who’s self-titled episode is most memorable for the final confrontation where Barbara, equipped with an experimental bio-organic spinal device allowing her to temporarily walk, dons the Batgirl costume one last time to confront Shiva and to apologize for their feud so long ago.

There was also “Feat of Clay” (interesting; that’s the title of the episodes that introduced Clayface into the Bruce Timm/Eric Radomski Animated Series), which gave us a live action Clayface and quite a unique one at that. Of all the rogues to choose from as far as a feature on the show, this is an interesting choice. Of course they didn’t go for the giant shape-shifter or any of the comics’ incarnations like Matt Hagan or Basil Karlo.

Instead, ‘Face is really just a man, made of clay yes, who sits in his cell and makes clay sculptures (hmm?) and talks with a Brooklyn accent. His characterization comes off like an exaggerated cliche of criminality, like Dominic West's turn as Jigsaw in "Punisher: War Zone."

Uh huh.

A simpler nod was made in the form of the “No Man’s Land” Collectibles store/hangout; a bar where local Meta-Humans could hang out. Basically it was the show’s version of the ‘Central Perk’ from “Friends” or the ‘Peach Pit After Dark’ from “Beverly Hills 90210;” an area where they could converse and resolve issues from episode to episode at the end of the day while boozing and listening to trendy music provided by earnest bands looking for exposure. The name of the establishment was taken from the epic Batman story arc in which Gotham, after being hit by a massive earthquake, was severed from the United States and declared a Federal ‘No Man’s Land.’ It’s a nice gesture to the books.

The show’s production design and overall artistic aesthetic were quite in line with the depictions of Gotham City in the comics at the time and those are standout components for me.

Oracle’s Clocktower Command Center is a wonderful set, easily my favorite of the entire show with its immense consoles and loft-like atmosphere.



Just one thing though; admittedly a nit-pick really.

Why the hell is it called New Gotham?

They don’t refer to the quake of NML or anything like that. It’s not as if there was a radical circumstance that led to the city needing to be made new. In fact, they call Batman the guardian of ‘New Gotham.’

Just call it Gotham City, guys!

By the end, despite the claims from Aimee Allen’s kick ass Main Title that it was meant to be a ‘Revolution,’ the ratings made it clear that “Smallville” would be the one to prosper while “Birds of Prey” crashed and burned. Hell, “Birds” even attempted to make a connection to “Smallville” with word about a meteor shower hitting the Midwest.


But that wasn’t enough of a connection to attract audiences or to sustain them which is really a shame.

With its ‘girl-power’ attitude and attention to comic book detail, “Birds of Prey” is quite formidable in its one season (which has sense been released as a series collection on DVD).

“Birds of Prey” is a really fun watch when you give it an opportunity.




No comments:

Post a Comment