It’s official: Everything sucks. I don’t need to remind you why you should STAY INDOORS whenever possible, and if you’re anything like me then you probably want to curl up in a ball and watch nothing but bad television. Between episodes of Judge Judy and Ricki Lake (I’m assuming this stuff is still on, I haven’t watched TV in ages), there are reminders that as dark as this timeline is…better ones do exist.
I know I’m not helping matters much but bear with me. It’ll be a while before going outside and not looking like a Bane stunt double extra from The Dark Knight Rises is still a thing, so you might as well indulge in some cartoon viewing about realities that are almost as bad as this one but would actually be preferable to what we have now.
And no I’m not including Rick and Morty because it’s too obvious, South Park has been awful for too long now and Bojack Horseman can take a long walk off a short pier because nothing about it makes me want to laugh.
You might as well kick this list off with a classic fusion of dark humour, design and animation, and that’s a bill that Invader Zim fits perfectly. Spearheaded by Johnen Vasquez and a crew of misfit writers, Invader Zim is both visually grotesque and magnetically monstrous to watch. It’s a show that was years ahead of the curve, forecasting how reality would take a turn into the stupid and apathetic while also being home to some of the funniest adventures ever committed to a TV screen.
There’s the sheer body horror of Dark Harvest wherein the alien Zim attempts to blend in with humanity by stealing organs, the utter insanity of a lice infestation taken to the extreme and a Xmas episode that ends with the patron saint of Silly season ifts becoming humanity’s greatest nemesis as it hibernates amongst the stars, gathering power and waiting for a chance to strike back across the eons.
With a recent one-shot revival on Netflix, some of the most quotable lines of all time and a style that no other cartoon could ever hope to imitate, Invader Zim still stands as a unique slice of miraculous mayhem.
Is it better to serve in heaven or rule in hell? For mild-mannered and good-natured social worker Mark Lilly, there’s no real choice as he finds himself working amongst the damned in the festering hellhole of New York City. The only difference here being, is that Manhattan is now home to every monster and demon you’ve ever read about and then a few more you could never ever imagine.
Like man-pigeons prowling the sky full of literal big dick energy as they shriek about making you eat their asses. And yet even amongst the damned, Ugly Americans is fascinating entertainment about a good man trying to do his very best while surrounded by the worst of the worst. It’s easy to create a TV show focused on awful people, but to examine what it takes to still be a relatively decent individual in an ocean of decay, with plenty of slapstick and a great sense of style.
Plus Koala Man is dangerously adorable.
You’ve got to hand it to Paradise PD: It knows that it goes for the lowest-hanging fruit, and it owns that approach entirely. Crude, rude and full of attitude, Paradise PD doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to its focus on toilet humour. It makes the bog in Trainspotting look like a five-star porcelain throne in comparison and it simply doesn’t care what you think as it charts its own path. There’s something admirable in a show that knows what it wants to be, and commits entirely to its role.
The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack
To this day, I still wish I could know just how the Flapjack cartoon managed to sneak past censors with some of its content. On the surface, it’s as wholesome a show as can be: A young boy, living inside of his foster mom of a whale (No really she’s a literal whale) goes on adventures with the crusty ol’ Cap’n K’nuckles, who just so happens to be more rotting wood and bitter regrets than man.
Beneath that pitch, there is a cartoon with some dark stuff waiting in the void, like Cthulu and the Old Ones as they slumber amongst the stars. There’s the mystery of Doctor Barber and his mom in a cupboard shelf, Peppermint Larry and his literal candy wife or any number of wacky hijinks that involve the grossest of close-ups. Flapjack may be the sole light of positivity in his uncaring world, but it’s the long shadows that this show casts amongst a roster of strangeness that makes it so alluring to binge-watch.
Rock stars have long since been the new gods of humanity, with many a band using their influence to create a quasi-religious experience for their fans and establishing a cult of personality along the way. Metalocalypse is that idea taken to the the extreme, albeit with a band of misfits whose collective intelligence could barely power the mind of a single functioning adult.
Instead, the members of Dethklok are finely-tuned instruments of death metal, able to bring entire nations to their knees with a single song and in turn unable to perform basic tasks such as shopping for groceries when their personal chef is introduced to the business end of helicopter blades. Every episode of Metalocalypse is essentially an examination of five idiots attempting to fit into a world that can barely contain them, with devastating results coming about by the time the end credits roll.
The fact that Metalocalypse can do this while also adding one of the most awesome soundtracks in history to its background, an epic tale of ancient gods and a ton of cameos on the side from rock royalty? Well that’s just metal.
King Star King
I’ve never done drugs, but I’m genuinely convinced that all six of the King Star King episodes in existence are the equivalent of snorting an entire cargo container’s worth of the most mind-bending hallucinogens that humanity has ever produced. How do you even describe King Star King, a series that literally kicks off with a cross-dressing pervert in several pairs of high heeled shoes using his tail-laser to molest victims with genital-exploding devastation?
It’s a mix of Tex Avery lunacy with a bump of coke, rock ‘n roll with enough sex and drugs to make Mötley Crüe ask you to tone it down and then turned up to 11 as you watch the greatest hero in the cosmos power up with narcotics. It is mad and mesmerising, a never-ending ride of animated anarchy that has to be seen to be believed.
We’re of the popular opinion here that all dogs are good dogs, but there is an exception to the rule. A doggo that regularly delights in wholesale slaughter, satanic rituals and making life hell for an old man who’s out to expose him. Mr Pickles is that weird combination of crazy and horror, mixing the ugliest of visuals with adcap animation that gel together to create something which is literally pretty ugly.
There’s a beauty in that show’s design however, constant Easter eggs lurking in the shadows and hidden beneath a layer of blood and gruesome shenanigans as the titualar Mr Pickles weaves his dark magic across each episode and brings hell to those who would cross him.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force
A giant milkshake, box of chips and a meatball live together under one roof and solve crimes. That’s it, that’s the entire pitch right there. And it’s the best damn thing you’ll ever see. Aqua Teen Hunger Force sounds like I’ve been ingesting industrial-grade LSD whenever I describe it but bear with me here because Adult Swim’s premiere slice of animated weirdness is essentially the Seinfeld of its genre.
It’s a show about nothing, anchored by a selfish, creepy and dumb as bricks characters who regularly find their New Jersey headquarters invaded by idiotic German aliens, robots from past futures and the biggest dick on television since Alex Jones made the news. It is the very definition of insanity and darkness, a syndicated dive into crazy that you can never remove from your body once you’ve seen it…and you’ll never want to either once you’ve spent a few days binging on this surreal masterpiece.
If there’s a line in the sand when it comes to good taste, then Drawn Together would happily shift it with a pissing contest as it went above and beyond to give television censors an aneurysm with its antics. The pitch was simple: Pop culture characters from various cartoon shows and video games, living together in a house with a million cameras and usually getting involved in episodes that saw mass murder, entire cities destroyed and a fat joke about Toot.
Drawn Together is the kind of cartoon series that would be impossible to conceive of today, not because of some misguided “lol own the SJWs sentiment”, but because it managed to piss everyone off. In an age where South park has lost its teeth, Drawn Together still manages to be a prime example of what it means to not only have no sacred cows, but to run that beast over and serve it on a plate to a vegan.
Crass as hell and funnier than it had any right to be (Your nemesis keeps tricking you into washing his balls?), Drawn Together had no limits when it came to poking anyone and everything that it could with a stick of not giving a shit, earning infamy and cult favourite accolades along the way.
Last Updated: May 19, 2020