TV's 10 Most Timeless Kids' Shows
I know this might sound like the ravings of an old lady, but kids' shows these days can be pretty lame. Most of them are either made to serve as launching pads for future Disney superstars, or they're so obsessed with being "in the now" that they ruin any chance of re-watchability. What will today's kids show their children when they're feeling nostalgic—Sonny with a Chance? Ugh, I hope not; what I'm interested in are the shows that could air at any point in time, for people of any age, and everyone would go, "Oh, this is cool!" And so here are the ten "kids' shows" that I think are the most timeless, in that I love watching them even to this day.
Oh, the '90s. The Adventures of Pete & Pete follows two brothers named Pete who make their own adventures. They aren't special, they're just kids who've turned their suburban lives into mysterious places, and we are lucky enough to tag along with them as they try to thwart bedtimes by refusing to sleep, or answer a pay phone that's been ringing for years. There are plenty of celebrity cameos (Michael Stipe, Steve Buscemi, LL Cool J) that may date it a bit, but the creators completely captured the feeling of being a child and believing that things are more mysterious than they seem.
Inspired by the Tim Burton Batman movies on the early '90s, Batman: The Animated Series took itself seriously. The art style was coined as "Dark Deco," the voice-acting was top-notch, and the storylines were incredibly engrossing. This show was so good that when the its writers invented a sidekick for The Joker named Harley Quinn, DC Comics loved her so much that she was added her to the comic books. Impressive!
14-year-old Finn and his magical shape-shifting dog Jake are the heroes of this completely insane show, which began as a short on Nickelodeon and now airs on Cartoon Network. The art style is beautiful and imaginative, the plotlines are engrossing and bizarre, and the writing is sharp and funny. I have no idea if any actual children watch Adventure Time, since I only know adults who do, you could've shown it to kids 50 years ago and you could show it to kids 50 years from now, and they'd all think Jake was the coolest.
It's absolutely amazing to me that anyone allowed their children to watch The Ren & Stimpy Show in the '90s; it's dark, gross, nihilistic, and absolutely bizarre. Just watch the "Space Madness" episode, where Ren narrates losing his mind while he and Stimpy embark on a space mission, and try to tell me this series couldn't be part of Adult Swim's current lineup. There are no pop culture references, there's no cutesy pandering... just two super-weird animals that would be impossible to cuddle.
Gotta respect the classics. Since the '40s, Looney Tunes has featured a fully developed cast of characters that have motivations, flaws, hopes, and dreams. It never occurred to me as a child that they weren't real. I had seen them getting mad at each other and making mistakes! Today, my 4-year-old goddaughter adores Bugs just as much as I did, because outsmarting hunters never gets old.
Okay, this one isn't supposed to be a joke, but I'm aware that this show may not age well. I'm aware that kids watching the show today would probably be like, "What is WITH that guy's hair?!" But Bob Ross's soothing voice and "anyone can paint" attitude are both timeless, and I spent many days in awe of him as a kid, watching a painting full of happy little trees appear out of nothing.
You know who kids love? Pee-Wee Herman, that's who. He's silly and funny and he respects kid intelligence... plus he has friends who are chairs that come alive. I showed Pee-Wee's Playhouse to an 8-year-old a few years ago, and she rolled her eyes and said, "This is dumb," but she was glued to the TV for the entire episode. Pee-Wee used live action, puppets, claymation, animation, and repeated themes to keep everyone hooked. He made everyone feel like a kid, and he still does.
With Fraggle Rock, Jim Henson created a full and complete world that just happened to be located directly under our feet, full of monsters, cute muppetfolk who wore sweaters, and little tiny creatures, not to mention singing. When I was a kid in the '80s, I absolutely believed that there were magical creatures who lived where we couldn't see them, and Fraggle Rock only confirmed that. Watching it now, you still get the sense of how fully developed the world was, and you can appreciate the work that went into the puppetry. Puppets never cease to impress kids.
This show is a juggernaut of awesome. Created by two hip dads who found themselves annoyed with kids programming, Yo Gabba Gabba is hipster Sesame Street—you get story time, lessons on basic skills and etiquette, songs, and more celebrity cameos than you can shake a stick at. This show is for kids, but more than that, it's for parents who are trying to avoid the seduction of the minivan. Everyone's happy.
Invader Zim aired on Nickelodeon in the early 2000s, and though kids didn't seem all that impressed with the show when it was on, it's another show that has a huge cult following of adults. Zim is an incompetent alien who, in the first episode, is assigned to conquer a mystery planet, which is a slightly more advanced Earth. The show is a bit cynical, very violent, and gorgeous to look at. Just consider the episode where Zim collects human organs in order to appear more human and you'll see what I mean.
When I consider this list I've made, it seems like for me, the most timeless kids' shows are the ones that don't talk down to their audience, the shows that challenge their viewers to meet them in a weird place for some clever entertainment. She-Ra just doesn't fit the bill (seriously, I bought the entire box set and it is unwatchable). But I'm sure I still left a million shows out! What kids' shows do you consider to be timeless? What shows did you watch that you'll be showing your children? Share 'em in the comments.
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