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.


The Adventures of Pete & Pete

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.


Batman: The Animated Series

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!


Adventure Time

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.


The Ren & Stimpy Show

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.


Looney Tunes

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.


The Joy of Painting

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.


Pee-Wee's Playhouse

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.


Fraggle Rock

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.


Yo Gabba Gabba

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

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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I've read a lot of the comments and though there are a lot of good ones I wouldn't say that they were timeless as in you could watch them at any time and it could still stand to be rewatched int the future and have that shame freshness and watchability .



For Looney Toons they'd have to be all of them, the violent ones, the ones where they smoked and drank, and the ones that aren't edited for obvious racism. Really some of the PC needs to stop. Some suggested Sesame Street, but I say the SS before it turned into a huge commercial to make bank on Elmo. And the old Electric Company, and School House Rock. Those 3 were very helpful to me, even out of school it helped me a lot.



I'd add some of the Charlie Brown/Peanuts movies and series.

Freakazoid for the random hilarity that lasted for such a short time.

And just about any movie/show that uses the Jim Henson workshop.

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I laughed at the Ren & Stimpy description because my parents actually did not let me watch it.
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What about scooby doo? Cant leave it off!!

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We can and should in my humble opinion. For me, Scooby Doo was definitely one of those "Ugh I guess I'll watch it but only because the remote is out of batteries and Recess is on in 1/2hr so there's no point in doing something else" shows. Conversely I loved She-Ra, but I've never been entirely sure why...

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No Mr. Rogers?
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No love for the Amimaniacs? Any show that put a singing cat and an autistic dog together and still make it funny deserves some credit. And Mindy and Buttons might have been the same gag every week, but it was funny every week.
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Yes! Animaniacs!! Some of the jokes were way above kids heads. How about Lincoln trying to come up with a punchy opening line for Gettysburg and throwing way, "Ich bin eine jelly donut"? Hell, most adults won't get that one :) Or calling the Queen of England 'Sybil' because she keeps using the Royal 'We'?
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Fraggle Rock is the best show ever. Even if I was born the year the show ended my father taped every episode not only because he loved the show but because he knew his son would love it, and I do. Great characters, great music, funny, sad, even scary sometimes. I'm 24 and I still watch it ( altough my VHS is broken ) and is without a doubt one of the best shows ever for me.



Go Fraggle Rock!
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Pfft, I think real classics that are actually still timeless, mainly because they were ahead of thier own time are Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High - the new one doesn't even compare - and Press Gang. Both dealt with issues that kids and teens still face today and aren't exposed to any resource on how they might deal with it. Bullying, sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, race issues, bigotry, religion issues, drugs and effects, changing schools, getting in trouble, stealing, peer pressure. Kids shows these days deal with absolute crap!

Even light entertainment in my day has some sneaky moral in there that didn't hit hard, but hit home. Rugrats and the strength of friendship and the imagination, Twins of destiny and Tin Tin exposed us to other cultures and ways of living.

