I feel like this is a trick topic, Beal. I either go with shows that are for kids but are so brilliant that they transcend age (which is tough enough) or I admit something wholly embarrassing. Knowing how lazy I am, I think you did this because you knew I’d just go for embarrassing.
5. Tiny Toons- How I Spent My Summer Vacation (slightly embarrassing/slightly genius)
The old “baby version of characters” gimmick is nothing new, really (thank you, Muppet Babies) but Buster and Babs Bunny are so fantastically removed from Bugs Bunny that it takes you a moment to remember that all these tiny toons are, in fact, based on their Acme famous predecessors.
I’m probably going to cause a rift in the time-space-cartoon-pop culture continuum when I say this- as much as I loved Animaniacs, when it comes to Steven Spielberg’s cartoon ventures, I prefer Tiny Toons. Why? It’s Babs. It’s all Babs. She KILLS me. She’s shrill, she’s completely crazy and she does an amazing Katharine Hepburn impression. And yeah, the Animaniacs have all those fantastic grown-up references too- Yacko with his Groucho Marx act, Wacko as Ringo Starr but… Babs is funnier. She just is. And I would watch all of How I Spent My Summer Vacation right now if given the chance.
4. Goofy’s “How To” Series (’40s and ’50s)- (mostly embarrassing)
First of all… ALL OF THESE CARTOONS ARE ON YOUTUBE. I don’t even know what to say. Having discovered this TREASURE TROVE of my childhood, I can honestly say that this deserves a spot on my list if only for my very honest reaction to this discovery- which was to make a kind of shrieking glee noise combined with an awkward hand clap, a move which, if I debuted it at a bar, would surely “raise a lot of money for my problem.”
Technically, these cartoons can’t really be labeled as a “show” per se but I’m so excited right now, I could care less what this list is about. CARTOONS. LEGIT CARTOONS.
Taxidermy Tech. Oh, Goofy, you slay me.
3. The Adventures of Pete and Pete- 1993-1996 (totally genius)
And now we move to the Nickelodeon Surrealist era (Also known as The Ren & Stimpy Era) for my favorite Nick show of all time. In this world, there are two boys- Pete and Pete. Their mom has a metal plate in her head that picks up radio signals, their dad is a Homer-like oaf whose claim to fame is that once a year on vacation he gets to be King of the Road in their family station wagon. Little Pete is best friends with Artie The Strongest Man in the World (really a skinny man in pajamas who likely stopped taking his medication), Big Pete is best friends with a GIRL (I said it was surreal), there’s a lot of crazy drama, “time travel” (aka Daylight Savings), escapades like staying up all night and staring into the sun, the mystery of Johnny Unitus, and endeavors like beating up the ocean. And a scandalous tattoo named Petunia. Favorite episode? The school assembly- Adam West and a lot of creamed corn. That’s all I’m going to say.
Other notable things- great theme song, an appearance by Luscious Jackson (remember them?), Michelle Tractenberg (pre-Buffy, pre-Harriet the Spy, pre-Gossip Girl), Iggy Pop, Michael Stipe, Bebe Neuwerth and many more.
2. Kids Incorporated– 1984-1993 (COMPLETELY EMBARRASSING)
Before Hannah Montana, before American Idol, there was a show about five kids who inexplicably work in a kids-only nightclub, performing popular hits of the day in costumes that routinely included denim jackets, bedazzled headbands and leg warmers, when they’re not getting into completely absurd adventures that force them to burst into musical numbers in the street in front of their dance hall. I can’t believe I just typed that sentence and didn’t burst into flames.
This is one of those situations where I can’t tell if my pure enjoyment is coming from the quality of the performances, nostalgia, CRAZY denial, or an understanding that “this show is ridiculous which makes it really funny.” Having said that, if it were on TV right now, I would Season Pass it before you could say Hot Tamale Train. I’ve clearly lost my ability to think clearly here.
I have three last things to add.
1) Ryan is awful. AWFUL. The sweet graphics make up for him (barely).
2) Why isn’t there a modern-day show based on this format? Haven’t we learned by now that the kids today dig the musical numbers? The kids from Kids Inc. would kick those High School Musical kids’ asses. I’m sure Mario Lopez would be all-too willing to get back on drums.
3) Speaking of which, Fergie, Mario Lopez- whatever. It’s all about Gloria (yes, I remember her name- that’s why I have this job). Look how committed she is to this performance. It’s INSPIRING. She’s like 25 and she’s playing a 16 year old. She’s so psyched about this job and she dances like she’s having a seizure. I love her.
1. Sesame Street– 1969 to Present (a national treasure/genius)
Ok, yes, I am one of those nerds who loves PBS. I get all excited when that West Wing episode comes on when Toby is defending “Miss Julia Child and the muppets” from those idiots who think PBS is for rich people.
Until recently however (hello to my nieces and nephew), I was unaware that Sesame Street is as awesome as it used to be, perhaps even more so. Even beyond Law & Order: Special Letters Unit and completely ignoring Elmo’s World (I think everyone born before 1989 prefers Grover, am I right?), there is still something remarkably soothing about watching footage of a kid in Alaska getting ready to go to school in the icy wilderness and how crayons are made, etc etc. Plus people like Tina Fey, Jack Black and Paul Rudd show up occasionally. Yes, Yes, and Yes.