In turn, the crude, fart-joke humour of Peter Griffin and Cartman has often left older generations turning their noses up at cartoons, dismissing Fox, Adult Swim and Comedy Central’s outputs as prepubescent.
Thanks to streaming services like Netflix, though, animated television have begun to truly “grow up”, becoming serialised dramas rather than straight comedy (in part, thanks to the death of the rerun and birth of the binge).
So, where to begin when watching these adult-aimed animations? Look no further, as here are five of the best shows that changed the face of animated television.
Netflix Originals 2017: All the films and TV shows to look out for
Netflix Originals 2017: All the films and TV shows to look out for
1/14 A Series of Unfortunate Events: season 1
Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Malina Wiessman, Will Arnett, Cobie Smulders, Patrick Warburton Release date: Out now
2/14 Riverdale: season 1
Starring:KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Srpuse, Mädchen Amick Release date: New episodes every Friday
Starring: Bill Milner, Maisie Williams, Miranda Richardson Release date: Out now
4/14 Santa Clarita Diet: season 1
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Nathan Fillion, Patton Oswalt Release date: 3 February
5/14 Ultimate Beastmaster
Hosted by: Terry Crews Release date: 24 February
6/14 Love: season 2
Starring: Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust, Claudia O'Doherty Release date: 10 March
7/14 Iron Fist: season 1
Starring: Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, David Wenham, Rosario Dawson Release date: 17 March
8/14 Sense8: season 2
Starring: Toby Onwumere, Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton, Tuppence Middleton Release date: 5 May
9/14 House of Cards: season 5
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Neve Campbell, Joel Kinnaman Release date: 31 May
10/14 Dear White People: season 1
Starring: Antoinette Robertson, Brandon P Bell, Logan Browning Release date: TBC
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, Lily Collins, Steven Yeun, Giancarlo Esposito Release date: TBC
12/14 Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Alyssa Milano, Jai Courtney Release date: TBC
13/14 Master of None: season 2
Starring: Aziz Ansari Release date: TBC
14/14 Stranger Things: season 2
Starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown Release date: TBC
Will Arnett voices the titular character, a washed-up, alcoholic horse known around America for starring in a 1990s family sitcom called Horsin’ Around. Riddled with insecurities, depression and a tendency to party too hard, BoJack’s story is an all-out rollercoaster that’s both funny and deeply moving.
Upon initial release, the first five episodes of BoJack Horseman were highly criticised by reviewers, many complaining the Netflix series was littered with similar issues as other animated comedies. However, as the show progressed, viewers realised how great BoJack really is.
Highlight: “Fish Out of Water” – Yes, we’re recommending you watch a silent television episode about an animated horse. Despite having no dialogue, season three’s midway point was one of the finest twenty minutes of television released last year, winning praise across the board. Vulture described it as “must watch”, so what are you waiting for?
Rick and Morty
Rick and Morty follows a grandpa and his grandchild as they go on bonkers adventures through multiple dimensions and universes. While each episode can be taken at face value for containing ridiculous (and sometimes childish) jokes, Rick and Morty features some of the best writing currently on television; gags turning into scathing critiques of religion, inter-dimensional travel making us question life’s meaning, and the government always sucks.
Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s show may be Adult Swim property, but over here in the UK the show has amassed a huge fan-following after being made available on streaming services. The first episode of season three has already won praise from numerous critics, thanks to both sharp writing and fantastic use of continuity.
Highlight: “Total Rickall” – in which the Smith family are stuck in quarantine because the house has been infested with shape-shifting, memory-altering parasites. As the show progressed through season two, other family members – Beth, Jerry, Summer, and Mr Poopybutthole – were all given more moments to shine, none so much as in this brilliant and hilarious episode.
As with all great espionage shows, Archer’s main character is called Archer, full names Sterling Malory Archer, a James Bond-like hero who happens to be a womanising secret agent. Chock full of pop-culture references and hilarious set-pieces, Archer has become must-watch television for everyone.
Originally on FX, Archer is one of the shows that helped kick off the recent fascination with adult-aimed comedies. Now, while you can watch Archer as an episodic show, there are some fantastic serialised jokes you won’t want to miss – plus, like Rick and Morty, the show has become particularly popular in the UK thanks to being hosted on Netflix.
Also recommended: Frisky Dingo – From the makers of Archer, Frisky Dingo was two seasons of ridiculous gags mocking superheroes and action films. One of the main supervillains, Killface, even runs for president of the United States after accidentally solving the global warming crisis (and only after trying to destroy the world), something that doesn’t seem too far-fetched considering today’s political climate.
Yes, while I mocked Cartman in this article’s opening paragraph, South Park changed quite significantly for seasons 19 and 20 – both to acclaim and criticism. Rather than following the episodic antics of the South Park kids, Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided to make story arcs continue over entire seasons, revitalising the series.
The better of the two seasons was no doubt 19, which saw Mr Garrison build a wall around America to keep out Canadians, spurring him on to run for president (that episode aired in September 2015). The show then spent numerous episodes criticising political correctness, sponsored online content and gun politics. It was all wonderfully funny and poignant.
Highlight: “Where My Country Gone?” – South Park was lampooning Donald Trump very early on with an incredibly funny storyline featuring Mr Garrison. Unfortunately, Parker and Stone played their hand too early, quickly running out of material against Trump in season 20, the creators having seemingly not thought the current President would actually get elected.
Yes, this one actually came out in 2005, but was really quite great. Each episode was only around 12 minutes long, but they managed to satirically take jabs at Christianity and deconstruct American family life. You can watch the first episode of the Adult Swim show below which basically sets the weird tone for season one and two.
During season three, everything changed. Orel’s alcoholic, abusive father was no longer a joke but a dramatic character with large amounts of depth. The writers decided to tackle higher concepts through numerous episodes, getting so serious that the show was cancelled because everything got a little too dark.
Creator Dino Stamatopoulos explained in an interview with Vice: “[Producer, Mike] Lazzo wrote me after reading the episode ‘Numb’ and said, ‘There’s only one joke in this script.’ I wrote him back, tongue-in-cheek, and said ‘Well, tell me where the joke is and I'll take it out.’ He said, ‘Well, I hope they get funnier’.”
Season three of Moral Orel, while not exactly Adult Swim’s best known animation, ended up being the precursor to Bojack Horseman: it’s not difficult to imagine that, if the show appeared on streaming services today, Stamatopoulos may still be writing the show now.Reuse content