This week, we talk about our favorite childhood TV shows!
Dragon Ball Z
First show that came to mind was Dragon Ball Z. It was a huge part of my childhood from around age six or seven to my early teen years. It took forever to finish – constant restarts and the well beloved long winded “filler” episodes are to blame – but I could never not tune in five nights a week. It was a magical world of super powers and monsters, new planets and races, with the typical good vs. evil subplot driven behind each saga – and I ate it up. I was obsessed with Vegeta and wanted to be him (and often acted like I was at recess). I loved every second of it. I grew up with the characters (literally) and when it ended I felt like a piece of my childhood was tucked away. I’m still a huge DBZ fangirl though and it will always be a part of my history. [Kiesha]
I was downright obsessed with YuYu Hakusho as a tyke. I was lucky enough to randomly catch the first episode on Cartoon Network one day, already halfway finished. I had no idea what it was I was watching, but since I was waiting for some other show that came on after it, I stuck around. Even without knowing who anyone was, the funeral scene hit me like a bag of rocks to the face, and just like that I was sucked in. (Looking back, it’s a little worrisome that something that made me cry that hard got me so immediately enamored.) I loyally watched every episode I could on Cartoon Network, went to bookstores to devour the manga, ended up obsessively collecting every single DVD and audio CD, and I probably still have my figurines and plushies somewhere (all of fox-demon Kurama and short, grumpy Hiei, naturally, since they were the loves of my childhood life). Yusuke and Kuwabara taught me the meaning of true best friendship while still being really, really mean to each other. Yusuke and Keiko taught me how to ‘ship’. And honestly, all the action and violence and swearing probably has a lot to do with my taste in pop culture nowadays. Formative influences, man. [Christine]
Batman: The Animated Series
My favorite childhood TV show was the Batman: Animated Series on Cartoon Network. Compared to the other kids programs that were on TV at the time, Batman was considered relatively dark, but without the surrealist tones of Courage the Cowardly Dog or the silly antics of Freakazoid! and CatDog. A four time Emmy award-winning show, the creators drew on inspiration from Tim Burton’s Batman and film noir to create a show that was a mystery/crime/action thriller all in one. While it only ran for two years, they created 109 riveting episodes that performed incredibly well worldwide.
Being a precocious kid, Batman had everything I was looking for that I wasn’t finding in shows like Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls—an element of evil that was partially grounded in reality. The criminals in Batman stole from banks, ran away from the cops in car chases, and did other things that otherwise weren’t too far removed from crimes that I would hear about in the news. In addition to that, Batman was a fascinating character to me because he was an anti-hero. Though the show, to my memory, was never as explicit about Batman’s background, it was obvious that Batman was not the typical superhero; he was brutal against his archenemies the Joker and the Penguin. Batman was not quite the typical kids show, but it was a great series, nonetheless. [Michelle]
My absolute favourite childhood TV show was a Disney Channel show called Fillmore! which involved the exploits of middle school detectives Cornelius Fillmore and Ingrid Third, a pair of mismatched safety squad partners and best friends. The series was a brilliant kid-friendly spoof of film noir and noir detective novels in the style of Law and Order and the Raymond Chandler noir novels, with a brilliant multi-racial cast, fantastic development for characters, and a joyously fun way of treating these tired crime show tropes. Sadly, it’s not out on DVD, otherwise anytime I felt sad or low, I’d be putting on a couple of episodes of Fillmore! and I’d be right as rain again. [Chris]
I remember how after school I’d walk home with my brother, we’d turn the TV on to the Disney Channel, and sometime around 3pm my favorite show would be on: Gargoyles. This cartoon had it all: magic, murder, monsters, revenge, robot cyborgs, even Shakespearean mythology. This was epic fantasy storytelling in a cartoon, the likes of which would not be seen again until Nickelodeon started Avatar: The Last Airbender in 2005. In addition to its clever blend of mysticism and urban city life, the lead co-protagonist of the show was a half-Black, half-Native American woman working as a respected police detective in New York City. Elisa Maza was the human face of the show, surrounded as she was by monster statues come to life, and for a ’90s cartoon she represented a demographic rarely seen on general television. If you haven’t seen Gargoyles, it’s up on YouTube, and to this day it holds up to a rewatch. [Sara]
