US animated tv series (1994-1997). Paramount Network Television. Created by Everett Peck, initially for the Comic Duckman. Executive producers and main writers: Gabor Csupo, Arlene Klasky, Ron Osborn, Everett Peck and Jeff Reno. Directors include Peter Avanzino, John Eng, Jeff McGrath and Raymie Muzquiz. Voice cast includes Jason Alexander, Gregg Berger, Tim Curry, Elizabeth Daily, Dana Hill, Pat Musick, Nancy Travis and Dweezil Zappa. 71 22-minute episodes. Colour.
Eric T Duckman (Alexander) is a private detective in Los Angeles, California. He lives with his late wife's sister Bernice (Travis) and his sons, the not-too-bright Ajax (Zappa) and the conjoined genius twins – two heads, one body – Charles (Hill, later Daily) and Mambo (Daily). They are all human ducks. Duckman's partner, the loyal and considerably smarter Cornfed (Berger), is a human pig voiced as Joe Friday from the US police drama Dragnet (radio 1949-1959, tv 1967-1970). Duckman and Cornfed have two optimistic teddy-bear assistants, Fluffy and Uranus (both Musick), whom Duckman does not treat well: feeding them through a shredder is typical, though fortunately, being stuffed toys, they survive such cruelty. Another recurring character is Duckman's nemesis King Chicken (Curry), a human chicken.
Duckman is petulant, lacking in sensitivity (on being told he'd parked in a handicapped zone: "Who cares? Nobody parks there anyway, except for the people who are supposed to park there and, hell, I can outrun them anytime") and much prone to prolonged rants, but is not entirely unsympathetic; his flaws have been exaggerated by the loss of his wife, whom he loved, whilst his concern for his kids is real (though this does not mean he is a good father, for he is not). The world is much like our own, save for some of the population being anthromorphized animals and the exaggeration for Satire of 1990s societal and cultural trends. Bernice: "Something funny's going on here." Duckman: "It's about time. I'm getting sick of all the social commentary."
Plots usually revolved around Duckman's cases and family troubles, sometimes including such Genre SF elements as megalomaniacal super-Computers, seeing alternative futures, Alien abductions, Robots and a Parody of Star Trek. Of particular interest is the episode "Color of Naught", featuring Beautex, a product which – as King Chicken explains – is a virus that eats matter, "causing it to devolve through its various stages of development until it loses all form and reality" – echoing the reversion to earlier forms in Philip K Dick's Ubik (1969), except that – this being a cartoon – images lose colour, regress to their animatic stage and continue back through storyboarding to preliminary sketches, then nothing.
Like many acclaimed series with low ratings, Duckman has been described as ahead of its time (it might be argued that the show was a proto-Bojack Horseman, though more frantic). Nonetheless, Duckman was a very funny, satirical production. [SP]
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