Monday, January 11, 2010

"Television Tastes Funny"

When I was a kid, I loved after-school and Saturday morning cartoons. I don’t know that my television intake was excessive, I was never a big fan of evening live-action sitcoms or dramas except Mash. But I adored cartoons and watched them all the way through high school and beyond. There were all the classics: Looney Toons, Woody Woodpecker and Tom & Jerry, and then more ‘current’ cartoons like Scooby Doo and its millions of formulaic knock-offs, and later the Smurfs, Inspector Gadget and Robotech were big favorites of mine.

It’s tempting to think that “those were the good old days” and that today’s cartoons just aren’t of the same caliber. I do believe there was a fallow period in kids’ animation not long ago. For some reason, many cartoons were drawn in a style to make the characters as absolutely unappealing as possible. Sloppy-looking forms with thin, wavy lines and asymmetrical features, along with a focus on excessive body humor and just general grossness make shows like Ed, Edd and Eddy, Rugrats and their ilk unwatchable to me. Possibly I never gave them a fair shake, since my kids were too little to watch them and I wasn’t interested at that point in my life.

I’m happy to say there are a few smart, funny kids’ cartoons on Cartoon Network these days, most of which I have to admit I haven’t sat down and actually watched, but have more absorbed as I putz around the house when my kids are watching. There’s still a great deal of body humor and some things are downright disgusting, but I love hearing references to the pop-culture of my generation, just as I’m sure my parents found a lot of Buggs Bunny’s wise cracks funnier than I ever did, because they were directly targeted at them, not us. In fact, I think what makes for the best cartoons is that multi-level humor: the kids find the drawings and situations silly and enjoyable and the adults can dig into the subtext and innuendo.

In particular, I am quite fond of the Cartoon Network shows Johnny Test and Chowder. Johnny Test is fairly straightforward but Chowder, while being one of the most creative cartoons I’ve seen stylistically speaking, also derives most of its humor from wordplay, for which I am a total sucker. (The rest of its humor comes from bodily functions, which I could do without, and the sheer talent of the young boy who voices the title character.) I find myself giggling at things my kids just don’t get and at the same time, I enjoy some of the catch phrases bandied around the house now such as, “Whoa. Didn’t see that coming.” and “Bacon-WHAT-Lettuce-WHAT-Tomatoes-WHAT!”

Flapjack, a show about an angelic little boy being raised by a whale and a ne’er-do-well sailor in an old-time rough-and-tumble seaport can be pretty funny at times, but also has moments of downright creepiness (lots of moments, actually). I’m not sure how I feel about that one overall; it’s inconsistent.

Lastly, a nod to Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends which isn’t a new show, but is fairly new to me. It’s highly stylized animation takes getting used to, but as I’ve gotten to know the characters, I have found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions and repeating dialog with my kids and even my husband. Seriously, the episode “Mac Daddy,” in which the character of Cheese is introduced, is without a doubt one of the funniest single pieces of animation I have ever seen. It has become, for my family, what the animated one-episode show “The Family Dog” was to my family of origin. Few days pass without someone referencing some quote from the uncomfortably weird dude with no personal boundaries or ability to interpret social cues. In fact, the title of this blog is a Cheese-ism. I highly recommend getting a taste of this character.

1 comment:

  1. Rebekah, I agree - multi-generational cartoons (or animated movies, for that matter) are delightful. :)