Criminally Underrated Cartoons I Strongly Recommend
description: Clones of historical figures attend high school together. A parody of teen drama’s, Clone High hits every trope and cliche and parodies them mercilessly. The comedy comes in both zany physical gags and dialogue dripping in self awareness. Every plot is a cliche taken up to eleven, hence surpassing the cliche and becoming something else entirely. The jokes range from intelligent to low-brow to absurd. I’m trying to recall an early Teletoon promo and I believe it went something like; “it’s about a girl who’s in love with a guy who’s in love with a girl who’s in love with a guy who hates the guy that loves to party.” Every character is broad, but it’s that type of show.
strengths: Writing. This is one of those shows written for writers. Also, the voice acting. The cast is great and the line reads themselves can get really funny.
weaknesses: The stylized art style may turn some people off. Also, if you hate love triangles to the point where you can’t even see them deconstructed and satirized, well…
where to watch: YouTube, DVD, Kisscartoon
F is for Family
description: This show follows the everyday lives of the Murphy’s, a lower middle class family living in the early 70′s. Frank is a Korean war veteran who gave up his dream of becoming an airline pilot to raise his son and quickly marry his girlfriend due to her unplanned pregnancy. The show is far more subtle compared to it’s predecessors such as the Simpsons or American Dad. It’s more comparable to early seasons of Rosanne or Married With Children, in that it is the subversion of the family sitcom (or animated family sitcom in this case). The show has a slow, more realistic pace focusing on everyday aspects of life. Heavily character and relationship based. But don’t get the impression this show is quite. The arguments, for example are highly volatile and realistic.
strengths: Writing, character, dialogue based humour, subtle but unpredictable stories.
weaknesses: The art style and animation are rather average and I find that gives people an inaccurate impression of what this show is going to be. Believe me, the writing far makes up for that.
where to watch: Netflix, Kisscartoon
description: Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man follows Eric Duckman, a put upon private investigator and recently widowed husband and father. Along with his dry-witted and multi-talented partner Cornfed they solve… Well, Cornfed solves them anyways. This relic of the early nineties is often described as “ahead of it’s time”, although I find it to be very much a product of it’s time with perhaps a little more freedom than the average network show. This description likely has to do with the fact that many of the issues satirized in Duckman are still relevant, if not more so, today. Duckman is a fast-paced, action/comedy/family bastardization of a sitcom.
strengths: Writing, big time, in terms of humour and character. Duckman’s personality leaps off the screen and the comedy is quirky and strange enough to not feel stale, even after such a long time. I personally find the stylized art and fluid animation to be a large strength as well.
weaknesses: Some may find Duckman too reprehensible to sympathize with. The semi-regular pop culture references are also rather dated (though some may find this charming). Finally, the female characters, while well-written, tend to be under used.
where you can watch: YouTube, DVD, Shomi
description: A stop-motion deconstruction of small town Christian America. The series follows Orel Puppington on his quest to be a good christian. Basically, the show plays on the idea of the towns populace seeming perfect at first glance, but slowly (or sometimes not so slowly) we see the facade slip. Season 1 mainly follows a simple episodic formula with very broad humour typical of Adult Swim (at least at the time). Season 2 is where the more realistic tone and character based plot sets in, season 1 sets it up however. By season 3 many consider the show “too good to succeed”.
strengths: Character, character, character! Character development is by far it’s biggest strength. The show also has a very cute art style which is not only visually appealing, but perfectly contrasts with dark subtexts.
weaknesses: Season one’s humour may not be everyones cup of tea (though personally, I enjoy it). On the opposite of the spectrum, season 3 can get quite depressing. To the point where, although I enjoy the artistic value of the episodes, some can leave me emotionally drained due to the overall nihilism and bleakness of the world it creates.
where you can watch: DVD (season 1 and part of season 2 only), Kisscartoon
description: This action/adventure/sci-fi/comedy show started as a send-up Johnny Quest type shows of the 60′s and 70′s, though by the second season it really became less of a parody and more of an entry into the genre itself, only with copious effort and talent actually put into it. If you like character development, stories that unfold sporadically throughout seasons, weird unexpected characters being killed off and dialogue based humour this is the show for you. Venture Brothers is the type of show you have to watch a few times to get everything out of an episode. Rarely is anything spelled out to the audience, this is a show that loves subtext and referencing previous events without reminding you of it beforehand.
strengths: Writing, character development, animation, continuity, character driven.
weaknesses: I honestly don’t know if I can list any. I guess season one is a little hokey, but I still like it. Though, the first few episodes don’t do a great job drawing the viewer in and I find most first time viewers don’t really start to enjoy the show until “Mid-Life Chrysalis” or “Eeny Meeny Miney Magic”. Also, don’t start with the pilot. It’s non-canon and it’ll probably just confuse you.
where you can watch: DVD, Kisscartoon, AdultSwim.com (when it’s airing, not sure if they host it inbetween because I can only access AS.ca here in Canada)