The glory days are long gone

Kids get so much less from cartoons today than we did in the 90's
March 25, 2007
While flipping through the channels one recent Saturday morning, I clicked onto a couple of cartoons. Now, being 18 years old, I can't say I watch very many cartoons anymore, save the Simpsons and Family Guy, but I was bored so I figured I'd see what passes for weekend morning entertainment these days.

What a dissapointment! The vast majority of cartoons on television these days are so utterly simple, uninteresting and have terrible storylines.

I remember back in the day when I was a youngin, Saturday mornings were pure joy for me. Well, any day was really, because 90% or more of the cartoons and kids shows that were available to be watched were first rate! Not only did these cartoons entertain me, they also taught me important lessons. (haha this really makes it sound like my parents did a terrible job and I was raised by the tv, however that was not the case...)

For instance, who can forget learning about the environment on Captain Planet. But the thing was, the show was so well-written, kids didn't realize it was a blatant ploy to expose environmental issues because all that mattered was that Captain Planet beat down poachers, polluters and all other environmental villains of the sort. (I just realized that Captain Planet has a super 80's style mullet hahaha!)

And how many lessons were learned from The Magic School Bus? This show was basically like going to school, but it was fun! The awesome adventures that the class went on taught about everything from the properties of light to the water cycle to the digetion process of the human body.

Shows like this were commonplace and kids loved them! It added an important aspect of learning to cartoons. Sure there were the simple cartoons where the heroes gave hell to the the bad guys, but even those usually had a moral to the story. Power Rangers, as an example, was sweet because they were badass and beat up on the forces of evil (by the way the Power Rangers Movie was totally wicked) but it also taught the importance of teamwork, trust, etc.

Other beauties of kids shows seemed simple in concept too, like the utterly unreal Bucky O Hare, Darkwing Duck, Inspector Gadget, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Street Sharks, but even their plots of fighting against evil and the big bad dude is an important concept for kids to learn. It helps them to learn about right and wrong, good and evil.

Okay, I sort of got off on an education tangent there, but that's just one of many aspects that was better about my generation's cartoons than today's cartoons. I guess I should use the "cartoon" generalization carefully, since a lot of my favourite shows as a kid were in fact real-life, not cartoons. Take Power Rangers, Are You Afraid Of The Dark and Goosebumps (the books were also awesome) for example. I also apologize for the ridiculous amount of adjectives (and the irony that i used one in my apology) but I feel that simply referring to a magnificent masterpiece like bucky o hare as just a 'show' as opposed to an 'unreal adventure' is a crime.

Anyways, back to the matter at hand: today's kids tv shows falling far short of the ones of the early 90's... Another big issue that bugs me is how a lot of the cartoons on tv today are not appropriate for kids to watch due to a lot of double entendres and sexual jokes. Now I as an 18 year old appreciate these and laugh my ass off everytime Peter Griffin pulls a move like knocking over all the sperm jars in the cooler at the sperm bank ("Eww, I can feel them moving", "There is zero chance I accidentally knocked over all the jars in the cooler and filled them all with my own sperm; zero chance.") because this is funny for someone of my age. However, I doubt many parents would want their 7 and 8 year old kids watching a show like that. And this sucks as a kid, I lot of my friends weren't allowed to watch shows like South Park and even The Simpsons as kids because these shows were forbidden by their parents. And were they really that bad? no. And did we watch them anyway at our friends houses? absolutely. But watching South Park now, I realize that it really shouldn't be watched by kids, it's adult humour. Oh random thought, how terrible was the cartoon Bob and Margaret?? Like talk about a terrible British Soap under the disguise of a cartoon...YAWN. Back on topic... So I guess the issue I have here is that there is less selection of cartoons for kids to watch. The really entertaining ones on tv right now are all too mature for them, as displayed by the viewer discretion is advised warning that gets played before Family Guy all the time now.

Moooooooving on... (I should stop using "..." so much, it's kind of getting repetitive isn't it?) I think that most kids shows/cartoons on tv today are an insult to kids. Kids deserve to be entertained and enjoy a fantastic show, and they shouldn't have to sit through eleven more pointless japanimation (i know it's called anime, but japanimation just sounds better, and it truly describes the style of animation) shows or a another joke of a kids program that looks like a couple guys on lsd made it while on a trip (I'm talking about you teletubbies, wtf?!) or another midless action cartoon, because these aren't good shows, they are terrible, and kids are stupider for watching them. I'm not saying the kids are stupid, because they aren't, and these crap shows are just about all the options they have. What I meant was, these shows, in addition to barely keeping the attention of kids, also fill their head with crap and melt their minds with just utterly pointless stuff. Take teletubbies for example, no talking, no plot, no point, just little weird creatures stumbling around doing not much of anything.

