Wednesday, December 7, 2011
The Growing Awesomeness of Kid's TV Programming
As anyone who was born in the late 80's/early 90's can attest, our generation is pretty obsessed with the cartoons that Nickelodeon and other kids' programming networks produced in the early 90s. Ask anyone of our age group what their favorite 90's Nicktoon is and they will launch into a lengthy, highly detailed list: Rugrats, Hey! Arnold, Catdog, Powerpuff Girls, AHH! Real Monsters, Angry Beavers, Doug, Rocko's Modern Life, Dexter's Laboratory, etc. These shows have a special place in our hearts and minds mostly because of the purely creative, ridiculous weird quality each one had. Each show appealed to a younger crowd by being cartoons and having silly characters, but they also enthralled the older generations of teenagers with their not-so-secret dark humor and often adult satirical plot lines. Each show was made not just to create a profit, but also to entertain and impress. You can tell by the sheer quality of the shows that the creators loved their creations.
In the past decade, there has been a significant decline in the quality of children's programming. Starting with the introduction of Spongebob Squarepants* in 1999, a new era of kids' shows began. Gone were the days Oh Yeah! Cartoons and What A Cartoon!; shows like Disney's Phineas and Ferb and Cartoon Network's Ben 10: Alien Force began taking center stage. While Ben 10 was a mere marketing strategy to capitalize on potential merchandising opportunities (something Disney does best), Phineas and Ferb lacks an interesting story and funny characters. Both shows lack any creativity in regards to both art and writing.
To make matters worse, live-action programming became wildly popular around the same time. Shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and All That were excellent in terms of quality writing in entertainment, but this trend got out of control in the 2000's. The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Jonas L.A., Wizards of Waverly Place, iCarly, and Hannah Montana are huge money-making schemes, only created to turn a profit. These shows, and shows like them, lack the "soul" that shows of the early decades had.
However, in recent years, networks have decided to start funding quality animation projects. Three main shows come to mind: Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, Chowder, and Adventure Time. Each show excels in creating a new, interesting story world, engaging and hilarious characters, and pushes the boundaries on animation. The art, writing, and production values are back up to par with that of our beloved 90's cartoons. And the best part? The shows are actually popular! I think it has something to do with our generation leaking into these networks and building a support base for more substance in kids' programming so that when we start having kids, they can have the same great experience with cartoons as we did.
* Still a great show, but doomed in my mind for creating a path to things like Fred.