The ten best children's shows not meant for children
We miss Saturday mornings sometimes, when we would run downstairs filled with sugary cereal and spend the day watching cartoons and "educational programming." Even though these days we're well aware of the alphabet (some of us, at least -- mostly those that don't comment articles on the internet) and the names of colors, we still crave an animated dog or a puppet coming round into our living rooms and teaching us lessons. And for those folks, here are ten children's shows that aren't actually (entirely) for children.
10. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Four turtles and a ninjas master are covered in toxic waste. The turtles are mutated into humanoid form. The human is mutated into a humanoid rat. The rat teaches the turtles to be ninjas and they live in the sewer, protecting New York City from the evil Shredder, his gang of ninja (robots), The Foot and Krang, an alien brain who has been banished from Dimension X, where he was a warlord.
You could also summarize it this way: A bunch of ninjas use lethal weapons to kill one another on the gritty streets of New York city. The not-a-kids-show nature of TMNT gets even more interesting when you take into account their original origin from the black-and-white comics, which were originally conceived as a parody of Frank Miller's Daredevil, where a mutated superhero (Daredevil) learns ninjitsu from a wise old master (Stick) to fight evil ninjas in New York (The Hand). Get it?
9. Sifl and Olly
Created by mad geniuses Liam Lynch and Matt Crocco, Sifl and Olly are sock puppets that mostly say and sing offensive things in between music videos. They would take angry calls from their landlord, interview inanimate objects/concepts (like Death or Orgasm), and report fake news about celebrities (usually Bjork). They shot three seasons, only two of which aired, and the show effectively launched the careers of the cult artists that created it.
Here's a list of things I didn't know about when I was seven years old: Jerry Lewis. Goodfellas. Gilbert and Sullivan. The Agony and the Ecstacy. MAJOR SEXUAL INNUENDO. All of these were present in spades on Animaniacs, which snuck so many jokes past the censors you start to wonder if any of them were even awake during the day.
From jokes about "fingering" to the confusion between "conjugate" and "copulate," Animaniacs was downright filthy for a kid's show, but smart enough to realize most of the jokes would sail right over kids heads into the waiting ears of parents forced to sit with their babies and watch this crap.
7. Paddington Bear
Paddington, in his little hat and blue coat, stuffin' down marmalade and cocoa, is absolutely adorable. The animation style is whimsical, his adventures are light and fun, filled with slapstick and proper-sounding British accents, but none of that changes the fact that Paddington Bear is full of some dark, dark shit.
Found on a train station platform with a suitcase and a note reading "Please look after this bear," Paddington Bear was based on his creator's memories of Child Evacuees leaving London during World War II. It's later revealed that he was sent from Peru by his Aunt Lucy, who took him in after he was orphaned in an Earthquake. When she was sent to a home for Retired Bears, Aunt Lucy sent Paddington away via lifeboat with only a few jars of marmalade for sustenance -- when he reaches London he's nearly starving, and his hunger mixed with his cultural differences cause him to make a fool of himself in a tea shop. Luckily, his ignorance ignites the pity of a nice English family, the Browns, and they take him in and teach him about school and the fun of British beaches (that must've been a short episode).
The Browns adopted exotic children from third-world countries while Angelina Jolie was still wearing Billy Bob Thorton's blood in a vial around her neck.
6. South Park
It's become a vehicle for biting social commentary, but in it's heyday, the four foul-mouthed kids from South Park were a lot more like, well, real kids. And the concept of the show started out "Hey, let's make a kids' cartoon and fill it with offensive stuff." That fact, however, doesn't make the show, even as it started, less ingenious -- there had really never been a show that so handily encapsulated the reality of being a little boy in America, when poop is funny and "dildo" is hilarious because you're not entirely sure what one really is. Our local boys took the idea of a kid's show, and they made it punk rock.