Dina Meyer, Ashley Scott, ...
Credit: Birds of Prey: Richard Cartwright

Birds of Prey (2002 TV series)

If you want some idea of just how difficult it is to make comic-book-style action dovetail with heartfelt emotionalism, tune in to Birds of Prey, a migraine-inducingly complex superhero saga from some of the folks behind ”Smallville.” Just explaining ”Birds”’ setup is liable to put off anyone who doesn’t hang out at a comics shop on Wednesday mornings for the new shipment of…well, ”Birds of Prey,” the DC Comics title on which this series is based.

The pilot required Batman butler Alfred (Ian Abercrombie) to voice-over a lengthy who’s who and where’s where: We’re in New Gotham, a future city in which Batman has vanished into exile after a tough battle with the Joker (Huh? Gnarly old Batman, off on a sulk?); we learn that Helena, the Huntress (Ashley Scott), is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman (hey — weren’t they enemies in that ’92 movie?); that Barbara Gordon (Dina Meyer) is Commissioner Gordon’s daughter and was once Batgirl but, after some superbattle, is now in a wheelchair and calls herself Oracle (who changes their supermoniker?); and that Dinah Lance (Rachel Skarsten) is a ”metahuman” who has visions of people’s pasts (where’s her superhero name?).

”Birds” is certainly more fun than the soap opera of ”Smallville,” but frequently ”fun” is lowered to ”cornball” in lines like ”You try fighting the forces of evil when your blood sugar’s low”; the writers are trying too hard to incorporate ”Buffy”-like pop self-consciousness. And so far, ”Timecop”’s Mia Sara is a wan dud as one of the comic’s most enjoyably outlandish villains, Harley Quinn — who in the TV show is for now faking it as ”Dr. Harleen Quinzel,” Helena’s anger-management therapist.

”Birds” has all the potential to be a slam-bang trifle. The actresses are admirably committed to their absurd roles, but the show lacks the paradox of ”Alias” — the brainy heart — that could make ”Birds” better than what it is now: ”Charmed” with more charm.

Birds of Prey (2002 TV series)
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