The 10 Best Cartoons on the Air Right Now

  • warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/buckman/public_html/neo/modules/advanced_forum/advanced_forum.module on line 492.
  • warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/buckman/public_html/neo/modules/advanced_forum/advanced_forum.module on line 492.
Bill Loguidice's picture

Adventure TimeAdventure TimeI thought I'd mix things up a bit today with a list of my current 10 favorite cartoons (most of which are also my family's favorites, too), which I'd argue are among the short list of best shows on TV today, animated or otherwise. Interestingly, videogame culture/influence - not to mention, technology - has clearly made its way into all of these cartoons in one way or another, which I'll of course point out where relevant.

Here's the list, in no particular order:

Adventure Time: This is probably the hottest show on this list and is a true cult favorite that spans age groups. The show is about Finn, a human teenage boy, and his "brother" and best friend, Jake the magic dog, and their adventures in a post-apocalyptic world consisting of the candy kingdom and a host of other far out settings. It's bizarre, surreal, lots of fun, and, more often than not, supremely funny and clever. The creator, Pendleton Ward, has consistently stated his first love and influences have come from videogames, and that much can't be disputed. The whole show is sort of a mash-up of a teenage boy's dreamworld and videogames, be it the obvious, like with Beemo, who is a delightful GameBoy-like autonotam who likes to pretend to be a real boy, to the more subtle boss battles and power-ups. There is even heavy influence from anime and Japanese culture, but, thankfully, it's its own creation and art style, which is rare to say for much of anything that gives a nod to those. While it can take several episodes to grok the various princesses (Lumpy Space Princess is a favorite of ours), baddies (check out Gunther the penguin), and sometimes surprisingly deep character profiles, of all the shows on this list, this is the one most worth investing the extra time in to get to know all of its nuances.

The first Adventure Time videogame, coming out for the Nintendo DS and 3DS (I pre-ordered the collector's 3DS version for me and the family) looks extremely promising as well, with direct involvement from Ward. I'm hoping for something special like the show, and I think we just may get it.

The Looney Tunes ShowThe Looney Tunes ShowThe Looney Tunes Show: No, not the classic series of shorts we all grew up on, but instead a modern day sitcom reimagining. Now, I'll be the first to admit when this debuted last year that I was skeptical (to say the least) of placing the iconic Looney Tunes characters in a traditional sitcom, but after the first few episodes when it hit its stride, I realized that when you have writing talent like they have on that show, anything is possible. The result is the familiar Looney Tunes characters and their well-known personalities thrust into a "normal" suburban life of hijinks, with a few new/newer characters thrown into the mix for good measure, like Bugs Bunny's wacky girlfriend, Lola Bunny - brilliantly written, and acted (by Kristen Wiig, no less) - or Daffy Duck's girlfriend, Tina Russo, who would not be out of place on any standard blue collar, live action sitcom. Besides the sharp writing - the absolute equal of any other sitcom on the planet for the best episodes - it's the interplay of the various Looney Tunes characters in "real-life" settings that makes it so special for fans of the original, which its easy to argue has not been done proper justice in a long, long time.

By the way, like Adventure Time, this is traditional 2D animation, which is a relief, though they do occasionally have Road Runner shorts that are somewhat low-tech CGI. Maybe it's all the coyote failure events that lend themselves to that extra dimension...

Looney Tunes videogames have been plentiful over the years, but uneven at best. Though this modern interpretation is wonderful, I just don't see how it could make for a compelling videogame in its present form.

The Amazing World of GumballThe Amazing World of GumballThe Amazing World of Gumball: This is another goofball Cartoon Network show with a fascinating hodgepodge of main characters and extended characters that also happens to have impeccable, fast-paced, comic timing. This is a mix of 2D animation and real world photos/objects, including the occasional mash-up character. As a result, it has a unique look to go along with the hijinks, and this look often times adds to the comedy, with subtle or not-so-subtle details to provide an additional chuckle (for instance, band-aids with arms and legs as paramedics).

The visual style alone would make for an interesting videogame. We'll see.

SpongeBob SquarePants: Now in its 13th year, SpongeBob SquarePants finally made the full-time switch to HD, one of the last major shows that I knew of that still needed to do so. Also, because it's in its 13th year, like other long running shows on this list, its arguable that the show's best years are behind it, but, also like those other long running shows, its characters (both main and secondary) are so well developed at this point that you still can eek the occasional delightful episode out of them, and, as a result, makes it a must-watch regardless.

There have been and continue to be a steady stream of SpongeBob videogames on all platforms, but the reality is most haven't been worth bothering with. Hopefully one day that will change with something truly epic.

