When you think of the works by the animation studio, Klasky Csupo, you probably think of stuff like Rugrats, AAAHH!!! Real Monsters, The Wild Thornberrys, Rocket Power, heck, they even did the animation for the first few years of The Simpsons too. Another one of their most memorable animated shows the studio had a hand in often gets overlooked in terms of the 90s adult animation boom, and that is Duckman:
Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man (or commonly known as Duckman) is an American adult animated sitcom that aired on the USA Network from March 5, 1994 through September 6, 1997. It was created and developed by Everett Peck. The sitcom is based on characters created by Peck in his Dark Horse comic. Klasky Csupo animated the series and produced it along with Reno & Osborn Productions for Paramount Network Television. It marks Klasky Csupo’s second adult-oriented television series after The Simpsons. Years later after Duckman, Peck went on to create Squirrel Boy for Cartoon Network, from 2006 to 2007.
The series centers on Eric T. Duckman (voiced by Jason Alexander), a lascivious, widowed, anthropomorphic duck who lives with his family in Los Angeles and works as a private detective. The tagline of the show, seen in the opening credits, is “Private Dick/Family Man” (“dick” being short for “detective”, as well as serving as a double entendre).
Main characters include Cornfed (voiced by Gregg Berger), a pig who is Duckman’s Joe Friday-esque business partner and best friend, Ajax (voiced by Dweezil Zappa), Duckman’s eldest, mentally-slow teenage son; Charles (voiced by Dana Hill and later Pat Musick) and Mambo (voiced by E. G. Daily), Duckman’s Siamese twin child genius sons whose heads share a body; Bernice (voiced by Nancy Travis), Duckman’s sister-in-law and the identical twin of Beatrice who is a fanatic fitness buff and hates Duckman with a passion; Grandma-ma (voiced by Travis), Duckman’s comatose, immensely flatulent mother-in-law; Agnes Delrooney (voiced by Brian Doyle-Murray), Grandma-ma’s doppelgänger who kidnaps her and poses as her for several episodes; Fluffy and Uranus (voiced by Pat Musick), Duckman’s two Care Bear-esque teddy-bear office assistants.
Recurring characters include George Herbert Walker “King” Chicken (voiced Tim Curry), a supervillain who schemes to ruin Duckman’s life; Beatrice (voiced by Travis), Duckman’s first wife who was believed to be killed in an accident; Beverly (voiced by Travis), Beatrice and Bernice’s long-lost sister; and Gecko, Duckman’s pet dog.
In the final episode, four couples (Dr. Stein/Dana Reynard, Duckman/Honey, King Chicken/Bernice, Cornfed/Beverly) got married – the last three in a joint ceremony. The kids, Fluffy and Uranus, and a number of characters from previous episodes are shown to be in attendance. As the ceremonies draw to a close, though, Beatrice (Duckman’s supposedly deceased wife) appears and shocks the entire crowd. When Duckman asks how she can still be alive, Beatrice indicates Cornfed always knew. The last line of the series is Cornfed saying, “I can explain.” The show then ends with “To be continued…?” superimposed on the screen. In regards to this cliffhanger, Duckman writer Michael Markowitz offered the following shortly after the series came to an end:
“We never formally planned Part II… and I’ll never tell what I personally had in mind. I’m hoping to leave it to my heirs, for the inevitable day when Duckman is revived by future generations. Ah, the Spandex suits they’ll wear, the hovercrafts they’ll fly!”
Duckman seemed to have been overshadowed by the more successful The Simpsons, Beavis & Butt-Head, and South Park in terms of 90s adult animation but the show was just as funny and over the top as those shows were.
The show had this twisted sense of humor to it that was kind of unique at the time while also paying little bits of homages to John Kricfalusci and Ralph Bakshi in terms of the out of the norm animation style that would show up in many episodes.
The voice cast is great led by Alexander as Duckman, it’s basically Jason Alexander but there’s also that hint of George Costanza and his own unique personality that he brings to the character of Duckman. But you also had Nancy Travis, Dana Hill, E.G. Daily, Gregg Berger, and Pat Musick apart of the cast as well.
Duckman was an eccentrically funny, over the top animated, and great animated series that I feel gets kind of overlooked over the other 90s animated shows but it’s just as good as those other shows and manages to still hold up as well as it did back then today.
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