When Cartoons Go Wrong: Bad Episodes of Great Animated Shows

As a longtime fan of quality animation, I’ve watched and loved a great deal of cartoon TV shows. Several of my all-time favorite shows are animated, and I usually fit at least one or two cartoon picks in my annual “Best TV of the Year” lists. Despite its enduring (and unfair) reputation as “kiddie material,” animation is more appealing to adult audiences than ever, and the more recognition it receives for its achievements, the better.

However, my time in studying and analyzing TV has taught me that no series is flawless, and animated series are no exception. Even the best of these shows will produce a clunker now and then. And though I like to praise the best, it also seems prudent to – once in a while – acknowledge the worst.

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Oscars 2021: Who Will Win? (And Who Will Watch?)

It’s become almost a cliché to state that the Oscars don’t matter. Every year, the Academy declares their picks of the best and brightest, and the Internet typically responds with scoffing and snark. We mock the bait that gets nominated every year, while bemoaning the snub of worthier films. And the ceremonies themselves are ripe for mockery, with cloying acceptance speeches and unfunny, time-padding skits.

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And to Think You Won’t See It on Mulberry Street

It happened one day, historians know,
Back in the Thirties, some time quite ago.
A fellow called Seuss (not a doctor by trade)
Wrote all about a fantastic parade.

A book aimed at children, those learning to read
And it was a successful venture indeed!
It sold many copies, drew plenty of praise;
Such imaginative books weren’t made in those days.

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WandaVision and the Future of the MCU

The following article does not contain WandaVision spoilers.

As I’m writing this, it has been nearly two years since the last installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe hit theaters. Spider-Man: Far From Home debuted just before Independence Day 2019, intending to serve as a coda to Phase Three of the MCU (which climaxed in the globally dominant Avengers: Endgame).

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“The Muppet Show” is Timeless Variety Television

The point isn’t raised very often, but TV comedy as we know it likely wouldn’t exist without the advent of the variety show. It came to prominence in the late 1940s and dominated the small screen during the ’50s, hosted by such talents as Jackie Gleason, Dinah Shore, and Red Skelton. Your Show of Shows – arguably the first great program ever created for television – utilized the format of weekly installments and commercial breaks to experiment with humorous and innovative sketches that set the medium apart from its big-screen competition. Many of the writers who would lay the groundwork for the modern sitcom cut their teeth on variety programming, including Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, and Bud Yorkin.

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The Ten Best TV Shows of 2020

If you’re wondering how long the year we’ve just experienced was, use the 77th Annual Golden Globes as a yardstick. The ceremony, hosted by Ricky Gervais, aired back in the first week of January. That’s right – Gervais’ controversial monologue, Bong Joon-Ho lecturing us about subtitles, Ramy Youssef explaining that people don’t know who he is – that all happened this year.

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The Ten Best Films of 2020

There are many words that historians will use to describe 2020, most of which are unprintable on this website. But in my continued quest to focus on the positive (last week’s snarky deviation notwithstanding), let’s turn to the pop-culture that kept us going through these rough times.

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The Ten Worst Films of 2020

There was much to hate about the past year, which featured too many awful, destructive, and just plain stupid events to cover within the scope of this website. One area that does fall under my jurisdiction, however, is the world of cinema, which was unlike any previous year in the medium’s history. As theaters across the nation shuttered in response to the pandemic, Hollywood was caught flatfooted, as hopes of a blockbuster year at the movies almost instantly evaporated.

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How “The Queen’s Gambit” Became 2020 Comfort Food

It’s… been quite a year, hasn’t it?

I know there’s a running gag to refer to each new year as “the worst one ever,” but in retrospect, it feels like we were tempting fate. We’ve never experienced a calendar year like 2020, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that after we rip our calendars to shreds, burn them to ash, and salt the earth upon which they were cremated, I hope we never, ever experience one like it again.

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The “Animaniacs” Reboot Swings and Misses

The best scene in Hulu’s new Animaniacs reboot occurs right in the opening of the first episode. Parodying Jurassic Park, the scene features Steven Spielberg as a Professor Hammond stand-in, revealing to a group of slack-jawed scientists that he has “reanimated” the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister!) for the first time since the late 1990s. As the show’s version of Alan Grant notes the characters’ “clean, vectored outlines,” a nearby Hulu executive gloats that they’re going to “make a fortune” from these new characters.

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10 “Animaniacs” Episodes that Were Zany to the Max

It never fails.

