?Part of the downside of living in an age where the past is at our fingertips is that it doesn’t take long to prove just how deceptive our memories can be. These days any nostalgic whim can be indulged through a few mouse clicks. Sadly, more often than not this results in warm childhood recollections being revealed as complete frauds. As someone who has spent way too much of his adult life revisiting things from his youth, I can tell you that nostalgia invariably results in disappointment. In his recent song “Best of Times,” indie rapper Sage Francis kicks out some wisdom about his adolescent fears before giving advice to youth on how to avoid the past mistakes he made. Inspired by the tune and realizing that pretty much every cartoon I used to think was wonderful was actually utter shit, I thought I’d help you navigate around some of my own past pitfalls with this list of cartoons I’ve discovered aren’t worth waxing nostalgic over (consider this a Topless Robot public service). Because these are shows that were beloved by me during my childhood, your mileage may vary. But anyone who has ever felt betrayed by the memories in their big dumb brain can certainly relate. As the book says, we may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us…
10) Kidd Video
A new wave band gets sucked into a cartoon world where they try to avoid a musically obsessed despot who wants them as his slaves? Yes please! Kidd Video never quite lived up to the promise of this very ’80s premise. In all fairness, the show did do some things right. The members of Kidd Video — which, awesomely, included Robbie “Cousin Oliver” Rist — were all genuine musicians, partially explaining why the songs always were on par with the sublime 80s bubblegum pop of Jem. Unfortunately, so much effort was spent on the show’s live-action segments that no one realized that the cartoon was largely unwatchable. Early on in the show’s run, videos from groups such as Culture Club were featured (it was explained that the bands were also transported in the Flipside by Master Blaster, natch). However, music licensing fees soon put a stop to this. Making matters worse was a poorly orchestrated character redesign in the second season that suddenly made the show’s once-great animation now look like something you’d expect to see on a shoddy Filmation production. Add these factors to incomprehensible plots that even 5-year-olds felt made no sense and there’s little debate over why the show didn’t last longer than 26 episodes. I’m sure there’s probably a Kidd Video fan page out there with a lengthy essay explaining how the show’s use of Master Blaster as a metaphor for how MTV reshaped then killed the industry was groundbreaking. But really, it was just a shitty show that occasionally had catchy songs.
There’s probably someone at Peyo still pissed over NBC’s decision to air this undersea rip-off of The Smurfs. The pathetic truth is that as a kid I couldn’t get enough of it. When I watched a few episodes online some years back, I immediately considered inventing time travel strictly to go back to 1985 and convince my younger self to spend the half-hour every Saturday playing Colecovision or investing in Microsoft instead. Eventually I calmed myself down by taking solace in the fact that Snorkland was likely destroyed by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
8) The New Archies
With the exception of that time he hung out with the Punisher, Archie was never considered hip. So it’s a bit baffling why the character was given a Poochie-esque makeover for this 1987 short-lived NBC cartoon. Considerably cooler than his comic book counterpart, this tween bastardization of Riverdale’s favorite jalopy-driving youth was a misguided attempt at re-branding that replaced all of Archie’s familiar character traits with newfound interests in things like skateboarding. These mutant “New Archies” populated a strange middle school limbo that existed between the Little Archie stories and those of the regular comics (why Ms. Ethel and Mr. Weatherbee were still around on the show is best left to the sex offender registries and/or God to sort out). Further adding to the series’ bizarro aesthetic was the decision to replace the nerdy Dilton Doiley with a new and identical African-American character named Eugene –even though the Archie comics had a number of pre-existing black characters that could have been better utilized. Betty, Jughead and Reggie were left largely unscathed, with Veronica doing her best valley girl impression while still maintaining the entitled cunt persona that has endeared her to so many throughout the years. Even though the changing of the characters was a complete failure that resulted in the series’ cancellation after one season, that didn’t stop the Archie masterminds from fucking with their successful formula three years later with the angsty Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again telefilm. That nonsense repurposed Archie and company into tortured thirtysomethings and confirmed every suspicion you’ve ever had that they would all grow up to be douchebags. Meanwhile, The New Archies cartoon has been so infrequently repeated that it has taken on legendary status amongst Archie fanatics. The most interesting aspect about the series is how it utilized fan favorite character Fangs Fogarty. You can see him towards the end of the above clip. Then you can be done with the show forever.
7) The Brady Kids
After slaughtering Mike, Carol and Alice at the behest of the demon Pazuzu, the Brady kids landed themselves some magical animal pals and set forth on a life of incest and jaunty pop tunes in this exercise in annoyance. For reasons that defy logic, the above clip features an appearance by Wonder Woman. Odder still, the show’s laugh track (?) seems to think that every action that she makes is a hoot and a half. (For those DC continuity freaks out there, rest assured that this appearance is not considered canonical). Filmation wasn’t exactly known for their commitment to quality programming, and The Brady Kids easily marks the nadir of the company and 1970s animation in general. It’s a sunshine day all right…until this show takes a steamer on your happy memories of Brady bliss.
