DC Universe’s Harley Quinn Brings Something New to a Comic Book TV Series: F-Bombs

The villains curse and ‘Batman is a real buzzkill’ in new OTT animated show

Still image from Harley Quinn trailer
Harley Quinn, featuring the voice of Kaley Cuoco, debuts on DC Universe this fall. Warner Bros. TV
Headshot of Jason Lynch

During the past decade, Marvel and DC have created more than 20 TV shows featuring their superheroes and villains, but DC Universe’s upcoming Harley Quinn series has something that none of those others does: lots and lots of F-bombs.

The animated series, coming this fall to the DC Universe SVOD service, focuses on DC Comics villain Harley Quinn, the Joker’s on and off girlfriend, voiced by The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco, who is also an executive producer on the project. Harley Quinn is the first animated superhero series with a “hard MA” TV rating, said executive Patrick Schumacker today at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in L.A.

“From the get-go, the pitch is this show is from Harley’s perspective,” said Schumacker. Because of that, when it comes to the superheroes, “we can have a little fun at their expense.” So in this series, “Batman is a real buzzkill and Superman is a guy who tells dad jokes.”

“[Warner Bros. TV president and chief content officer] Peter Roth called me on my cell phone and said, ‘Do you want to be Harley Quinn?’ And I was like, ‘Fuck yeah I do!’” said Cuoco. “I love going into the booth and screaming and cussing for two hours.”

Alan Tudyk, who voices the Joker, is also enjoying bringing profanity to an iconic villain’s vocabulary.

“He’s a classic Joker type, but it also gets to say, ‘Aw, fuck!’ which adds a whole dimension,” said Tudyk.

The villains are cursing up a storm, but the superheroes who appear on Harley Quinn keep their language clean.

“DC was amazing in that they said, treat the characters in the way that you believe they probably acted in between the margins,” executive producer Justin Halpern told Adweek. “Batman just doesn’t feel like a guy to me that’s cursing, so our rule is Batman is not going to curse on this show. Superman, absolutely not. Those don’t feel like that’s part of their vocabulary. But our feeling was Joker kills people; Penguin’s a terrible guy. These people are probably also using vulgarities to speak to one another.”

While each Harley Quinn episode is peppered with F-bombs (“We get eight an episode,” said supervising producer Jennifer Coyle, though the pilot episode has significantly more than that), one utterance is bleeped out in the series: the C-word. “It’s a real blurred line, but it is the line,” said Cuoco.

In addition to the profanity, the series also looks at another side of superheroes and villains: “What does it look like when [villain] Bane gets coffee? What does he do with the mask? Is there a barista he doesn’t like?” said Halpern.

The series premieres this fall, and Halpern told Adweek he has “no idea” if the series will also be able on HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s new streaming service that debuts next year. Earlier this week, Warner Bros. said that another DC Universe series, Doom Patrol, will stream on both DC Universe and HBO Max for Season 2, but the Harley Quinn team is still in the dark about HBO Max.

“My goal is always for as many people to be able to see it as possible. So I would love if as many people can see it on whatever platform that is. But they’ve never talked to us about it; they’ve always said, ‘This is a DC Universe show,’” said Halpern. “So I just don’t know.”

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.