I’ve heard the theme song well over a hundred times. I know every lyric by heart (and can decisively state the original line is “pay-or-play contracts”). But it doesn’t matter. Every time I get to the final verse – “We’re Animan-y… totally insane-y…” – the penultimate line always catches me off-guard. It could be common standby of “Here’s the show’s name-y,” but the writers could just as sneakily sub in “Chicken Chow Mein-y,” “Dana Delany,” “Citizen Kane-y,” or any number of other rhyming or quasi-rhyming phrases. Anything goes.

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“Teenage Bounty Hunters” Deserves a Second Chance

At some point in the last few years, the phrase “cancelled too soon” began to feel like a TV anachronism. We’d seen many TV shows get cut before their time in a hyper-competitive television environment, but as cable and streaming services began to broaden the horizons and increase the hunger for market-friendly content, the medium became a breeding ground for TV resurrections.

So it was that when FOX cancelled Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it was picked up by NBC; The Expanse went from SyFy to Amazon; Designated Survivor from ABC to Netflix; and One Day at a Time from Netflix to PopTV. We seem to have finally reached an age where TV shows only need a niche audience to guarantee their continued endurance for as long as the creators and cast are willing.

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What Will Happen in the 2020 Election?

It’s that time again. Once every four years, Americans put their differences aside and come together to do the one thing that ensures we keep our differences – voting! Technically, it’s not just a four-year commitment – a lot of people do this every two years. And believe it or not, there are some pedantic folks who actually cast their vote every year, sometimes in two different months. (Do not let these people near your home.)

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“The Boys” is a Sharp Superhero Satire

The words “satire” and “parody” are often used interchangeably these days, but they shouldn’t be. A satire offers humorous commentary on the world using a popular or familiar creative work as its vehicle. A parody, however, lampoons the creative work itself, with social or cultural commentary rarely a focal point of humor. Put simply, a satire is a critique that features comedy; a parody is a comedy with specific critique. (This being October, it may be apt to draw examples from horror films: Scream = satire, Scary Movie = parody.)

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Emmys 2020: Which Shows Will Win?

There was the time that Alan Alda cartwheeled his way to the stage. There was the time Helen Mirren dropped an uncensored expletive on live TV. There was the time when Joan Rivers and Eddie Murphy cohosted and delivered a rather non-politically correct opening monologue.

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Will Peacock Take a Quick Bite of Apple?

Peacock Apple

It was only a few short years ago that the number of major streaming services could be counted on one hand. Yes, back in the halcyon days of the mid-2010s, people began buzzing about the possibility that Netflix and its few competitors would mean the end of traditional TV. After all, who needs a cumbersome and expensive cable bundle when you can get thousands of hours of entertainment with just two or three online services?

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The Rise of the Video Game Movie

Sonic

I don’t know the exact number of Sega or Nintendo games I’ve played in my life, though the combined number is likely situated somewhere in the single digits. (Most definitely the low single digits once you rule out the games that star Italian plumbers.) That may not come as a surprise to many longtime readers; though I’ve written extensively about TV and film over the last several years, I’ve never once had cause to post a piece about the gaming world.

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JK Rowling and the Limits of the Outrage Mob

NY Premiere of HBO's "Finding the Way Home", New York, USA - 11 Dec 2019

There’s a time-tested logic puzzle known as the irresistible force paradox. Perhaps you’ve heard of it (maybe on that boxing episode of The Simpsons): What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

The question itself defies logic (“unstoppable” and “immovable” things cannot coexist), but it’s fun to ponder, and particularly fun to apply to various scenarios. Back in high school, my friends and I enjoyed discussing one version: Could Green Lantern’s power ring (unstoppable force) be used to pick up Thor’s hammer (immovable object)? It was a creative thought exercise, although my own final answer (GL would never get the chance to lift Thor’s hammer, due to copyright conflicts between DC and Marvel) did suck some of the air from the balloon.

But this weekend, we got another display when something perceived as an unstoppable force… actually proved to be somewhat stoppable.

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Not What They Stream: Why Some Beloved TV Shows Aren’t Coming to Netflix

EdTV

We live in an incredible era – one where thousands of television shows are instantly at our fingertips. On top of the hundreds of DVD sets that studios continue to churn out each year, we have a treasure trove of new and classic TV awaiting us on over a dozen (and counting) streaming services. Gone are the days when we needed to wait to catch a rerun – DVD boxsets have allowed long-running TV shows to fit comfortably on our bookshelf, and Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and their ilk have provided us with massive libraries of their own. All in all, we have a seemingly endless world of TV to choose from.

But there’s the question: Is it really endless? While the streaming boom has made it easy for a new generation to become enraptured with shows like Cheers and The Sopranos and Buffy and Battlestar Galactica, not every show is as easy to find on a streaming platform. In fact, there are some TV shows – including some fairly popular ones! – that have never received a proper online release, or even a proper DVD set… and probably never will.