There’s a wealth of early 2000s children’s programmes that I can remember loving (Totally Spies, That’s So Raven and Unfabulous to name just a few), but none gave birth to an icon quite like Lizzie McGuire did. Hillary Duff became — alongside Amanda Bynes — a childhood icon for me. I dragged my mum to all of her movies in cinemas filled exclusively with other girls and their mothers, and looking back, I’m surprised at just how female-centric my pre-teen and teenage pop culture world was. The biggest dramas in Lizzie’s world were always about having to wear an ugly sweater on photo day, or dealing with her annoying brother (all complete with quips from her animated alter ego), and while sometimes the magic of Sabrina The Teenage Witch or the action of Kim Possible was more exciting, Lizzie McGuire launched a film and a woman that, for me, are indisputable parts of my childhood. [Laura]
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have many TV shows to choose from when I was a child. I was primarily subjected to watch PBS shows because we didn’t have cable, but even if I had had cable at the time, my favorite TV show would’ve probably still been Arthur. It’s ironic because Arthur‘s a TV show intended to get children interested in reading and writing, mainly because it’s based on Marc Brown’s best-selling children’s books. Because of this, I latched onto it. We have very diverse 8-year-old children who love to read. Even Buster, who really dislikes going to school and reading, ends up enjoying comic books. And who can forget that great musical number: “Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card”? As a child who loved to read, it made me feel comforted to know that these characters are a lot like me. And not just me, but other children. Because they all have different personalities, there’s a character suited for every viewer. Not to mention the characters all deal with very realistic and personal problems and situations. When children watch it, their parent(s) can have honest conversations with them about what’s happening in the episode, from the topic of divorce (Buster’s parents) to the topic of dealing with a grandparent that has Alzheimer’s (Arthur’s grandpa). All of this is why I watched Arthur well into middle school. And I mean, well into middle school. I’m not ashamed! [Isabella]
As a sweet, cerebral little girl, watching the 4:30 episode of Arthur on WTTW was part of my daily routine. Arthur was sort of the young moral compass in a world where the amount of drama was level with that of my own elementary life. There were always more friendship issues to resolve, academic lessons to learn, and more books to read. There are so many Arthur moments I’ll never forget: The Brain’s parents invent pistachio ice cream and I thought it was so disgusting. Baxter puts on sunglasses and pretends to read but the book is upside down. Muffy’s house full of fountains. I’m not sure if I’m even remembering these accurately but I thought looking them up would abolish the nostalgiac energy. Now a word from us kids! [Hillary]
The Magic School Bus
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with four shows: Power Rangers, Sailor Moon, Pokémon, and… The Magic School Bus. That’s right. The Magic School Bus was a PBS kids’ show about an eccentric schoolteacher with frizzy red hair, a pet lizard, and magic school bus, who took “hands-on learning” to a whole different level. Looking back, Ms. Frizzle (voiced by Lily Tomlin) should have never been allowed to teach, let alone be around kids, but the adventures these kids went on were so exciting to watch at the time. And yes, it actually was educational and I remember learning a lot about science just from watching The Magic School Bus. Last year, Netflix announced it was going to do a Magic School Bus reboot in 2016 using CGI animation. Part of me groans at the fact that there needs to be a reboot at all, but another part of me is excited that a whole new generation of kids will be exposed to something that was so important to me when I was growing up. [Hera]
