Produced By Laeta Kalogridis
Starring Dina Meyer, Ashley Scott, Rachel SkarstenMia Sara
Comic Book super heroes moving from the pages to the small screen have a checkered past. Most series don’t seem to stand the test of time. Some examples are the short lived Spider-man live action series and The Flash live action series. There are exceptions to the rule though, such as The Hulk. The WB, which changed to the CW has been lucky with their series Smallville, the story of young Superman. In its early seasons Smallville brilliantly mixed teen drama with aliens, monsters, and such, to bring in comic book fans, and general young viewers of both genders. Many fans agree that the show has really fallen in quality over the last few seasons and die hard Superman fans are frustrated too, but so far, everyone’s still watching. Back in 2002 an attempt to bring to life another group of heroes from the DC universe was made with The Birds of Prey.
Smartly, in the opening credits of each episode Alfred, Batman’s butler, gives the background of the main characters in Birds of Prey and sets the stage for their adventures. Barbara Gordon (Dina Meyer) was once Batgirl, one of Batman’s best students. The Joker shoots Gordon in an attempt to take revenge on Batman. The wound paralyzes her from the waste down causing her to change her role in the battle against evil to become Oracle, the center of all imformation. She builds weapons in classic Batman style and she uses every possible kind of technology to work as a guide for Huntress, the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, who has taken to fighting crime in the streets in place of her father who has left the city. Finally, they take in a young girl who is a meta human like Huntress, someone with extra abilities, basically DC’s version of a mutant. The young girl is Dinah Lance, daughter of the famed hero The Black Canary.
So, in each episode the team works together to fight the crminal of the week while dealing with family drama, teen angst, and attempts by Oracle and Huntress to lead normal lives with potential romance. The show is almost a darker, more Underworld version of Smallville. I remember checking the series out when it first came on and wanting it to be great but just feeling like it was missing the mark, at least for the first three or four episodes. By episode four I was really into it and it was on its last legs about to be canceled. Back in ’02 if a show wasn’t a hit almost right away on the WB/CW then it was killed without reconsideration. This is probably why even today the network only has a few shows that aren’t Top Model that include Supernatural, Smallville, and Gossip Girl.
This series premiered before the rush to serialized TV started and while it had some dramatic story arcs it was mostly a villain of the week sort of situation. The biggest problem I believe the series had was a balance in tone. In one minute it’s dark and brooding with only mild fitting bits of humor and in the next everyone is forward looking and positive and some happy little fem coffee shop song kicks in. There’s a lot of backstory and unanswered questions that should make these characters dark and brooding but it comes and goes. Had the creators kept that tone consistent from the beginning fans would have been able to get a grasp on what sort of show it was that they were watching. A darker series would have been a good contrast to the much lighter farm boy show that Smallville was at that time.
Another mistep for this series is the introduction of Dinah Lance. She’s the Scrappy Doo of the Birds of Prey for two reasons. The first reason is that the actress herself is just irritating and she can really make some wierd faces. Her character was also completely unecessary for the first season of the show. There was plenty of story to tell just between Huntress and Oracle. I could see adding the character at a later time ala Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I hated Dawn also by the way.
This show featured gorgeous women kicking ass and even a nod to the older set with Mia Sara playing the main villain Harley Quinn. If you don’t know Sara was the girlfriend in the classic 80’s film Ferris Beuler’s Day Off. Dina Meyer comes to the show after being a fan favorite in Starship Troopers. Since Birds of Prey Meyer has done the Saw series of films. The question is; why hasn’t she taken a role on Stargate? Isn’t this where fan favrotie female actors end up? Ashley Scott came to Birds of Prey after playing a reoccuring role in another series that died to quickly Dark Angel. Dark Angel was a gothy futuristic series where Scott was able to develop an existeince in that sort of world so when she made the move to Birds of Prey she was easily able to own the role of Huntress.
It’s sad to have the complete sereis on DVD with no solid ending for it. Meyer and Scott had great chemistry and neither seemed to steal scenes from the other as they had both created compelling characters for the show. Unfortunately the writers weren’t given a fair amount of time to settle the tone of the series and to work through some weak dialogue that popped up here and there. A few times things just got to saccharine when they really didn’t need too. In the end these episodes are far superior to current episodes of Smallville.
The presentation is standard TV with good skin tones and detail in brighter scenes but a bit of grain creeps in for darker scenes. It’s not bad at all but it’s noticable, particularly on the HDTV I screened this set on. Some of the CGI, well most of it actually, is pretty cheap looking, but we’re used to that by now right?
The Dolby Digital presetnation features a solid mix of dialogue, score, and sound effects, with everything coming through loud and clear. There’s never any problem hearing conversations and effects never distort. On the flip side the surround environment is mostly unused so this won’t be the choice for showing off your new surround system.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The 4 disc set comes packaged in a standard amary case with the disc floating on hinged trays. Right away you’ll notice how heavy the box is, and that’s due to the thickness of the two trays that the discs are mounted on. It’s actually a pleasent surprise to see this level of quality put towards the packaging of a canceled series being dropped on DVD. There’s a nice Underworld-esque slipcover of Scott in attack position that will darw the eyes of fans plus anyone else that my stop at the site of a cute girl. Good job here even if it does look just a little too much like Underworld.
I wish more attention had been given to bonus features though. The only bonus features on the set are a previously unaired pilot and a series of animated webisodes that were posted during the show’s short run. This unaired pilot is essentially exactly the same episode as the one that was aired with the only difference being that Sherilyn Finn played Harley Quinn in that original pilot. The pilot that aired featured all the same scenes and dialogue as the original just reshot with Mia Sara. The webisodes are mildly amusing but add nothing to the experience of viewing the main series.
Would it have been so expensive to do a brief featurette and some commentaries with some of the cast and creators? There was a fantastic featurette on the Brisco County Jr. box set where the creators got together to discuss where that series was supposed to go and how it would have ended had it continued. I think more DVD releases of shows that were prematurely canceled should have a featurette like this for fans.
Birds of Prey is one of those shows that had a ton of potential had it been given the opportunity to stick around. Fans of the comic book characters should pick this one up and fans of shows like Dark Angel should also give it a look. I just wish we had some stronger extras.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Series 8/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 4/10