by Matt Tarpey
Have you ever happened to catch an episode of one of your favorite Saturday morning cartoons from years ago and watched it now, as a full-grown adult? Well for those of you who have “real jobs” and “real responsibilities” who aren’t just sitting around writing internet articles and watching TV, take our word for it: it can be a shattering disillusionment. The stories (if you can call them that) are simplistic and repetitive, the characters you once aspired to be like are one-dimensional, and the dialogue is cheesy and cliché, at best. That’s how we tend to assume current kids’ shows are as well, but that is a misapprehension. Kids these days have access to some shows that they’ll be able to watch again as adults and still enjoy. For example:
THE AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES
By now you’re probably sick of hearing people talk about The Avengers, but this cartoon series on Disney XD (and Netflix Instant-Watch) deserves your attention. The series starts off simply, with the team assembling itself in order to track down a bunch of bad guys (some more badass than others) who escaped from various super prisons. From there the show takes off.
This show boasts some of the best multi-episodic arcs of any TV show currently airing, and it’s intended for 10 year olds. Not only that, but the writers are constantly brining new character into the mix, making this one of the most complete incarnations of the Marvel Universe outside of the original comic books themselves. As of now, the show not only has those Avengers everyone is already familiar with thanks to Joss Whedon, but also Ant-Man, Wasp, Black Panther, The Fantastic Four, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Beta Ray Bill, Red Hulk, Wonder Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy, plus so many super villains that it’s sort of surprising there are any non-powered humans left. If 10 years olds are able to keep up with this many characters and this many story arcs, you might want to reconsider judging contestants who lose on Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader.
Nothing is more difficult than making learning entertaining. After kids get too old to really enjoy Sesame Street anymore (although an argument can be made that it’s enjoyable for all ages) they’re options for TV shows starts to head in the opposite direction in terms of educational value. However, BBC’s Horrible Histories manages to pick up some of that mental slack.
Despite being educational in nature, Horrible Histories is still a British sketch comedy series, which should tip you off right there as to why it’s on this list. The show’s writing is entertaining not only to the kids, but slips in some jokes designed to go right over their heads and smack their parents in the face. These mainly come in the form of spot-on biting parodies of other TV shows, such as medical dramas, weather forecasts, game shows, and treality programs like wife swap, or master chef. Not to mention they focus mainly on the disgusting, embarrassing, and all around ridiculous bits of human history, which allows them to work the word “poo” into the script as often as possible, and said in a British accent, which makes it even better.
Although most of the entries on this post applaud shows for their intelligence and depth, this entry is quite the opposite. Spongebob Squarepants is one of the few examples of humor intended for young children actually being funny to adults as well. For the most part the humor is juvenile and, to use a word possible never printed on this site before, silly. Of course, as with all cartoons nowadays, there’s the occasional bit of political or pop-culture humor snuck in there, but even without that, adults seem to love this show. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say that the show does teach kids critical thinking by using absurdity and incongruity to teach them less obvious forms of humor. So there ya go: Spongebob will make your kids smarter when they try to figure out the jokes aimed over their heads.
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS
Of every entry on this list, The Clone Wars deserves the most skepticism. Not only does it appear to be just another ploy to get kids to buy more Star Wars merchandise, but it’s animated, it’s most closely tied to arguably the worst of the Star Wars of the two Star Wars trilogies (the Star Wars sextilogy? Bitrilogy? Duotrilogy?), and worst of all, it occasionally features Jar Jar Binks. So, yes, there are many reasons to, as they say, have a bad feeling about this. However, once you get used to seeing the Storm Troopers as the good guys who are able to fire their weapons with some amount of accuracy, you realize that this show is actually capable of telling very good and contemplative stories. As with Avengers, this show does a marvelous job of creating multi-episode story arcs, and handles character development quite nicely. Particularly interesting is the show’s depiction of the clone troopers as actual soldiers in a war, rather than mindless drones incapable of original thought. Many of the best episodes don’t focus entirely on the familiar characters of Anakin, Obi Wan, and Padme, but instead on the foot soldiers they command. Humanizing the troopers who will later carry out the infamous Order 66 is a bold move, and should show you how these writers aren’t afraid to go to pretty dark places, especially for a kids’ show.
AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER
Avatar: The Last Airbender and Star Wars: The Clone Wars have more in common than messianic protagonists and effective use of colons. Both are marred in the eyes of the general public by the terrible movies they’re attached to. In Avatar’s case, the live action, big budget flop written and directed by professional plot-twister M. Night Shyamalan.
Not only did the movie terribly piss off a lot of die-hard fans, but it also kept some people from giving the TV show a shot–which is a real shame, because this show is pretty awesome. Despite being brightly colored and featuring children as the main protagonists, the story is wonderfully textured and engrossing. This show has all the elements of a great epic; a hero with mysterious origins who must come to terms with the responsibility heaped on his shoulders, a globe-trotting quest peppered with colorful characters and challenges, and people who can control fire dance-fighting a kid who can control air. Seriously check this show out.
Matt proved Badassness Knows No Age when he profiled Harrison Ford. –>