What follows are five such TV shows. We’ll go through each, one by one, and try to learn why they don’t have a shot at a legal release. (Operative word there being legal – most of these shows can probably be found on bootleg DVDs or through low-quality YouTube uploads. But an official, authorized release is virtually impossible.)

We begin with…

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Fifty Years Later: How Green Lantern and Green Arrow Changed Comics Forever

LanternArrow

The year was 1970, and America was chaos.

The country was fractiously polarized along every line – age, race, religion, politics. The world still reeled from the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. A troop of National Guard soldiers opened fire on an unarmed group of college students. “Vietnam” was a hot-button word wherever you went.

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Gargoyles: An Ambitious Animated Series Ahead of Its Time

Gargoyles

As stated previously, I’ve begun writing pieces about great (and often overlooked) TV shows you can stream while cooped up at home these days. Enjoy, and keep washing those hands.

The early ‘90s were a prosperous time for American animation. The merchandise-driven cartoons of the ‘80s (sorry, He-Man and GI Joe – you wouldn’t be on TV if they didn’t have toys to sell) had given way to a more serious quality of storytelling and production in children’s entertainment. Now studios were investing in better writing and animation to tell stories for the young generation that would someday be known as Millennials.

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Deadwood: HBO’s Greatest Drama

Deadwood

As stated previously, I’ve begun writing pieces about great (and often overlooked) TV shows you can stream while cooped up at home these days. Enjoy, and remember to wash your hands.

It may seem odd that I’ve waited this long to write about Deadwood, but my resistance can generally be boiled down to two factors: (1) The multitude of writings about this series across the Internet, both on series and episodic bases, meant that a lot of things I could say about the show have probably been said already, and (2) the rather colorful dialogue would make it difficult to write about the series in detail without violating this website’s relatively family-friendly guidelines. (Attention to any kids who, against all odds, follow my work: Don’t watch Deadwood. Yet.)

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Extras: A Showbiz Satire from Across the Pond

Extras

As stated previously, I’ve begun writing pieces about great (and often overlooked) TV shows you can stream while cooped up at home these days. Enjoy, and remember to wash your hands.

One of my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes comes from the show’s final season, a convention-breaking entry called “Lower Decks.” Rather than focusing on Picard, Data, or any of the show’s other colorful leads, the episode turns the camera on a group of side characters, the oft-nameless “Redshirts” who populate the background shots of the Enterprise and rarely if ever get a line. These characters were typically used as cannon fodder in the original Trek, but “Lower Decks” takes an extended (and unexpectedly poignant) look at a few of the Starfleet officers beyond the Bridge, reminding us that even the most inconsequential background extras have lives of their own.

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The 10 Best Films of 2019

BestFilms19top

This past April, the Oscars released a new set of rules for film eligibility beginning in 2020. Among those was the stipulation that in order to qualify for nominations, a film must have a theatrical run of at least seven days. A film released straight to Netflix, with no screenings in major theaters, would be ignored.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 1: “Bojack Horseman”

Bojack

Over the past month, I’ve discussed a lot of great television. Shows that made me laugh, made me cry, made me think, and renewed my faith in humanity (if only for an hour each week). It’s been an extraordinary decade for television, both as a form and a medium, and it’s been a thrill to discuss some of the major TV accomplishments of the last ten years.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 2: “Parks and Recreation”

ParksnadRec

TV is a constantly changing medium. Shows that were once considered bold and revolutionary can now seem tame and and antiquated. Hill Street Blues was once seen as a gritty police drama, but its reputation in this regard was overshadowed by Homicide and NYPD Blue, whose reputations were themselves overshadowed by The Shield and The Wire. All the syndicated fantasy dramas of the ’90s, such as Hercules and Xena, don’t hold a production candle to Game of Thrones. And early South Park episodes aren’t nearly as steeped in shock humor as the current lineup on Adult Swim.

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Best TV of the Decade, No. 3: “Halt and Catch Fire”

HaltCatchFire

The 2000s were generally a decade of critical TV conformity. Most avid viewers, in tallying up their favorite shows, would likely include at least one of HBO’s Big Three, with perhaps a dash of Six Feet Under or Curb Your Enthusiasm for some flavor. On the drama side, few critics could overlook The Shield, Lost, or Battlestar Galactica; for comedy, they peppered their lists with the likes of Arrested Development, The Office, and 30 Rock. Each list had its differences from the next, of course, but there was a general consensus of which dozen or so shows qualified as the peak of the Aughts.

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