I bet a big part of a.d.d. and a.d.h.d. is that kids get no stimulation from kids shows on tv these days, and parents take their children to psychologists when these crap shows can't hold their attention for more than five minutes. I don't blame the kids! I can honestly not sit down and watch a full episode of most of these dreary shows myself no matter how bored I am, let alone a young kid who is watching to get some entertainment. Parents seem to find the fact that their kids are bored by these shows scary and sign their kids up for ritalin and therapy in a heartbeat, but if they sat down and tried to watch the crap on tv they would understand why the kids lose interest so fast.

When I was a kid there were so many quality kids programs that I could sit and watch tv for hours some days. It's not so anymore, which whomps (yes, that's the new curse word that TJ invented on Disney's Recess) because those are some of my best childhood memories. YTV was the best channel ever, unlike cartoon network or teletoon. The line ups that used to be on tv were so sweet too. The Disney afternoon was absolute magic: Duck Tales, Talespin, Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, Bonkers, Aladdin, Gargoyles, and Hercules all together! I bet I just brought back some memories for you there, cuz when I was writing this article it brought back some memories for me! I had totally forgotten about Gargoyles and Bonkers, despite these being two of my favourite programs as a kid.

Weekday mornings were even great. I used to get up early and watch Bobby's World, Albert the Fifth Muskateer and Popular Mechanics for kids before school every morning. (PS - deal or no deal is getting old, Howie Mandel should have stuck with Bobby's World - I was so rattled when they took it off the air, and I totally had a crush on Elisha Cuthbert ever since she was on PMK).

Nowadays, Finding cartoons outside teletoon is a challenge. I grew up with peasant vision, three English channels and one french one - global, ctv and cbc and i don't remember what the french one was called, rds or something like that. Oh and heck yes I'm Canadian eh? But I'm not a hoser.
Now despite the fact that I had only three channels, I was still able to see a tonne of quality cartoons on weekends and early weekday mornings, even Sunday had the bugs bunny and tweety show. And at my babysitter's house I got the privilege of viewing YTV and all of its glories. (I just realized I watched way too much tv as a kid! Wait too much cartoons? no such thing! carrying on) Oh and how great was YTV's 'the zone' with Phil and that purple blob that looked like a piece of chewed gum! But kids with peasant vision today get next to nothing to watch in terms of cartoons. Cbc kids is an utter joke and global and ctv don't have much for cartoons at all (family guy and the Simpsons are on global but not in the mornings). Kids basically need to have cable or satellite with teletoon or cartoon network to get to see anything for cartoons and kids shows.

Who ever is going to fill the shoes of Mr. Dressup and Fred Penner? These two dudes taught me so much and conveyed such excellent values and life lessons like sharing and stuff like that. What's on tv now that's similar to these two geniuses? Not much. Blue's clues? Maaaybe, but that's a stretch. I just don't see any great kids shows like this anymore. My vocabulary is still better thanks to Wordbird on Fred Penner and I learned how to draw so many things on Mr. Dressup. What can kids these days claim similarly?

I'm so sick of knock-offs. One successful show pops up and a flurry of similar shows follow, all of which generally blow chunks in comparison. So not only do kids already have a lack of choice for shows, but probably 40% of them are very similar to one another. This is seen by Pokemon, followed by digimon, followed by yu-gi-oh. While die-hard fans of these may claim vast differences, when you boil them down, they're basically the same. This is pathetic, you honestly can't create a good cartoon yourself or think up a new idea, all you can do is rip off or re-do an old cartoon? Makes me sad.

Now some classics still remain on tv like the bugs bunny and tweety show (albeit in rerun format) and some new shows are entertaining. On top of this, not all retro shows were excellent either. While it was good that some old school shows were secretly educational, some were too educational and therefore lost all entertainment value. Take "Schoolhouse Rock" for example. I hated this show as a kid, because cartoons were supposed to be fun, not meant to teach me about amending a bill in the US constitution!

Anyhow, the moral of this story is that cartoons/kids shows in the late 80's/early-mid 90's were in general, great. And for the most part, cartoons/kids shows today are terrible. Kids get less selection, more knock-offs than a Mexican market (turns out my Rolex is a Folex and my Oakleys are Foakleys), and shows focused only on mindless action/fighting or with no purpose or plot at all. If they started airing the great shows that were on when I was a kid, they would get watched by today's kids way more than today's shows without a doubt.

I think that's a great idea for networks to look into; bringing back retro cartoons to tv, whether it be in place of the current ones or in addition to them. I just might start a petition to get some classic ones back on the air, because I know I'd watch them, they were great!
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