Bob's BurgersBob's BurgersBob's Burgers: In the tradition of King of the Hill, Bob's Burgers could just as easily be a live action sitcom, but instead chooses to use animation to help better define its characters than real-life actors ever could. In fact, even moreso than King of the Hill, Bob's Burgers uses its medium for some additional creative wiggle room, in this case with the voice actors - many of who are battle tested stand-up comics - with many times males playing female parts and females playing male parts (a comedic tradition in and of itself). The end result remains clever banter with strong comedic timing.

This is another one that wouldn't really translate well to a videogame without forcing it. And you know someone out there wants to force it...

The Simpsons: Now in its 24th season, this is the ultimate momentum show, but the reality is, it's still pretty darn good and has picked up the quality in the past few years after one of its frequent down cycles. I think one thing that helped the energy of the show was the switch to HD in 2009, which made the animation and colors pop, and also allowed a bit more room for creativity. At its current pace, this could easily last another 10 years--we love the characters that much.

The Simpsons videogame history has also been uneven, with a few notable exceptions. Now it seems to have found a home on smartphones and tablets as much as consoles or PCs, but I think the return to the latter platforms is inevitable. Even if the show goes away someday (it has to at some point, right?), we'll surely always have new videogames.

Futurama: Futurama is a bit like the Star Trek of animation--it just won't die and it can often do an amazing job of alternating between epic adventures and genuinely emotional landmark episodes. It can also be extremely funny, of course, and offers plenty of nods to geekdom (and videogames) while doing it (in fact, the whole show is a love letter to geeks). While it's a crime this didn't stay on Fox considering some of the other shows they've put on over the years, at least it seems safe - if with too few episodes per new season these days - on Comedy Central.

There was one mediocre Futurama game during the PS2 era. It's unlikely we'll see another, though this would make a great TellTale Games adventure game...

South Park: Another one that's been around forever and sometimes too much of a well-oiled machine, the topical world of South Park is still one worth visiting.

There have been some crappy South Park games mixed in with the (very) occasional solid effort, but the upcoming RPG, The Stick of Truth, looks like it's going to be awesome...

American Dad!: I have to admit, I have a backlog of episodes to watch from this new season, so for all I know it could have instantly tanked, but of all the Seth MacFarlane shows, this one always has had the most potential to do something interesting with its deeper-than-MacFarlane's-usual-characters, and often does.

This could make a solid videogame, but I just don't see it being popular enough to make one happen.

Family Guy: This one, among all the others, I was debating about, and is another show that relies a lot on its own past momentum. There have been too many times where the show has fallen back on the easy gag, going for the easy gross-out, or going for the easy shock value. What saves it besides the characters we've come to love is that it can still be very funny when all the elements come together.

The videogames have not been good to this point, though the license has not really been leveraged much for "real" games. The upcoming "Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse," based off of one of those really good (arguably, great) recent episodes, does look promising, though.

Here is an honorable mention:

Regular ShowRegular ShowRegular Show: We're slowly trying to get into this one. Though many of the characters are a mix of anthropomorphised animals and other bizarre mash-ups of things, the interesting themes often revolve around friendship, responsibility, and romantic relationships in a relatively mundane, every day setting. We're still trying to decide if it all works on a consistent basis, but so far it's pretty promising and it's certainly a favorite of many others, including the Emmys.

I also usually like or admire the following, though they just didn't quite make the cut for various reasons:
- Robot Chicken
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
- The Penguins of Madagascar
- The Cleveland Show

Avoid:
Brickleberry (occasionally funny, but too often goes for the easy gross-out or being outrageous over anything resembling substance; maybe they can right the ship one day)

Comments

Patty Remmell (not verified)
Cartoons

I also enjoy Adult Swim cartoons - the more disturbing the better - but those aren't for kids of course. I suppose my lifelong addiction to cartoons set me up for a healthy appreciation of the limits to which animation can be stretched. SuperJail comes to mind. And Metalocalypse. Destined to become classics.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Shows
Patty Remmell wrote:

I also enjoy Adult Swim cartoons - the more disturbing the better - but those aren't for kids of course. I suppose my lifelong addiction to cartoons set me up for a healthy appreciation of the limits to which animation can be stretched. SuperJail comes to mind. And Metalocalypse. Destined to become classics.

