While staying in a cottage in Cornwall over summer, without Netflix or any of the standards of modern TV watching, I spent many a happy evening on my own, devouring episodes of American Dad, Family Guy, and the Cleveland Show on ITV.
Setting the delights of Cornwall aside, here are my opinions on some of the best (and worst) adult animated shows, and why you should (or shouldn’t) watch them.
Some of you will complain about the inclusion of The Simpsons on this list, and the rating I’ve given it, but to you I say, don’t be so heartless! Yes, in the distant past, when TV was black and white, dinosaurs walked the earth and my grandfather sat down to watch The Simpsons, it wasn’t very good. And even though the middle seasons were okay, the quality has dropped again. It’s also true that the humour never knows where it’s going; if it’s trying to be observational, or character-driven.
What makes The Simpsons so good, is that it’s heartfelt. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit rubbish, it’s always giving 110%, just like its well-meaning patriarch, Homer. And we, like a thousand generations past and a thousand to come, grew up with it. The Simpsons is, for good or ill, here to stay, just like Marge and Homer’s marriage.
Where The Simpsons is heartfelt, South Park is heartless, where The Simpsons is a nice-but-dim fellow giving 110%, South Park is the sneering punk laughing at the darkness. It is cruel, nasty, and gloriously un-politically correct, tearing the fabric of everything you love apart, like the merciless scythe of the Reaper.
Through perfect characterisation and genuinely extraordinary writing, South Park is the only show I’ve ever seen that gets away with showing the same open, scathing disrespect to the viewers that it shows to everyone else. South Park’s wonderful nihilism seems to suggest that, if nobody watched it, it would still be produced, because you are one very little voice, in a big and cruel universe.
Why such a high score? It’s simple really. South Park is truly hilarious, consistently brilliant, and the musical film, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, is one of my absolute favourites. South Park is, without a doubt, the best adult animated show.
My girlfriend introduced me to this show, and I have to say, it’s pretty good. The voice acting is brilliant, and the restaurant setting is a unique concept.
But it has to be said, it can get dull, and the animation is a bit…stodgy. And, to be honest, there isn’t that much to say about it, despite having watched all ten seasons.
I like Family Guy, it’s a good, solid show. Peter, Stewie and Brian are iconic characters, and the cutaway system, while a bit hit and miss, has been made to work pretty well.
But when I was in Cornwall, I always found Family Guy disappointing. It’s clever, but not witty. It’s enjoyable, but not endearing. And unlike South Park or its younger brother, American Dad, it’s not belly-achingly funny.
I love this show, it’s properly funny.
The character-driven narratives work perfectly; Stan, Francine, Steve, Haley, Roger, and Klaus are all great comic creations, and with them in the picture, every episode is of great quality. Whether the episode is about Roger’s crazy capers, Hailey’s hippie exploits, or Stan’s toxic masculinity, it feels like, despite being the younger show, Family Guy’s older brother; calmer and more mature, and very entertaining.
The American Dad slots were the highlight of my long, lonely evenings.
The Cleveland Show
When the unfunny, puerile, and plain boring Cleveland Show started in the early hours of the morning, I had usually drunk enough to doze through it. Just about.
When I woke up in the grey dawn, with a pounding head, and saw Teleshopping gracing the screen of ITV2, I always slept soundly in bed, knowing I’d survived another night.
So there we go, South Park is great, The Cleveland Show is a crime against humanity, and Cornwall is thunderingly boring.