We are in the golden age of TV right now. Think about how fantastic TV shows are and compare them to something made 20 years ago. Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and now everything Disney is putting out proves my point. Would you rather watch Gilmore Girls? (Sidenote: I love Gilmore Girls. Rory should have ended up with Jess!) Even though TV dramas and such might be better now, we grew up in the golden age of cartoons. Am I biased? 100%, but have you seen what they pass off as a cartoon for kids nowadays? Hot garbage. Cartoons nowadays feel like the coked-up, ADHD-driven, sugar-fueled version of what we used to watch. (I’m looking at you, Teen Titans Go!)
The crazy part of the cartoons we watched growing up was the gang war that formed depending on what channel you watched. Were you a Disney channel kid, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, or WB kid? We all were a mix, but one channel usually consumed most of our time. It was a matter of preference. But I genuinely believe that Cartoon Network had the strongest lineup, and no, I’m not dissing the classics like Avatar: The Last Airbender, Spongebob, Static Shock, or Digimon.
The Greatest Lineup Ranked …
#10 – Powerpuff Girls
Certain books have famous first lines that can instantly transport you to that world. Powerpuff Girls has one of the most iconic lines in cartoons. “Sugar, spice, and everything nice” is a perfect way to describe the characters and the show. I can still picture the iconic intro for the show where Professor Utoniom (yeah, I remember his name.) is adding all of the ingredients to make the girls and accidentally add Chemical X. Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup are as iconic as any other characters in fiction with their personalities that drive the dynamic in the show. Still, the real question is, which Powerpuff girl are you?
#9 – Dexter’s Laboratory
I might get some hate for putting such an iconic show at number 9, but it was never something I looked forward to as a kid. It was the show I watched while I waited for a new episode of my favorite show. The idea of a boy genius building a secret superlab and keeping it a secret from his parents all while dealing with his annoying sister made for a great show. It was just one that I wasn’t super into, even though the memes that come from it are top tier.
#8 – Ed, Edd, and Eddy
If there is one thing that I wish I could take from fiction and bring to the real world, it would have to be the jawbreakers from Ed, Edd, and Eddy. You’d be lying if you said you never wanted to try one. They had to be so amazing for three preteens to be scheming to make money to buy one constantly. I’m pretty sure Ed, Edd, and Eddy is the reason that some of our generations are hardcore hustlers. You know the people always doing odd jobs to make a quick buck? Yeah, you can thank this show.
#7 – Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends is by far the most original and creative show on this list. A world where imaginary friends physically exist and need a place to stay when we outgrow them is the sort of whimsical wonderland I loved as a kid, but now as an adult, I see how tragic the premise is. But that’s what separates me from the Macs of the world. Where I would have been someone to abandon my imaginary friend, Mac never did. (Eduardo was the best character. Don’t @ me.)
#6 – The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy
Are there two characters more opposite than Billy and Mandy? One is dumb but curious to a fault, and the other one is bossy and angry all of the time, but what happens when those two kids beat the Grim Reaper in a game of limbo? And he now has to be their friends? Yeah, it sounds ridiculous, but it works. I still remember the scene where Billy hid from the clowns in a trash can covered in tangelos because clowns hate tangelos. (DESTROY US ALL!) To this day, that scene still makes me cry with laughter. If I could go back in time and work in any writer’s room, it would be for this show.
#5 – Ben 10
I was 8 when Ben 10 came out, and I am so happy that I got to experience it. Ben 10 was a precursor to a world I didn’t know existed yet, but would soon discover thanks to Naruto. The idea of going on a camping trip with my grandpa and cousin only to discover an alien watch that lets me transform into aliens so that I can fight bad guys is a top-tier story in the eyes of an 8-year-old. It also introduced me to one of the first villains that scared me. Vilgax was the first time I thought that a hero might lose to the villain, and I was on the edge of my seat during their fight.
#4 – Codename Kids Next Door
You can’t convince me that I am not a decommission KND operative and that my favorite number now as an adult was my number while in the organization. This show is what made me build forts in my backyard out of random scraps of wood found in my neighborhood. It’s also the reason I wanted to learn karate. James Bond has nothing on the kids from KND and their 2×4 technology. I love this show and miss it so much. There is such childlike whimsy to the storylines that all adult things are bad, like going to the dentist or eating your vegetables, that resonates with a kid’s heart.
#3 – What’s New Scooby-Doo
Scooby-Doo taught a whole generation never to take everything at face value. The world is full of liars and schemers, but if you can surround yourself with some good friends, then you can take on anything, even if that anything is a vampire, lake monster, or zombie. I also want to mention the absolute perfect sandwiches that Shaggy and Scooby use to make. Also, I want to know what was in those dang Scooby Snacks. It had to be drugs. There’s no way it wasn’t drugs.
#2 – Samurai Jack
After watching Ben 10, I needed to find a show that was just as action-packed, and then Samurai Jack appeared in my life. You know how good a show has to be for a kid who everyone thought had ADHD to sit through where the main character doesn’t talk. A samurai with a magic sword who tries to defeat an evil demon fails, and then gets sent to a dystopian future where that demon now rules was better than sugar to my underdeveloped brain as a kid. The show was so good that it got a revival series 13 years later. If you haven’t watched the 2017 series, I highly recommend it.
#1 – Teen Titans
There was never a question in my mind when I was putting this list together, which show was my number one pick. Marvel is great at doing live-action. Look at the MCU as proof. But if there is anything that DC does right, it’s their animated shows. Justice League, Batman Beyond, Superman the animated series, and Batman the animated series are all top tier. But of all the animated shows, Teen Titans holds a special place in my heart.
This show walked so that Young Justice could run, and for that, I will always be grateful. Plus, the whole Slade story arc was the perfect level of dark and scary. But what made this show so great was that it introduced a generation to some new characters that they might not have known about before. We take for granted this lineup now since they are so iconic but imagine seeing Starfire, Beastboy, and Raven for the first time as a kid. And the best part is that Teen Titans still holds up. I have watched it a few times as an adult when I want to feel like a kid again.
To sum it up
It’s no secret in my family that I loved cartoons as a kid. They are the reason I love anime so much now as an adult. I never viewed animation as a media form for kids. Cartoons were something I watched with my older sister on Saturdays before the day got started. I would have a bowl of Pops (Yes, that was my cereal of choice as a kid.), and we would watch a few episodes of whatever was on at the time.
Those moments make up a core memory for me. That’s why when I think back on them, I can’t help but crack a smile. So whatever channel you watched your cartoons on as a kid, I hope they brought you as much joy as they did for me. I am curious what your favorite show was as a kid.
If you want to read more of my nerdy ramblings about anime and shows to watch, check out Top Sports Anime to Watch.