Who says kids’ shows are just for kids? TV shows made for kids assume their audience has a greater ability to suspend its disbelief, opening the door for fantasy, silliness, and just plain weirdness. Therefore, kids shows cater to anyone with an imagination. May I recommend:
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (Hasbro, 2010)
Let’s start with the obvious choice. You may have heard of the so-called “brony phenomenon.” That is, there are adults who genuinely enjoy the new “My Little Pony” cartoon. And why not? This is not the MLP of the 80s, which featured fluff-brained characters prancing through a directionless story. The new MLP, as revamped by Lauren Faust (who worked on “Powerpuff Girls” and “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends”), is about the adventures of a geek girl and her five quirky friends. Only, they’re pastel-coloured ponies. The characters are fleshed out and their relationships are dynamic, making them relatable for bronies and the initially intended audience alike.
What’s more, Hasbro is aware of the brony following and actually responds to it. For example, the current season contains easter eggs of hidden Derpy appearances. Derpy Hooves, named by the fandom, began as an animation error.* Hasbro noticed Derpy’s popularity in the fandom and purposefully brought her back. For a show that’s wise, sweet, funny, and truly respects its audience, try “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”
Samurai Pizza Cats (Saban International, 1990)
What if I told you there was an anime about animatronic cats who fight crime and work in a pizza shop, and the whole thing is set in a fusion of feudal Japan, the 1990s, and some sort of self-aware bugs bunny cartoon? When you’re done blinking at the screen, I suggest you search YouTube for some clips of this classic. Okay, so it’s a classic in my world.
The series follows the titular superhero team, consisting of the wisecracking Speedy Cerviche, the tsundere drama queen Polly Esther, and the wannabe-Casanova Guido Anchovy. Their heroic efforts are dedicated to protecting a looney emperor and his bratty daughter from their realm being overtaken by an Evil Advisor. Did I mention the Evil Advisor is a cross-dressing animatronic rat** who is commanding a league of ninja crows? When trouble strikes, normally in the form of a giant robot smashing the city, the Pizza Cats transform and shoot themselves out of a giant gun built into the roof of their pizza shop. They arrive on the scene and save the day by use of their samurai weapons, random explosions, and smart alec remarks. And, sometimes, more giant robots. If you want to see a cartoon that will make you laugh and hurt your brain, go see “Samurai Pizza Cats.”
Horrible Histories (Children’s BBC, 2009)
It’s by the BBC, so you know it’s good. “Horrible Histories” is a variety-style show of music videos, interviews, news reports, and re-enactments, and it’s all about various periods of history. It’s truly educational, as in, you remember what they teach you on the show.***
The acting is fabulous, the costumes are gorgeous, and the information is delivered in a way that makes you laugh as much as it makes you think. If you’re a history nerd, watch it. If you’re a comedy fiend who doesn’t mind learning, watch it. Actually… just watch it.
*when she accidentally appeared cross-eyed, thus making the “derp” face and earning her the moniker.
**Or fox, if you’re following the Japanese version.
***As it focuses mostly on British history and ancient civilizations, this content was not covered in my North American public school education.