There was a time when you actually wanted to get up early. Getting up with the sunrise meant you got to eat pizza with the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," beat down Skeletor with "He-Man," or rock out with your rainbows out alongside "Jem and the Holograms." It was a glorious time of 7,000-calorie sugar cereals, rainbow-emblazoned Underoos, and pajamas with the little feet built in.
Then you grew up, and everybody said it was going to be terrible. There would be mortgages, and bills, taxes, and other things that are too boring to make sense. But what they didn't tell you is that there would still be cartoons. And that they'd be made just for you -- cartoons so good and so wrong and so smartly funny, you had to hide them from kids. Cartoons you can watch whenever you want, because you have no bedtime. Saturday mornings are now for sleeping, but these grown-up 'toons are for savoring.
'Bob's Burgers' (2011 - )
Like visiting Arlen, Texas, from the sublime, ever-underrated "King of the Hill," watching "Bob's Burgers" feels like watching a too-smart-for-prime-time sitcom that just happens to be animated. And like the burgers slung by H. Jon Benjamin's Bob Belcher, the show itself has become something of a soul-warming, working-class comfort food. Yeah, burgers might be fattening, but they taste delicious. And yeah, Bob's kids might be unpopular and his business might be in a perpetual state of distress, but it all feels so good.
If that's too much reality for you, the show's willingness to dip into absurdity while deftly avoiding pretension should do the trick, like the tangy pickles on a meaty patty of damn fine TV.
'Archer' (2009 - )
Believe it or not, H. Jon Benjamin did not write this list -- it just turns out that the guy is the chosen one of modern adult animation. And while his work on "Bob's Burgers" stays grounded in the blue-collar funnies, "Archer" doesn't even know what the word "grounded" means. Which is probably because Archer doesn't know what a lot of words mean.
Still, he's somehow a super spy. With all the STDs of James Bond and none of the IQ, Archer subverts the genre while managing to showcase legit action set-pieces and honestly slick art direction. But the stellar presentation just wraps up a show full of mommy issues, sex puns, political incorrectness, and enough frenetic dialogue to give "Arrested Development" a run for its money in the jokes-per-second category. Somebody give Jessica Walter an award for that, already.
'BoJack Horseman' (2014 - )
Will Arnett. Amy Sedaris. Aaron Paul. Alison Brie. This is not the cast of a future sitcom destined to become a cult classic. It is the cast of a cartoon about a talking horse destined to become a cult classic.
Sure, "BoJack Horseman" struggled a bit before finding its identity partway through the first season, but that's all oddly appropriate for an experimental show about a washed up, misanthropic actor-slash-horseperson trying to find his place in an increasingly cynical film industry. As the Black Keys' Patrick Carney strums the credits, you'll come to the same conclusion as BoJack: "I need to go take a shower so I can't tell if I'm crying or not." But you'll also realize why Paste Magazine calls the show "one of the most underrated comedies ever made," and why you'll definitely call it "the deepest and funniest show about an animated horse-human-actor hybrid ever aired in my lifetime."
South Park (1997 - )
Ten years ago, "South Park" was ragging on R. Kelly and Tom Cruise. In 2015, its 19th season tackled everything from police violence to gentrification when Officer Barbrady straight-up shot a kid and a Whole Foods moved into Kenny's house. The thing about "South Park" is that the longer it's on TV -- and it's been on TV so long that kids born during Season 1 are in college -- the more you take it for granted. It's easy for this deeply disturbed cartoon Colorado to recede to the back of your mind, until you remember that its satire is just as shocking and just as solid as it's ever been. With each passing year, Trey Parker and Matt Stone show us that they've got the balls to take on social issues like no other show on television. Chocolate, salty, socially relevant balls.
- The 10 Best Animated Shows of 2015
- The Best Animated Episodes of 2015
- 10 Best Animated TV Shows for Adults
- South Park: 15 Greatest Episodes Ever