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"Legend tells of a caped crusader, Batman, guardian of New Gotham, and his one true love, Catwoman, the queen of the criminal underworld. Their passion left behind something extraordinary, a daughter, Huntress. Half metahuman, she has taken up her father's mantle and under cover of the night, fights to protect the innocent and helpless."

"Joining her in this struggle, Oracle, who was once Batman's protoge, Batgirl. She was caught in the crossfire of the war between Batman and Joker: now she fights crime a different way, a master of the cyber-realms and mentor and trainer to heroes. Together, they have taken in a young runaway, Dinah, a metahuman herself with powers to open hidden doors to the mind, powers that she is only beginning to explore. Together, these three are the protectors of New Gotham: the Birds of Prey."

Image Whew, that's a mouthful of exposition to begin each episode of a TV series, even for chatty ol' Alfred the Butler, whose voiceover opens all thirteen episodes of this chick-power TV series from the producers of Smallville (some consider BOP to be a darker Smallville spinoff, as one BOP episode mentions the meteor rocks over there giving people odd powers).

The DVD collection includes an unaired pilot which lacks Alfred's storytelling, preferring instead to dramatize the events, with a different actress playing series villain Harley Quinn, aka the Joker's crazy old gal pal.

What you've got with Birds of Prey is essentially an all-girl version of the Batman mythos. Huntress saw her mom (Catwoman) murdered and vows revenge against all criminals. Besides Batgirl, the Black Canary makes an appearance (though not the same actress who played the character on Smallville), and virtually the entire recurring cast is female.

The Batguy himself, as well as the Joker, have gone MIA, after the broo-hah-hah that resulted in the Joker crippling Batgirl with a gunshot to the spine. Not that many people in New Gotham (what happened to OLD Gotham?) even knew there WAS a Batman, or a Joker for that matter. Despite Alfred's opening reference to "Legend," only around a half dozen people in the entire course of the series seem to have heard of a "Batman," and future FBI agent Morgan doesn't even really believe it.

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"Future FBI agent Morgan," you ask?? Yep, besides Alfred the Butler, the only frequently seen male is Shemar Moore as a New Gotham cop. Nowadays, Moore can be seen as the impossibly handsome agent Morgan on Criminal Minds, and his BOP character is played EXACTLY the same as Morgan (who, in CM, is a former cop who rarely talks about his old job...perhaps in New Gotham?).

Image I don't know if the BOP comics remain (or ever were) part of any DC "official" continuity, but I enjoyed the BOP TV show's takes on the Batman epically dysfunctional, but nonetheless heroic "family."

The unaired pilot was far better than what aired as the first episode. I can understand the decision to redo the series concept with Alfred as the intro announcer and apparent storyteller, in order to draw in viewers who have no idea about comic storylines like Batman hearts Catwoman, they had a daughter who became Huntress, and who know nothing about Harley Quinn being the Joker's gun moll-slash-girlfriend.

However, many great story elements from the original pilot were lost, or tweeked when those scenes later appeared as flashbacks in the series itself.

Image About half the Bird of Prey episodes are good, most of the other half approach drek as bad as the worst Swamp Thing, Flash, or Greatest American Hero episode (mostly due to awful scripts with dialogue out of a Super-Friends 'toon), and a few BOP eps (plus the unaired pilot) are absolutely outstanding.

And Mia Sara as Harley Quinn, holy crap, may be the best live action Batman villain ever. Anywhere. Okay, maybe other than Julie Newmar's Catwoman, pending how retro a mood I'm in --

Image The final BOP episode rocked like just about no other superhero show I can recall. About the only other smallscreen sci fi/horror/fantasy I can think of with a better ending was Life on Mars, which I'd vote one of the top five best sci fi shows ever to air on U.S. TV. Partly because it DID wrap up: they knew they only had so many eps, and they wrapped up every storyline and loose end that any viewer could ever have hoped for.

(Beautifully, I might add, I applauded my TV set, and they even managed to do it without repeating how the original UK Life on Mars shows ended, so it was a total surprise to even the most dedicated and well-versed Life on Mars fans) --

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However, if you've only seen the final Birds of Prey episode on this DVD set, you'll never know just how great it was!

