Top 5 Adult Animated Television Shows Of All Time By Mike Leins
For a few decades, cartoons were only for children. Either they were filled with kid-friendly story lines or they were “PC” enough that everyone could enjoy them. What a terrible world...
Luckily, something fantastic occurred in the late 80’s: adult animation went mainstream. All of a sudden, it was cool to be in college and watching cartoons. Sometimes the shows were good, other times they were odd and still others were just plain terrible.
With so many adult animated shows in the past 25 years, it can be hard to choose the best five. Here's my case for the top 5 best adult animated series of all time:
Archer is quite possibly the best thing to happen to television in recent history. Few other shows have the wit, timing and storytelling that never fails to crack me up on a weekly basis. Archer is the 5th best adult cartoon in history.
Archer follows the life of Sterling Archer, the sex-obsessed, heavy-drinking top agent at an international spy agency. Despite being surrounded by idiots even dumber than himself, Archer always finds a way to save the day, get the girl, get her drunk and get himself laid.
After years of adult animated shows that (sometimes literally) were nothing but fart jokes, Archer was (for lack of a better phrase) a breath of fresh air. Though there is plenty of shock value, like the countless women Archer sleeps with (one being the fat co-worker) or the amount of blood spilled in any given episode, Archer manages to have some of the funniest dialog on television. At any moment, a random phrase from 15 minutes ago cam come full circle and become a joke.
Every character on Archer has a distinct voice, from their dialect to their actions, to the point where you could read their dialog and know who said it. The characters share some of the deepest relationships on TV, from the Archer-Lana-Cyril love triangle to the Archer-Malory unsolved childhood/motherhood issues.
A perfect James Bond parody with ridiculous comedy, tons of wit and plenty of filth, Archer is definitely in my list of best adult animated series of all time.
4) Beavis and Butthead
Sure, the Simpsons opened the door for edgier animation, but Beavis & Butthead blasted down that door. Possibly the dumbest, yet funniest, and most real show of all time, Beavis and Butthead is the 4th best adult cartoon in history.
It looked like The Simpsons would be the worst thing for kids to watch, and then MTV threw us Beavis & Butthead, softening the impact of everything else out there. A show about two kids hanging out, watching music video and just being idiots just so happened to resonate with 90’s kids more than anything else.
The series raised all kinds of hell, from kids imitating Beavis & Butthead's moronic actions to helping pave the way to the TV rating system. The duo even had a theatrical release film, Beavis and Butthead Do America.
Although the show loses some serious points for lack of great storytelling, the impact the series made, and its ability to return to television over a decade later, makes it one of the best adult animated shows of all time.
3) Family Guy
By the late 1990’s when we thought we had seen in all, Seth MacFarlane arrived. After a few years of animating children’s cartoons, Seth brought to the table one of the raunchiest, most terrible and insulting programs we had ever seen. Family Guy is the 3rd best adult cartoon in history.
Another record-breaking series from Fox, the show centers on the Griffin family from Rhode Island. Peter (the idiot), Lois (the sane one), Chris (the Peter-in-training), Meg (the ugly one) and baby Stewie (the evil one), along with the family dog, Brian (the pretentious one) spend their days living lives of greed, lust, violence and every other major sin known to man.
Every episode is filled with hilarious moments, mainly from the flashback cutaways, which have now become a standard in all animation. Sometimes the storyline will make little or no sense, which will inadvertently lead to even more laughs.
Family Guy has had a hell of a ride through the years, starting with a 3 season run & cancellation. A few renewals later, the show officially came back to series after massive DVD sales and even led to another two series for the creator, Seth MacFarlane, who continues to get work of all kinds, animated and live action.
The show is weird, funny, screwed up, nonsensical and just plain good in too many ways for it to not make the list of best adult animated shows of all time.
2) The Simpsons
No, it’s not the best of all time, but it sure as hell is number 2. The show that made it possible for everything that followed it, The Simpsons is the 2nd best adult cartoon in history.
The Simpsons is the first adult-friendly animation since The Flintstones or The Jetsons. Those shows were meant to be family friendly and especially appealing to kids. Certainly not edgy in the least by today’s standards. Once The Simpsons arrived, the game was changed forever. Surprisingly enough, it even came to be considered a family friendly show after a while.
The Simpsons is about a regular blue-collar, yellow-skinned family from suburbia. The family hits all the classic characteristics, the idiot father and husband, the smarter but willing to get along mother and wife, the douchy son, the smart daughter and the baby. Lucky for us, these people are just a bit more screwed up than most families. Through it all, The Simpsons always makes it a point to have a good message at the end of every episode.
Since premiering in 1989, The Simpsons has been syndicated around the world, translated into hundreds of languages and has made over 400 episodes. This series has outlasted nearly every scripted television series in history.
The Simpsons is undoubtedly the benchmark for adult animation. Everyone who creates an adult animated series gives credit to The Simpsons for inspiration. This series will go down in history as one of the best adult animated shows, and one of the best comedies, of all time.
1) South Park
What’s not on the list yet? Only one left! If The Simpsons couldn’t do it, only South Park could, being (IMHO) the best adult animated show in history.
South Park managed to raise a crazy amount of hell with its premiere in 1997. A show with 3rd graders talking like sailors, one of them dies every week and a talking piece of Christmas poo? Suddenly everything else was squeaky clean by comparison.
Even the slightest conservative viewers were turned off. The lucky few who stuck around, however, were treated to some of the sharpest social commentary ever to hit the airwaves. Nearly every episode brought to light some worldly injustice, tore it to shreds, and taught us a lesson. More often than not, the audience themselves could learn about their own hilarious hypocrisy.
The show has been despised by nearly every group in America at one time or another sued by dozens of companies and individuals and still manages to get away with murder each and every time. At this point, South Park is pretty much unstoppable, allowed to make fun of anything they want in any fashion they choose.
The values & morals of the Simpsons, the filth of Beavis & Butthead, the wit of Archer, the occasional ridiculousness of Family Guy all combine into one series known as South Park: the single best adult animated series of all time.
The Future of Adult Animation
Adult animation has come a long way in just 25 years. The bar was set, raised, raised again and raised yet again. At this rate, these five could be considered crap by the standards of 10 years from now. Though, somehow I doubt that.
No matter what, I'm sure us adult animation fans are in for some great, raunchy, disgusting, crude and vulgar stuff!
Be sure to check out more of my adult animation commentary and news updates at www.cartooniphile.com
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