‘Harvey Birdman’ Had A Hot Tub Time Machine Five Years Before ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’

Did the 2010 sci-fi comedy crib off of the Adult Swim cult classic? Does Harvey need a lawyer?
‘Harvey Birdman’ Had A Hot Tub Time Machine Five Years Before ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’

Did Hot Tub Time Machine copy Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law’s homework? Or did the writers of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law use some aquatic technology to take an episode idea from the future?

Ever since Back to the Future kicked the doors down on the science-fiction comedies using time travel with dubious internal logic to forward a plot, most screenwriters looking to add their own entry to the genre haven’t deviated too far from the winning formula. The fact is, time travel isn’t all that great a storytelling tool, and the number of plot permutations possible in a comedic sci-fi romp about accidentally falling into the past/future is deceptively small. Time-travel movies even reuse each other’s actors — Crispin Glover astoundingly appeared in the 2010 Steve Pink sci-fi ski hill comedy starring John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke one quarter-century after Marty McFly made it back to 1985.

As such, it’s no surprise that the elements of Hot Tub Time Machine had some overlap with other time-travel comedies, but it’s oddly specific that, five years before the release of Hot Tub Time Machine, in the Harvey Birdman episode “Beyond the Valley of the Dinosaurs,” the titular avian attorney stumbled through time in a literal hot tub time machine. Cusack’s just lucky that Harvey isn’t a copyright lawyer.

In “Beyond the Valley of the Dinosaurs,” Peter Potamus convinces Harvey to soak in his in-office jacuzzi, which, when the wrong button is pressed, sends both of them into pre-history and into the clutches of a clan of cavemen with varying degrees of language ability. The troglodytes tie up Harvey, thinking him to be an evil omen foretold by a prophecy, and worship Potamus like a god for similar but opposite reasons. Harvey narrowly escapes becoming the main course in history’s first human/bird barbecue by volunteering to litigate what was likely the world’s first divorce case as he helps a cavewoman escape both human sacrifice and her failing marriage. 

Meanwhile, Harvey’s boss, Phil Ken Sebben, played by Stephen Colbert at the tail end of his Adult Swim career, exploits the Potamus’ portal for paid prehistoric hunting trips, unintentionally opening the door for cross-eon contamination that culminates in a massive battle in the present day involving T. rexes and rocket launchers that closes out the episode in a signature Harvey Birdman clusterfuck.

Beyond the inciting incident of the main character unintentionally traveling back in time because of a hot tub, “Beyond the Valley of the Dinosaurs” has nothing in common with the 2010 comedy named after their shared plot device — but the time-traveling hot tub story somehow goes back even further, feathers included. In a 1987 episode of DuckTales, the chicken inventor Gyro Gearloose creates a bathtub capable of taking him back in time to the Old West, a device that he calls the “time tub.”

It’s unclear if the DuckTales time tub was the inspiration for the Harvey Birdman hot tub time machine, or if the Harvey Birdman hot tub time machine inspired Hot Tub Time Machine. However, one thing is certain — no time-travel comedy writer has ever had the originality to make their characters time travel in a shower.


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