Here's an example of when bootlegging could actually be justifiable. The flippin' official DVD producers had to replace a bunch of the music originally heard in the series, due to song rights issues. I was mildly bugged all through the thirteen eps by the replacement theme song, but when I got to the grand finale fight scene, the culmination of the whole Batgirl/Huntress/Harley/What's-her-name confrontation, the DVD replaces Tatu's "All the Things She Said" with some generic tune by Dirty Children!

The Tatu version of the BOP finale was exquisitely edited to fit the fight, physically AND emotionally! Below YouTube clip of the original broadcast version includes a comment from someone calling it the best superhero fight ever staged for a TV show. I'd be hard pressed to dispute (though it's REALLY hard to ignore Mia Sara's ridiculously obvious stunt double, at least sistah stand-in shows off some pretty dynamic battle moves).

The Tatu lyrics actually reflect the storyline [SPOILER ALERT]: "All the things she said, running thru my head," as Harley is taunting Batgirl with how she killed BG's lover after kissing him, Huntress remembering all the things SHE said to Harley while she thought Harley was just a shrink, double meanings everywhere.

And the way the fight itself is timed to the music, and then the emotional resonance of Batgirl trying so hard NOT to KILL Harley, to punish the Joker's psycho girlfriend for her horrendous crimes with something more than a sucker punch (to the Tatu lyrics "This is NOT enough!").

Tatu was this supposedly lesbian Russian schoolgirl pop duo who made out with each other onstage, so who better to soundtrack the final battle of this total "chick power" TV show! The replacement song on the DVD, "Beautiful Children," isn't even slightly matched to the action: it's almost like the sound from an altogether different TV station suddenly overtakes the episode, and even the bits of dialogue seem mis-phased on DVD.

Here's a nice copy of the original Tatu version I found on YouTube. I couldn't find the crappy DVD version online. It must have driven the producers NUTS to lose the Tatu song on DVD: the redo almost ruins the entire DVD set, and I pity anyone who bought the DVD and never got to see how this intriguing little TV show REALLY ended.



Previous Grindhouse Movie Reviews/Seen on DVD columns:

Image "Black Caesar (1973) and Cover Me Babe (1970)" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Donnie Darko Sequel Doesn’t Deserve Bad Rap" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Queen of the Damned: Anne Rice Offshoot Doesn't Deserve Bad Rap" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Cult Movie Review: Forbidden Zone (1982)" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Cult Movie Reviews: Andy Warhol's Bad & The Sentinel" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Movies Shot in San Diego: Wicked Wicked (1973)" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Movies Shot in San Diego: A Force of One (1979)" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Phantom of the Paradise and the Day the Ken Cinema Made Cult Movie History" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Velvet Goldmine Channels '70s Glam and Oscar Wilde" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "They’re Rebooting the Crow?! 4 Remakes Good as (or Better) Than the Originals" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Wonderwall w/ George Harrison: Lost 1968 Psychedelic Gem" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Walkabout: Nicolas Roeg's 1971 Acid Trip/Travelogue thru the Australian Outback" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Iron Man vs Watchmen" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Pan's Labyrinth vs. The Devil's Backbone" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "John Waters Newbie Screens a Waters Marathon" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "We Asked 25 Local Celebs What's Your Favorite Twilight Zone?" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "What Do YOU Think? Does the Walking Dead Stink, Or ?" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Dateline: May 1959 - Elvis Movie Causes Mexican Riot" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Local Celebs Who LOVE Star Wars!" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Former Local Co-Creating Newest Star Trek Adventures" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

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"Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: Local Wrote the Book (& Upcoming DVD Extras)" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Punk Rock Dads Docu: Blink, Red Hot Chili, Pennywise, more" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Local Drummer Featured in New Documentary" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Local Singer & Ramona Footage in Quiet Riot Documentary Film" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Why Porn Movies Deserve To Die Out" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "American Artifact Documentary DVD Celebrates Concert Poster Art" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "DVD Documentary Features Local Cult Star Gary Wilson" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

Image "Locally Shot Transvestite Documentary on DVD" - http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...



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