I haven't seen SuperJail, but Metalocalypse from the few episodes I've seen was only OK for me. Some of these shows appeal more to specific niches I think, which is cool in and of itself. The 15 minute shows overall tend to be hit or miss for me. I'll sometimes watch them, but I won't necessarily make a point to see them. I did enjoy "Morel Orel" a great deal though when that series ran (and concluded)--that was a great mix of everything, including satire and parody.

n/a
Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Wonderful post, Bill! I

Wonderful post, Bill! I haven't seen hardly any of these. The Loony Toons sitcom certainly sounds interesting. I agree with Patty on Metalocalypse; crude but fun just like a cartoon should be. ;)

I love that cartoons are maturing here in the US, since it seems a lot cheaper to do certain subjects this way than live action. Walking Dead is a case in point--they've done great work there, but it'd be so much easier to show really mutilated zombies if you were just drawing them instead of putting people in costume.

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
Shows
Matt Barton wrote:

Wonderful post, Bill! I haven't seen hardly any of these. The Loony Toons sitcom certainly sounds interesting.

If you have time you should check out the latest Looney Toons episode because it's a very good example of the type of sharp writing and utilization of characters I was talking about.

n/a
Robert G. (not verified)
Good list. Adventure Time is

Good list. Adventure Time is a great show! I so much wanted to hate Looney Tunes, but it is actually pretty good despite the modernizations and lack of Mel Blanc. I would have put Regular Show near the top of the list and would add the more adult-oriented Venture Bros.. Also Legend of Korra and Avatar are surprisingly good for episodic action series aimed at kids.

clok1966
Offline
Joined: 01/21/2009
man i think my age has made

man i think my age has made me imune to the new stuff. I have watched almost all of them except Gumball.. but i cant get into any. Adventure Time.. I remeber the you tube stuff about 2 years ago and i sure see alot of refrences to it, i watched one and new it wasnt for me.. it assumes wierd is clever.. (at least it seems that way to me)..
Most the others are good (I do not like south park, never did and a family member was part of the Jesus Vs Santa (and south park for 4 years) so i spose i should.. Pure a-hole rudness is funny in very short doses.. not 20 minutes of it.. but it does one thing awsome.. pokes fun at current culture in a way nobody dares to.. big thumbs up for that.. I miss King of the Hill, i prefer the suttle funny to cartoonish.. King of the hill was full of real things made funny, i liked that.. And Mike JUDGE is comedy goldmine in my opinion. Idiocracy is one of the VERY best movies of all time IMHO and should be required watching for anybody leaveing high school.

Last catoons i watched regular Ren & Stimpy (way wrong for kids, but for adults) the one that started the Kids cartoon for adults craze, This carton was wrong on so many levels.. but man it was funny. (unless you count Rocky and Bullwinkle.. watch one nowdays.. hoo Boy was that one done well in a time of censors.. they got as much by um as posssible)..

I truely love the Old popeye cartoons.. if you turn the volume up he is alwasy muttering funny stuff under his breath, stuff as a kid i never noticed..only about half of them where done by the people who added the muttering stuff (popeye) but if you find the right ones htey are gems..

I find it amazing how little there is on the comics i grew up on. Spiderman (the late 60's early 70's one) Rocket Robin Hood ( canada made so unless you were close to border you never heard of it) the Old Jonny QUests (they rocked), heck.. i gotta say I was a HUGE Scooby Doo fan (now talk about adult stuff.. dreg use, Velama being possilby gay, which they have denied (they said maybe just maybe on the drug stuff)) All the Sid and Marty Croft Live action stuff... Land of the Lost was awsome! Even today Slee-stac creep me out.. almost as much as the monky people.. Chaka was just flat creepy too! The banna Splits.. hippie animals driving in mini hot rods.. Hong Kong Phooey, Hair Bear Bunch, Speed Buggy, Capt Caveman, Grape Ape, Top cat, and of course Fat Albert.. and sorry I never liked Yogi, the jetsons or the flintstones much.. sitcoms are sitcoms even if they are cartoons (most the fox ones fall into this catagory for me, funny, but 20 minutes wasted).

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
While I realize nothing can

While I realize nothing can be for everyone, Clok, I'm a bit surprised about your take on Adventure Time. Like I mentioned in my short write-up, you won't really "get it" with one or two viewings because you need a little grounding/context in the universe. It's actually not as weird as it seems, has depth to both the stories and humor (though does occasionally go for the juvenile chuckle--it IS supposed to be a teenaged boy after all), often ends episodes without a clean wrap-up (sort of like a Monty Python skit), and will often pick-up plot points or storylines in far distant episodes. In other words, it's something that rewards you for investing the time in watching it.

