'Harvey Beaks': Sunny with a chance of bad behavior

'Harvey Beaks': Sunny with a chance of bad behavior
Harvey and his friends Fee and Foo are the child-like stars of "Harvey Beaks." (Nickelodon)

At first glance "Harvey Beaks," the new animated series from Nickelodeon, looks like a children's storybook. The lushly painted backgrounds have a real comfort to them, evoking the lighthearted tales of our own youths.

But then the characters pop on screen and start peeing in the lake.

Nick's latest animated series, which premieres Sunday, is a modern take on a classic feel. The episodes are short, punchy and indescribably odd. And if they share a sensibility with Cartoon Network's older-skewing "Adventure Time," consider that a good thing. Everyone's got to start somewhere.

Call it a gateway to raising a wonderfully weird kid.

The series is the brainchild of C.H. Greenblatt, whose previous creation, "Chowder," won an Emmy during its three-season run on Nick. While that series was set in a catering company, this one takes us even further into an animated Eden — an unnamed wood populated by all manner of talking animals.

The main character, Harvey, is a straight-laced bird, who finds himself continuously thrust into the heart of bizarre yet low-stakes, adventures by his considerably less inhibited twin animal friends, Fee and Foo.

Episodes revolve around Harvey working to annoy a waterbeast enough to get banned from the local swimming hole in solidarity with his already-banned pals. Or a true crime tale in the vein of "A Simple Plan" or "No Country For Old Men" with a severed squirrel tail and some tough squirrels.

Greenblatt got his start as a writer and storyboard artist on "SpongeBob SquarePants," and that goofy attitude carries over here, as well. The emphasis here isn't problem solving or the hero's journey but behavior. It's as if the chief source of inspiration isn't the natural world or children's bedtime tales but a few minutes making faces in front of the bathroom mirror.

There's bad behavior aplenty on display here — it began life under the name "Bad Seeds" — but for the most part, it's a show that's as carefree and sunny as its characters.

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