Here’s a dallop of nostalgia for your Monday. I thought about doing Inktober, but I hadn’t done enough prep work, and we’re heading into NaNoWriMo anyway. So instead, I revisited the top 10 TV shows from my childhood that I still enjoy and think influenced me. They aren’t in actual 1 being the most influential order, 10 least, or anything like that. I just made a list of ten.
With a completely bonkers cast of characters, I think what I loved the most was how complex some of the personalities were allowed to get. And just when you think you have it figured out, and it’s just a kid’s show again, they come out with something that really makes you thing. It also was very real about some of the family lives that kids have, and about some of the unique problems that come from living in the inner-city. Plus, the craziness of the boarding house always seemed super real to me.
The Wild Thornberries
Mixing a lot of fun with some education on animals and conservation, Eliza and family hit a lot of buttons for me. Goofy family? Check. Girl who talks to animals? Check. Various shenanigans due to those two worlds combining? Double check. The only thing that got me was the “wild boy” character. I hated him then, kinda hate him now. I wish we had just gotten to have these two sisters and their parents, rather than this random thing to keep the parents or older sister busy as needed. Hello plot devise disguised as a character.
I saw this originally as part of Oh Yeah! Cartoons, and it’s always been pretty dear to me. I mean, come on, a whole world that has come to life due to the imagination of an artist. It’s a great concept, and it was executed very well. Plus it was just memorable. I can still hear Snap yelling, “RUDY, YOU GOTTA DRAW SOMETHIN’!” and the ridiculous situations that sometimes landed them in. The limit was really on what the artists could come up with. I just wish it was possible to see them easier, right now they are hard to find in a way that is easily viewed by those of us who are…broke. 😛
Tiny Toon Adventures
This is one of the few shows growing up that my brother and I could agree on. I think he preferred Animatics and Pinkie and the Brain, but it always came back to Tiny Toons for something for us to watch together. The humor and characters, while gendered, actually fairly represented them–there wasn’t the problem of five male characters to one girl, for example, like we ran into with shows like Power Rangers. Plus, it was legitimately funny and clever. Some of the jokes were meant for an older viewer like Taylor (five year age difference, ya’ll) and some were more on my level. Either way, it remains a very fond memory for me.
I think this is what kickstarted the French for me. And this was just a really smart TV show aimed at a much younger audience than…just about everything else on this list. It was simpler, it was more about understanding societal rules and girls fighting for agency (or scheming for it, okay, maybe it kickstarted more than my French). Most other cartoons for that age focus so much on basic skills, such as math and color and shape recognition and such, but Madeline really goes, “Nope, you learn that in school. Here’s some of the things you don’t.” Plus, feisty female protagonists for the win!
Now this list turns towards the “serious” as you all know, comedy is not my thing most of the time. Gargoyles had an amazing story, varied character designs that were still easy to tell apart to my kid brain (though when I first saw it, the episode was far enough in the series for me to be a little lost on the story, oops), and combined the mystic with the tech and the modern. It also addressed things like racism, hate groups, inter-racial relationships and how hard they can be, and dealing with the past so you can embrace your future. Heavy stuff for a kid’s show, but they were so sly about it, it wasn’t like they were preaching at us, it was just a natural, organic way for the story to go.
Batman: The Animated Series
Another one that Taylor and I could agree on, Batman feels like this universal childhood constant for my generation, even if you are now a Marvel fan more than DC (with the way the movie verses are going, I don’t blame anyone on that front). There’s been a lot better discussions on the series than I have space for here, so I’ll stick to the personal. I loved the snark, the smarts, and the action. The animation of the earlier seasons was very eh for me, I much prefer the last when it changed to match the rest of the DCAU, though the Bruce/Barbara relationship is WEIRD YA’LL. But I have never lost my love for the DCAU and that’s partly to thank because of this series. It showed me how the comics don’t have to ruin everything and make it far too complicated.
The beginning of the anime invasion, I used to wake up at six a.m. to watch this show, I was devoted. And that’s even with Serena and Rini driving me absolutely bonkers in the anime episodes, though the movies that were more manga-toned in their characters helped save them. I just loved seeing the girls getting in on the action and the fighting, on the stories of the prince and the princess, of the guardians and the way these people had to grow up. I grew up with the Dub, which is…an experience, due to the weird age differences and translations. But without it, I wouldn’t have gotten into the rest of the fandom, and considering how much I relate to Makoto/Lita/Sailor Jupiter, that would have been a damn shame. She really gave me someone to look up to growing up. She was tall, brunette and green-eyed, and tough, but also romantic. Not a lot of those to be found.
This show confused the hell out of me when I first saw it. (I was too young, admittedly.) But the mystic levels to it, and the relationship of Hiromi with the rest of the world, really stuck with me for some reason. It took several rewatchings for me to understand the story, to track everything. And you know what? That’s part of why I think I enjoyed it so much. It took time and processing and lots of re-examining of information for me to completely understand. But not everything needs to be spoon fed to kids. Sometimes, they need challenged. Especially kids like me, I figured it out and then I’d get bored and moved on. Shows like this helped engage them, and as long as there were elements they didn’t understand, they’d keep coming back to it until they did.
On the other end of the spectrum entirely… Yeah, I watched the dubbed version of this too. But you know, I’m not complaining, apparently there is some downright weird stuff in the original and I think I’m better remaining ignorant. XD But this hit me in some of the same ways as Sailor Moon and Madeline. It had the magic/mystic elements of Sailor Moon, but it had confronting personal issues and struggles that elementary school students start going through. It was also about figuring out how to do things your way, rather than what was expected of you, and for someone like me who tended to overthink, it actually showed me other ways to view the world. For Sakura, everything was seen through her emotions, an empathetic way of seeing the world and how to react to it. It was a lesson in other view points that really stuck with it…and along with Sailor Moon, cemented my love of celestial themes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look through my childhood. I might come back and touch on some of these later–I think my hero-worship of Jupiter could be cool to dive into, for example, and you know, sibling exploits are always fun. But for now, I hope you had fun revisiting the 90’s and early 2000’s.