Ahhhh, memories... good times :o)
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Totally agree that the old Degrassi shows are better than the new incarnation.
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The Wiggles and Play School from Australia - both are about 20 years old and the kids today can't tell whether it's a brand new episode or one from the first season! They are education-focussed, but still awesome.
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I'd watch my favorite shows growing up on these various channels and weekday afternoon/weekend morning blocks: the Disney Afternoon, Fox Kids, Kids WB, ABC's One Saturday Morning, PBS Kids, USA's Cartoon Express, etc. Among my favorites are Peter Pan and the Pirates, Shining Time Station, CBS Storybreak, the ABC Weekend Specials, the Puzzle Place, the Noddy Shop, Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Kratts' Creatures, Under the Umbrella Tree, Reboot, My Brother and Me, Weinerville and many more. And to name the few shows I have bothered to check for from the 2000s and this decade that have since also become my favorites include House of Mouse, Fillmore, Jackie Chan Adventures, Wild Kratts and Word Girl. If I had kids right now, these are among what I'd show them. I used to be crazy about Ren & Stimpy, but not anymore. I guess that one could say that they were just a guilty pleasure for me before I even heard of the term. At the time, I had no idea that it had adult/mature undertones behind it and there are other shows I'd put way ahead of this one.
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1. Arthur 2, Foster's home For Imaginary Friends 3. That's So Raven 4. Recess 5. All That 6. The Proud Family 7. Filmore 8.Rugrats 9. Goosebumps 10. Ed, Edd, n Eddy
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Any of the Disney Afternoon shows of the late-80s and early to mid-90s. Especially DuckTales, Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, and Tale Spin. Even though there's a good bit of pop culture reference, the references are SO VARIED (I mean seriously, you have references to movies and pop-culture of the 30s and 40s mixed in with late-80s/90s) and you don't really need to "get" them to enjoy the rest of the show. It's a shame these have been entirely off the air for the last decade.
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Don't forget Goof Troop in that list. Goofy as a single dad. Talk about social commentary through a cartoon.
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I'm a TaleSpin fan myself.
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Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow, The Great Rollercoaster, Smurfs, GI Joe, Transformers, Scooby Doo,He-Man, and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
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Meant to say the Great Space Coaster. My bad.
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Boy Meets World! Love it and still watch it :)
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Ah the 90's, truly Nicks and CNs golden age.
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Fraggle Rock was awesome.
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The Smurfs, The Thundercats, Conan The Adventurer, Beast Wars, Count Duckula, Avatar: The Last Airbender = Awesome! Nickelodeon shows from the 90's for sure and many more. TV for kids today is pretty unimaginative and like the article said a launching pad for toys and merchandise. I guess older shows may have been too but there was more character development and story lines and an air of magic I just don't see in modern tv for kids.
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The Jetson's , Flintstones, Speed Racer, Scooby Doo The SuperFriends plus the spinoffs
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Although its not terribly old at this point, I feel like Avatar: The Last Airbender, will be one of those shows you could show to kids years from now, and it will still be awesome, and I think that's largely due to the fact that its loved by people of all ages, not just kids, which gives it a great deal of staying power.
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I completely agree and was about to say the same thing. I started watching it when I was 12 and finished watching when I was 15 or so. I'm going to be attending college in the fall and I still go to Netflix and re-watch old episodes. The story-lines were very intricate and there were a lot of complex and conflicted characters. I will definitely show my kids this one day.
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Also, how can Adventure Time be timeless? Hasn't that show been on Cartoon Network since 2010?
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Recess, Rugrats, Doug, Pepper Ann, Animanics, Rocko's Modern Life, Mickey Mouse Works, The Powerpuff Girls, Sailor Moon, and The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh were among my faves.
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I can tell that you must be exactly the same age as me - I agree with this whole list! I would also add in early Pokemon and Hey Arnold though.
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Sailor Moon...now THAT is timeless!!! Also, TwoTone, how can you not mention the very show of your avatar, "My Little Ponies"?
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oh... and gummi bears...
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punky brewster, anyone remember that one? button moon, nightmare, jamie and the magic torch, roland rat (cant forget him and his friends, "nyaha, rat fans"), muppet babies, how2, paddington bear, and why has no one mentioned worzel gummidge? or supergran? plus most of brendyman's below but won't write them all again,
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Pugwall,dangermouse,superted,the flintstones, top cat, spiderman, poddington peas, ducktales, count duckula,trap door, bananaman, smurfs,the moomins (mental), babar (also mental), biker mice from mars,sharky and george, saved by the bell, round the twist,the magic roundabout and rupert. sorry for the spelling.
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Round the Twist! Only watched that about 100 times in primary school haha
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you forgot raggy dolls? lol
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just realised you wrote nightmare. that show freaked me out as a kid. think i'd thought the contestants actually snuffed it when they failed. funhuse! haha
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haha i knew there was one. although he-man was another. nightmare, planet of the apes and the borrowers.

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What about the ABC After School Specials? And, does anyone remember the Tomorrow People (the original and the remake)? I guess no one here would even have heard of Kikaida, Kamen Rider V-3, or Battle Fever J (one of the pre-Power Rangers, Super Sentai, series)? ;D Personally, I loved Sesame Street, the Electric Company, the X-Men (original animated series), the Real Ghost Busters (original animated series), Looney Tunes (before they started to edit it to make it 'less violent'), and Fraggle Rock.
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Thank you someone else who knows of The Tomorrow People. A good series both the original and the remake but sadly I feel that with current times with all of the similar programming that is or was on it wouldn't be considered timeless despite how good it was especially that so few people know of it. It will get lost in the list of shows with people with special talents. Mutant X, Tower Prep, Heroes, Alphas, and etc.
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Scooby Doo, Where Are You? (and several of the other Scooby Doo cartoons), Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Looney Tunes, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, Square One TV, The Muppet Show, Muppet Babies, Care Bears, Clarissa Explains it All, etc...
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I loved Pete & Pete!! Also Clarissa explains it all, X-men (the original one), I think this one was always airing back to back with Power rangers, haha... Are you afraid of the dark was awesome for a while, and when I was 6 or 7 I used to simply looove Mr. Roger's neighborhood. I never really liked Pee-wee, and I hated and still can't stand ren and stimpy...

I also watched a lot of star trek growing up, lol...
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Recess!!
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Thinking of animated series but what about "The Tick", "Muppet Babies" or even the original "X-Men" series. For non-animated what about "The Muppet Show" and "Reading Rainbow"? If you're really going for 'timeless' over just good, then I also think "Sesame Street" HAS to be included.
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Mr. Dressup. Not sure if that was ever shown int he US but it's a Canadian staple. Also, Inspector Gadget? That's pretty awesome.
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agreed, inspector gadget, along with m.a.s.k. and dennis were every weekend viewing for me as a kid in uk, we didn't get mr dressup tho?
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Lamb Chop's Play-Along. I've been catching reruns on a random cable channel, and I didn't realize how clever the show was back when I was a little girl. Plus, there are fun crafts and games for kids that haven't become dated over time, and then you add in the masterful ventriloquism of Shari Lewis, and you've got timeless children's television.
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Was that random channel KTV by chance? I have DISH network and that is channel 264 at my house. I bet that is the random cable channel your thinking of.



