Thursday, February 5, 2015
My Top Five Primetime Cartoon Comedy Favorites
The first few weeks of 2015 have been rough for me, and what better way to cope with the stress than with cartoon mirth and mayhem? Here are five of my favorite primetime cartoons, each examples of the kind of animated anarchy that soothes my unruly Id in times of uncertainty and worry. Read on ....
5. The Simpsons, 1989 - Present
I couldn't do this list without including the one that started it all: Matt Groening's The Simpsons, which began as cartoon shorts and then exploded into a cultural phenomenon of its own. Without it, I doubt that the remaining four cartoons would have ever existed. The Simpsons proved that animation could thrive on primetime television at a time when cartoons were relegated to Saturday mornings and weekday afternoon syndication. Who knew back then that cartoons would eventually disappear from Saturday mornings on the major broadcast networks, and yet The Simpsons would still be running new episodes on TV.
While I wish I could place this one higher than the number 5 slot, doing otherwise would be dishonest. I only watched this show faithfully for its first nine seasons, which means that I was only a die-hard Simpsons fan for less than half of its broadcast run. Sometimes, longevity is more of a curse than a blessing.
4. Duckman, 1994 - 1997
Duckman, which ran for four seasons on the USA Network, was also a pioneer in its own right. It arrived along with dozens of other primetime cartoons that hoped to capitalize on success of The Simpsons, and it was one of the few that lasted longer that one season. Because it aired at a late hour on a cable TV station, the cast and crew of Duckman eagerly focused on topical and edgy humor; thankfully, the show's humor is just as smart as it is raunchy, and it has aged very well during the many years after it went off the air. If you haven't seen Duckman yet, you owe it to yourself to see this under-appreciated oddball gem.
3. Bob's Burgers, 2011 - Present
Fox has been looking for a successor to The Simpsons for decades, and I think that it finally found it in Bob's Burgers. Unlike the other non-Simpsons shows that have been running on Fox's "animation domination" Sunday night block in recent years (i.e., Seth MacFarlane's cartoons), Bob's Burgers excels at clever, offbeat humor without being mean-spirited towards its cast of likable, eccentric losers. True, it's kind of sad to like a cartoon because it's one of the few of its kind that's not trying to offend or nauseate anybody and is just content to be delightfully odd, but such is the state of primetime animation these days. Thank goodness for Bob's Burgers!
2. Archer, 2009 - Present
Of the many vulgar, over-the-top cartoons that air on cable TV, Archer on FX is the only one I've found so far that consistently makes me laugh. It somehow takes sex, violence, hedonism, codependency and neurosis and mixes them together into an explosive recipe for off-color humor that just keeps on giving. This is due in no small part to smart writing, slick animation, hilarious voice acting, and sound editing that carefully arranges the sharp-tongued dialog into a well-timed rhythm. Nobody does it better than Archer. Danger zone!
1. Futurama, 1999 - 2014
Matt Groening got to where he is today because of The Simpsons, but I'm convinced that his true labor of love is his less-appreciated Futurama. It consistently delivered great sci-fi themed humor for geeks way before it was cool to like geek humor, and its survival after two cancellations proved that no one--not even Fox--can keep a good cartoon down for long.