By JACOB TRASK
We find ourselves in the golden age of television in 2017. Streaming services are quickly dominating the industry, providing viewers with some of the best dramatic series ever created, such as Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and many others. Television networks like AMC and NBC are giving their all to match the competition with shows like The Walking Dead and This Is Us. But the unsung heroes of the new wave of television shows are the ones that are outlined in black.
Cartoons have been a staple of American culture for most of the last 100 years, providing children with Saturday morning entertainment since The Looney Toons and Scooby Doo in the ‘60s. More mature content has found its place since the 90s, like The Simpsons and Family Guy, but a new genre of cartoon has surfaced in the last several years: the extremely intelligent, but mind-bogglingly ridiculous. Shows like Archer and Bob’s Burgers paved the way for some of the craziest cartoons audiences have ever seen, and the three that deserve the most recognition this fall are Rick and Morty, Bojack Horseman, and Big Mouth.
Rick and Morty is one of the most relevant shows among millennials because of its incredibly witty content, and its out-of-this-world concept. Rick Sanchez is a mad scientist who freeloads off of his daughter’s family, and takes her son Morty on outrageous adventures through space, other worlds and parallel universes. Each episode is a new adventure that delves into extremely intricate, interstellar environments and tosses Rick and Morty into another life-threatening situation. Rick completes scientific tasks along the way, constantly sporting his big brain with nonsensical knowledge about literally anything. He’s also a seriously high-functioning alcoholic, burps repeatedly throughout each episode, and almost always has vomit spit hanging off his bottom lip.
The show is co-created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, who voices both Rick and Morty. Roiland is incredibly talented, and has found his calling with these characters, which is why there is so much buzz around this show. Season three began this summer, and was easily the most talked about cartoon of the year. Fans were nowhere near dissapointed, and another outstanding installment of the show has solidified Harmon and Roiland as some of best guys in television right now. The highlight of the season was episode seven, “The Ricklantis Mixup”, where Roiland took Rick and Morty to a universe consisting of only Ricks and Mortys, and voiced every single character in the episode. Millennials are raving about this show, and it’s hard to ignore how much ground Rick and Morty is breaking. You can watch seasons one and two on Hulu, and season three is incredibly easy to find online.
Bojack Horseman is a Netflix original that may be the strangest cartoon concept ever. Will Arnett voices Bojack Horseman, a washed up sitcom actor from the 80s, who is constantly under the influence of drugs and alcohol as he tries to revitalize his failing career in an alternate universe Hollywood. But the most peculiar element of this show is that Bojack is a actually a horse, and countless other characters around him take shape animals, including Princess Carolyn (a cat, and Bojack’s agent) and Lenny Turtletaub (you guessed it. He’s a turtle). These animals occupy the same streets as humans in this strange alternate United States.
I have been watching this show for almost three years, and although it took some time for me to fully accept, it has become one of my most adored television shows, and rightfully so. This is the most clever cartoon I’ve ever watched. The subject matter ranges from absolutely ridiculous to extremely profound. Over the course of four seasons, we’ve witnessed Bojack make drastic changes within himself as he struggles with his relationships with his old friends, his memoirist, his manager, and his estranged, hateful mother. More than a few times, this show goes to deep, dark levels to reveal themes of death, drug addiction, the decay of relationships, and depression. But all the while, it remains refreshingly funny, with tons of self-referencing jokes and a really new style of humor. It also stays very in-tune with Hollywood culture, and references a plethora of famous people. One of the most obscure guest appearances is from J.D. Sallinger, the author of The Catcher in the Rye (voiced by Alan Arkin).
The show features a very talented cast of voice actors, including Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris, and Alison Brie. The fourth season was released on Netflix on September 8, and it may just be the best season yet. If you haven’t given this show a chance yet, you absolutely should.
Big Mouth is one of the newest cartoons on Netflix. It was released on September 29, and has quickly taken our generation by storm, entertaining and appalling audiences with its ridiculous but relatable concept. The show centers around a group of middle schoolers as they begin puberty, focusing on the stereotypical situations that all kids go through as they grow into their adult bodies. It does this in a hilariously exaggerated, but almost grotesque way. The show is incredibly sexual, and goes almost overboard with a number of scenarios. Describing examples would be too inappropriate for a school paper, so you should just check it out for yourself.
The show is created by Nick Kroll (The League), and Andrew Goldberg (Family Guy), and is loosely based on their tween years growing up in the suburbs of New York City. Kroll voices the main character, Nick, and he’s accompanied by a star-studded cast, including Jason Mantzoukas, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, and Jordan Peele. It currently holds an 8.3/10 on IMDB after three weeks, and will likely be one of the most critically acclaimed cartoons of the year.
If cartoons just aren’t your thing, I’d still encourage you to check out these shows. Although they contain similar elements of past cartoons, these shows take on a really new style, and they’re aimed directly at college kids and young adults. Cartoons have become very intelligent, and they take on themes that you’d never expect from a show drawn by hand. Producers and creators are putting a ton of work into these new shows to creative a new evolution of this art, and I think it deserves to be recognized. So take 30 minutes, and go watch an episode. You might be pleasantly surprised, and you might learn something valuable on the way.
Jacob Trask can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.