6) Saturday Supercade
Every cartoon based on an arcade game has been utterly terrible, and all the doing of the Mario by Captain Lou Albano in the world will never convince me otherwise. In 1983, CBS gave an entire generation a reason to distrust authority when they began airing Saturday Supercade. The anthology series featured cartoons based on the then-white hot arcade games Frogger, Q*bert, Pitfall, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong, Jr., Kangaroo, and Space Ace. Each of these is awful in the exact same way that various methods of murder are, but Donkey Kong was exceptionally hellish. If you can overlook the fact that the cartoon creepily revises history so that Pauline is Mario’s niece instead of his girlfriend, you still have to deal with how the show completely emasculates Donkey Kong by having him speak with the voice of Soupy Sales. I’m not even going to pretend that I haven’t spent many a lonely night thinking of what Donkey Kong would sound like were he real. Yet I have never been more certain of anything in my life that if Mr. Kong were somehow a sentient being with the power of speech that he would not, under any circumstances, possess the voice of a pie-throwing comic. The above clip is an exceptionally painful reminder of the perils of 1980s nostalgia. But I have to admit, the idea of a Donkey Kong-fronted punk band kind of makes me tingle down there a bit.
5) Alf Tales
Unless the tales Alf is telling involve Max Wright, crack and sex with random homeless men, they aren’t worth hearing.
Godzilla is so awesome that nothing Hollywood could do would ever diminish his star power. Except this cartoon. And that Matthew Broderick film. Also, the other cartoon based on the Matthew Broderick film. Oh fucking hell. The debut of NBC’s Godzilla toon in 1978 was met with anticipation by kids and kaiju lovers everywhere. As you can tell by the above clip of the show’s opening, it only took 19 seconds for everyone’s hopes to be dashed. Quicker than you can say “see, Jar Jar Binks wasn’t the first cutesy and pointless character in genre entertainment” Godzooky arrives on screen. Even though he made history by being TV’s first mentally retarded monster featured in a starring role, Godzooky served no point other than to fuck up life for the low-rent Jonny Quest wannabees aboard the Calico. It should be noted at this point that as a kid a puffy Godzooky magnets I got out of a vending machine was one of my prized possessions. This created a false sense of love for the character that was shattered when I recently watched a few episodes. (So there’s another check in the inventing time travel/kicking my younger self’s ass column). Another problem is how Godzilla himself was barely on the show. He’d turn up, get the characters out of trouble then dejectedly slink back into the sea like the cartoon equivalent of a whore working a truck stop for rent money. Fortunately, Someone on YouTube realized how the show should have been:
If this were real, Godzilla would still be on the air. Burning up shit and breaking hearts. Whoever was responsible for not giving Hanna-Barbera the rights to use Toho’s library of Godzilla sound effects is a dick also. Fuck this cartoon.
3) Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C3-P0
As has been previously established on this site, the Droids theme song is one of the greatest 1980s theme songs. Too bad the rest of the show is such a mess. The toon’s attempts at serialized stories were ahead of its time — even though these adventures are largely duller than the Boonta Eve podrace. Mainly, the problem is that characters like Mungo Baobab, Jord Dusat and Thall Joban were amalgams of Han and Luke, yet nowhere near as compelling. Viewing through 2010 eyes, it’s hard not to notice that Droids‘ awkward mix of comedy and action was a precursor of the tonal issues that would hamper the prequel trilogy. The greatest part of the series is how every now and again, Stormtroopers or familiar characters (such as Boba Fett or IG-88) would turn up. As I kid I wished these moments would happen more often, and now seeing how joyless of an affair the show really is I think that more than ever.
2) Any Flintstone-Related Cartoon Other Than The Flintstones
The Flintstones has spun off follow-up shows ranging from Fred and Barney Meet the Thing to The Flintstones Kids. None of these comes close to capturing the magic of the original. Seeing how the first Flintstones still appeal to both adults and kids, it’s fairly evident that the main reason behind all the sequel programs was cash. Hey, we live in a capitalist society so I can’t fault Hanna-Barbera too much for this. But I can give them shit for aging Pebbles and Bamm Bamm into annoying teens who want to be the prehistoric equivalent of The Archies. In other words, don’t bother going onto YouTube to discover if Schleprock is as funny as you remember. If you have to scratch that Flintstones nostalgia itch, be sure to only check out the 1960s episodes. They are as fun as you remember, and unlike the above video don’t feature Pebbles trying to bang Michigan J. Frog.
1) Super Friends
Over the years, the various permutations of Super Friends cartoons have largely been exercises in mediocrity. This pains me to say it, as the shows were so integral to helping me develop a love for superheroes. Aside from enabling lame Zan and Jayna jokes, the series’ many eras were largely devoid of quality storytelling and animation. Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t without its merits. The Alex Toth designs, the Ted Knight narration in the early episodes and the Super Powers-era installments all still manage to charm a bit. But viewed as a whole, the Super Friends saga manages to make DC’s most iconic characters fall flat. It’s hard to compare a show that’s over 30 years old to something like Batman: The Brave and the Bold given how much the TV landscape has changed. But what makes that more recent series stand head and shoulders above its DC-based predecessors is mainly engaging stories that can captivate kids and parents alike. It can be goofy for sure, but never dull and insulting the intelligence of viewers of any age. Writing a list like this is difficult, and obviously subjective. Although I’m talking about my own experiences, my goal here is to ultimately save you some of the heartache I’ve endured by having the luster stripped from the shows I once held so dear. If you love it and cherish your memories of Saturday mornings spent with Superman, Batman, et al., do yourself a favor and don’t revisit Super Friends. Of course it’s entirely possible I’m placing too much importance on goofy cartoons from my youth. But hey, it killed a few minutes, right?