To some of your other points... I always loved Ren & Stimpy, particularly the original run (always a fan of John K - his take on Mighty Mouse was brilliant!), but it got progressively awful over the years to the point of being unwatchable. It clearly became SOLELY gross and obnoxious after a point because there was nothing else left to sustain. It self destructed.

I am a fan of Mike Judge too, though his series he created towards the end of King of the Hill - the one with the eco family (I forget the name) - was pretty bad. I greatly enjoyed his Beavis and Butt-Head reboot - it was far sharper than the already excellent original, but I guess MTV just didn't have the interest in seeing it through long-term.

As for the age gap thing, that's probably true. Having my kids around helps. Sometimes I watch stuff just because they watch it and then get hooked myself. In my case, that's actually been a surprisingly good thing.

n/a
clok1966
Offline
Joined: 01/21/2009
i like but don't like
Bill Loguidice wrote:

While I realize nothing can be for everyone, Clok, I'm a bit surprised about your take on Adventure Time. Like I mentioned in my short write-up, you won't really "get it" with one or two viewings because you need a little grounding/context in the universe. It's actually not as weird as it seems, has depth to both the stories and humor (though does occasionally go for the juvenile chuckle--it IS supposed to be a teenaged boy after all), often ends episodes without a clean wrap-up (sort of like a Monty Python skit), and will often pick-up plot points or storylines in far distant episodes. In other words, it's something that rewards you for investing the time in watching it.

To some of your other points... I always loved Ren & Stimpy, particularly the original run (always a fan of John K - his take on Mighty Mouse was brilliant!), but it got progressively awful over the years to the point of being unwatchable. It clearly became SOLELY gross and obnoxious after a point because there was nothing else left to sustain. It self destructed.

I am a fan of Mike Judge too, though his series he created towards the end of King of the Hill - the one with the eco family (I forget the name) - was pretty bad. I greatly enjoyed his Beavis and Butt-Head reboot - it was far sharper than the already excellent original, but I guess MTV just didn't have the interest in seeing it through long-term.

As for the age gap thing, that's probably true. Having my kids around helps. Sometimes I watch stuff just because they watch it and then get hooked myself. In my case, that's actually been a surprisingly good thing.

i always hate when I comment negative.. I'm really not that negative a person.. much like help forums, you only see when it breaks, not the people coming to say "mine worked for 10 years, glad I bought it".. I do admit judging by a very few viewings is bad.. I watched the First episode of FireFly.. and can say i did a very loud MEH! but nowadays i really wish i had not, much like allot of people.

i think my main problem is i watch the start (I do keep up fairly well on hot stuff) but seldom much past.. Adventure time may require more viewing. Two of my good friends are huge into it and have had parties revolved around it.. So my opinion is purely based on some shorts (before it was TV) and one show from TV. easily not enough to judge it by.

Watching with Kids.. my ex GF kids and me used to watch a ton of comics.. back then it was Ren N Stimpy Hercules (Disney) and... POKEMAN and Dragon Ball (which i didn't like).. you do get some interest vested then, especially in stuff the has ongoing stories (dragonball..)

I know i say alot about anime inspired games.. But I do like alot of Anima.. if you consider that cartoons.. I don't.. but thought I would mention it.. about 70% of it is crap in my mind.. but thre are some gems.. Cowboy Bebop, Neon genisis-Evengline (even with the worst ending of a series ever) Ghost in a shell (which is sorta a half story and has so many HORRIBLE after shows) BLood (again a half story, but great.. unill the horrible series)

and a metric ton of other good ones, Black, hellsing, Dethnote, Bleach, Stiens:gate, bezerk, Rurouni Kenshin and.. and.. and...

nothing with huge boobed child girls.. not that they are not in may of the above ones.. but they are not the stars. of course this is a derail.. cartoons and anime are only the same int eh fact they are drawn.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/16/2006
Just out of curiosity, Bill,

Just out of curiosity, Bill, who controls the remote at your house? Do you let the girls watch whatever, or do you steer them toward certain ones? Or do they steer you?

n/a
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/31/1969
TV
Matt Barton wrote:

Just out of curiosity, Bill, who controls the remote at your house? Do you let the girls watch whatever, or do you steer them toward certain ones? Or do they steer you?

It's kind of organic. For the most part, the girls stick to Nickelodeon or Netflix (or YouTube) on their own. Otherwise, I'm in control (or Christina)--we also have quite a few shows set up to auto record on our DVR (including most of the shows I mentioned in the blog post), so we rarely watch anything live. Christina is more sensitive to what the girls watch than I am. I grew up with few to no viewing rules, so I don't impose much on the girls unless it's something really bad, or I anticipate something bad coming up in a show.

n/a

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.