There is no way no one else has picked Spongebob Squarepants, but I think my fandom might surpass the average person. I’m pretty sure I began watching on the debut episode, and during all the different periods of my young life SpongeBob was there. It’s hard to pinpoint what I liked most about the show, but I think it presented a sense of humor that was smart enough to appeal to both kids and adults. My mom refused to watch Catdog with me, but she indulged my interest in SpongeBob because it had such a unique point of view on the undersea world and a funky animation style too. Something I’m realizing now is that it made animals like sponges and starfishes, that kids weren’t used to seeing as alive and empathetic, the main characters, which for all I know might’ve bred a generation of marine biologists. I’m no marine biologist, but I do have a SpongeBob soundtrack with “F.U.N” and “ Campfire Song Song” on it. By the time I was about 14, I had a bathroom all decked out in SpongeBob memorabilia from shower curtains to a toothbrush holder and now I can re-watch some of the hallmark episodes on Amazon Prime! [Sarah]
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
It was inevitable that I’d dedicate my life to TV now that I look back to my childhood. In many ways, I haven’t changed since I was a kid. My first TV love was Curious George, where I must’ve had my parents rent the same VHS tape dozens of time, and I’m still not entirely sure I made it to the end. It was like the Neverending Story of The Man With the Yellow Hat. And I loved that shit. I was similarly obsessed with the Care Bears and their pesky cousins (because I only have 1 legitimate first cousin!).
Every morning before primary school, I would watch an episode of Beast Wars. Now I get trashed playing drinking games to this show before I go out, and have done so since college with the boys from the Clarke dormitory.
I loved Doug, Arthur, Recess and Hey, Arnold! as much as the next antisocial dweeb, and I still persist in discussions whether or not I could make it on Legends of the Hidden Temple (obviously not on the Silver Snakes). You could make the shaky argument that my love of X-Men shaped my entire life, and it all started with the animated cartoon.
Life is like a hurricane, or a cycle of nostalgia, and there might not be a more indelible image from my childhood than Scrooge McDuck diving into his pile of money (how much would that hurt? I think we’d all take that glorious pain). As I grew older, innumerable afternoons were spent with Kimmy Gibbler and the Tanners in their Full House, while my first crush may very well have been on Pepper Ann (“one in a millliiiooonnn”). This simultaneously explains my love of redheads and my intense bachelorhood later in life.
It’s disturbing how little I remember from most of these shows beyond their indelible theme songs and the egregiously ’90s commercial breaks. While I was absolutely obsessed with Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town and the ne’er do well’s that IS (“Prepare for trouble…”) Team Rocket, Pokémon (how great is it that Word autocorrects the accent?) may have had a greater impact on me as a video and card game (Japanese holographic Charizards, yo!) than the TV show.
But this battle came down to two shows. More than my last name (Greene), it was Tommy Oliver’s Green Ranger that cemented my favorite color forever, my favorite character in Saban Entertainment’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. When he became the White Ranger, I was blown away, and my Mom probably had the biggest hero moment in my childhood when she HANDMADE a beautiful, incredible White Ranger costume. It was so good, that I wore it when it wasn’t Halloween, to intense embarrassment. I still remember that day as a turning point when it wasn’t socially accepted to wear nerdy outfits outside of Halloween anymore. It was a sad day, and possibly not coincidentally, I quickly switched schools and became a shy introvert until well into high school.
But before kids became bastards that made fun of such costumes, I was revered for it in Kindergarten. For the entire school year, I wore my surely smelly Donatello pajamas every day. It was a battle my parents gave up on fighting. More than twenty years later, whenever I’m at home, I’m likely wearing TMNT pajamas (it’s a new pair, at least). And that’s why it’s a no brainer: my favorite childhood TV show is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a show that changed everything, hooking me on toys, movies, books, even cooking: I’ll always treasure my first introduction to the English muffin pizza recipe in the back of a crappy TV show tie-in book. I’ll always treasure all of these shows, but TMNT reigns supreme (just not supreme pizza, April!). [Andy]