Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about animated shows, some from my childhood, some on TV right now, that never got the appreciation they deserved. Either they were dismissed for various reasons, cancelled before their time, or had facets that went completely over the heads of most critics (and sometimes combinations of all three!), it seems like a lot of animated shows never get the accolades they deserve- as sometimes they can be some of the best stuff on television.
So I present to you, my opinion on the top 5 most underrated animate shows.
5. China, IL
If you haven’t seen this brilliant series (pronounced ‘China, Illinois’) on Adult Swim, you’ve been missing out. From the mind of Brad Neely (whom many of you will recognize as the genius behind Wizard People, Dear Reader), China, IL delves straight into Neely’s comically demented world and was critically lauded by The A.V Club and The New York Times after its first season. Not bad for a show you’ve probably never watched, right?
Never fear, though, you’re not too late! China, IL has been renewed for a second season with even longer episodes (30 minutes instead of 11). And if you haven’t seen Wizard People, Dear Reader, just go google it now. We’ll wait.
4. South Park
This one will probably come as a surprise to most of you. South Park is a fairly well-known show, and has certainly seen its fair share of controversy over the years, but I would still argue that it is underappreciated. Why? Because when most people think about South Park (especially those who haven’t watched the show), their brain tends to come up with fart jokes, violence, and bad language. And, undeniably, all of these things definitely do hold a place in South Park.
But the most important aspect of the show is its brutal and unflinching satire. Looking past the dick jokes, you’ll see that South Park is and has always been one of the most clever animated shows out there, competing with The Simpsons in its heyday for lampooning social issues, religion, and cultural phenomenons. South Park spares none, and over the years, their refusal to back down has caused more controversy than the fact that it’s a very adult show that gets accused of masquerading as something designed for children. One episode is all you need to see to confirm that there is literally nothing in South Park, not the poor animation, not the ultraviolence, not the music, that is designed to appeal to children.
3. Adventure Time
Possibly the most obvious addition to this list- Adventure Time really defies all expectations. It’s fun enough for kids to love, smart enough for adults to love, and has a ridiculously wide-ranging group of voice talent behind it. The writing is clever and witty, the characters lovable, and the references abound. There really is nothing not to like about Adventure Time. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably heard the hype about it. It’s well-earned.
Futurama was a show that was ridiculously underappreciated in it’s initial run- it always played second fiddle to The Simpsons, and many people ignored it as just a sort of sci-fi version of that show. Of course, it was anything but. Futurama was incredibly clever, unabashedly hilarious, and is by far the nerdiest animated show on television. During its initial run it amassed a cult following that kept it from being cancelled once, and then thanks to the success of four straight-to-DVD feature lengths, it was brought back on the air seven years after everyone involved was told by FOX to pack it in.
While the modern iteration of the show may have bowed to the pressure of shows like Family Guy to become more sexualized and more vulgar, it still retains its nerdy spirit, featuring all manner of references and jokes in the background for attentive viewers. On top of that, the first four seasons of the show (1999 – 2003) remain to this day among the best and funniest animated television ever made.
1. Clone High
Surprised, Wesley? You shouldn’t be. Clone High, now nearly a decade old, is the single most prolific, hilarious and tragic animated show I have ever seen. If you haven’t heard of it, the premise is simple, if odd: Scientists in the 1980s decide to dig up famous celebrities, politicians, and cultural icons and use their DNA to make clones. The clones, during the time of the show, have now grown into teenagers, and attend Clone High, the local high school in a town built specifically for all of the clones and their adoptive families.
The show is unique on this list for being the perfect blend of silly, outrageous humor with truly heartfelt and emotionally-gripping moments. The show treats itself like a drama, but it’s so obviously making fun of after-school specials that all of the drama is tongue-in-cheek. Phil Lord, the brilliant mind behind the show, is also responsible for such wonders as Scrubs, and the recent completely hilarious film remake of 21 Jump Street.
Tragically, Clone High was cancelled after just one season, quite unexpectedly, so the creators never got a chance to resolve anything. MTV bowed to the pressure of protesters in India who weren’t happy with the show’s portrayal of Gandhi one of the main characters. Over the years, Clone High has developed a cult following, and it can still be found airing on certain tv stations, late at night. The first season can also be snagged on DVD. I highly recommend it- and because the show is so short, if you’re determined you can watch all of it in 5 – 6 hours.
So what do you think, TV fans? Is there anything on this list that you’d disagree with? Anything you think should’ve made it on the list? Let us know in the comments!