Since my house wasn't blessed with cable back then (late 80s-mid 90s), I found myself watching alot of PBS programming and I do remember watching that show.



Ahhh, good times.
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You're joking about "Yo Gabba Gabba", right? I have a very high level of tolerance for kids' shows, and this one puts me on edge. Aside of some ultra-cool cameos (and Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo is a REGULAR?), this show is barely watchable. Actually, there are only 2 on this list that I wouldn't mind my daughters watching: "Looney Tunes" and "Fraggle Rock".
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You're so right! What makes Yo Gabba Gabba timeless? It may be popular, but it's not timeless.
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How can you not have Barney and the Wiggles.As foster parents for over 10 years these are the two shows all of the kids watch.Looney Tunes, Thomas the Tank Engine, Scooby-Doo, Fireman Sam, Power Rangers, Tom & Jerry, Bob the Builder, Dora would be the top ten of the kids we have had over the years. Just got back from seeing the Wiggles live.Great show and sad to see Greg,Jeff & Murray leaving.
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I totally agree with you with the Wiggles, but I am so thankful that neither of my daughters EVER liked Barney or Dora. As a matter of fact, they particularly can't stand Dora (they're 7 and 9, and have NEVER liked it).
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I'm a little surprised Phineas and Ferb didn't make this list
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No Captain Kangaroo? No Mr. Rogers?
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I dont understand why you dont listed Thunderbirds!!!!

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more of a captain scarlet fan
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Seeing "Batman: The Animated Series" on this list brings back memories. I never missed that show during its original run. Don't forget the very entertaining movie "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm."
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Well they remembered about Harley Quinn making the jump from cartoon to comic but forgot about Renee Montoya. Guess they only love the lunatics.
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Captain Planet!
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...Seriously. We're omitting The Muppet Show from the list?



Jim Henson creates multiple characters that have survived multiple generations and you're going to pretend it's not a 10 children's show. For shame.

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I will be the first to admit that "The Muppet Show" is one of the all time greats. However I would not categorize it as a children's show.
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Agreed. There's a LOT of more adult humor in the Muppet Show. Granted it's done in a way that will likely fly over the head of kids, but it's definitely geared more towards adults. Or at the very least whole-family viewing.
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I adored Bob Ross! Watched it with my father all the time. He found it hilarious how Ross could always find a place for a tree somewhere.
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I loved the Adventures of Pete & Pete!! The intro song and those absurd characters... I lived for 90's Nickelodeon. Aaaand my nostalgia is quickly replaced by the sadness of adulthood.
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BTAS FTW! That cartoon was a classic, and ended up having a lot of influences on the comics. Hell they handled characters such as Mr. Freeze and Mad Hatter far better than the comics did before that, while doing justice to all the rest. It was also notable for having actual gunfire and not the cheesy laser fire that other toons had. I think of it as a mature show that kids can watch, because it did have a lot of real deep moments.
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To me it just seems like this is a very personal, nostalgic list rather than something done a little more seriously. The Joy of Painting, Pete & Pete and not, I dunno, Sesame Street or the Muppet Show? Zim and Batman (which are no doubt great) but no Hanna-Barbera cartoons? I think you need a different title.
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Recess, Spongebob, Cyberchase, Fairlyodd parents, and ATLA.
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Spongebob: Worst. Cartoon. Ever.
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If there's any old time cartoon lovers out there, head on over to my page on fb; Best Cartoons growing up :) please like the page and post as much nostalgic classics as you possibly can..
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Nostalgia! Pete & Pete, My Brother and Me, Clarissa Explains It All, Salute Your Shorts, I could go on! I though about when you said about Sonny With A Chance. Lol. Wow. I thought about some of the lines on the shows.
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Oh yeah! & Ghost Writer and The Torkelsons (& its spin off 'Almost Home'). Where r these damn dvds!
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Are you afraid of the dark, Caitlyns way, Shelby-woo, Doug & the one show no one EVER mentions but is amazing till this day--- Wonder Years! You dont understand how excited I was to find it on netflix! :)
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if you remember wonder years do you remember eerie, indiana? that and wonder years screened every thursday between 6 and 7 pm for years in uk
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Joy of Painting over the likes of Avatar, Gargoyles, Scooby F'n Doo, TRANSFORMERS, and Animaniacs/Pinky & The Brain... sure the show was engaging, but hardly timeless by comparison.



Your definition of timeless is a little odd, I must say. In general the list was pretty good... better than most 10 best lists on the 'net.
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I totally think Pepper Ann should be on this list! It is a great cartoon for those kids that think they are too old for watching cartoons. dealt with a lot of tween girl problems, boys, pimples... totally related to this day
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Nobody said Ahhhh Real Monsters. If you are real 90's kid then you watched.
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