If you haven't been watching Shaun the Sheep with your kids, I have one word that should change your mind: Aardman. You know, the people who made Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run and Arthur Christmas? They make Shaun the Sheep (as well as its Rotten Tomatoes 100% Fresh theatrical film tie-in). Trust us, you need to see this.
This may shock you, but The Fairly OddParents is still going. It's been on the air for nine seasons. To put it in perspective, that's a longer run than Home Improvement, longer than The Cosby Show, and even longer than Cop Rock (in the alternate reality universe where that show was a massive success)!
Why has the show lasted so long? Because it's actually really funny.
Hey, I think we can all agree that our generation is doomed...when it comes to reality television content, anyway. But, there's still hope for the children.
Total Drama is an animated faux reality series that brilliantly and cynically satirizes the junk infesting our TV. If enough kids see this series, maybe, just maybe, we can turn things around for the next generation. Plus, you'll enjoy it while it's on, too.
I don't know if you're aware, but over at Dreamworks, they have a deal to create 300 hours of kids content for Netflix. One of the first shows to come out of that deal, All Hail King Julien, is based on the Madagascar movies.
How is the show? Well, lemme put it this way: Dreamworks has only produced ten episodes so far, and they've already won three Emmys. The future's looking bright.
If you've got one of those Amazon Prime subscriptions, you might want to check out their free streaming programs. Out in the kids section is the strangest, quirkiest kids show I've seen since The Adventures of Pete and Pete, titled Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street.
The show is at the same time funny and sad, youthful and nostalgic. Quite simply, it's the kind of kids' show you'll someday look back on and say, "Why don't they make shows like that anymore?!"
I get it, as a parent you're probably sick of SpongeBob Squarepants, since you've likely seen every episode a million times. But rejoice, because Nickelodeon has just recently started airing new episodes, so you'll get to hear some jokes that aren't already burned into your memory. Try to remember how much you enjoyed them...before you learn to hate those very same jokes by your 30th viewing.
This one isn't on TV. It's one of those "Internet" shows, which you access using "computers" connected to vast "networks."
Bee and Puppycat premiered on YouTube in 2013, then promptly went on to raise over $800,000 to produce nine more episodes. However, animation takes a long time and so they're only halfway through production right now. But hey, at least you can sit down with your kids and watch five episodes of the most absurd shows you'll ever see.
I may incite some anger, here, but do you guys remember the Ninja Turtles TV series from our youth? Yeah...it doesn't hold up.
Now before you get mad, please go back and watch some episodes of the '90s-era show for yourself (without rose-tinted nostalgia glasses, please). Then, check out this new series on Nickelodeon. I'm telling you, this one is way better and the reason why is because it's not only playing to children, but also parents who grew up watching the characters.
...Is it weird if I co-opt this generation's TV shows as my own?
Here's another kickass web series, this one created by Pendleton Ward (you know, the creator of Adventure Time?) It's an animated show set in the year 3085, following hero teenagers as they save cute aliens all over the galaxy.
I have one word to say to you about this show: Catbug. Get to know him, because after your kids see episode 7, you're going to find yourself buying a plush version of that little guy a few days later.
When they rebooted My Little Pony, it really had no right to be any good. But then, Hasbro hired Lauren Faust (from Powerpuff Girls and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) to develop the series and man, did she hit it out of the park.
There's a reason why that middle-aged guy at your office has all those MLP dolls: This show's extremely smart, self-aware and funny. You and your kids need to be watching it.
Every parent knows: It's important to start your child's Star Wars education from an early age. Otherwise, they'll end up vastly behind their peers come high school. Better plant them in front of the Disney XD channel right now, just to be safe.
Full disclosure: I'm biased on this choice. That's because I am one of the writers on Sonic Boom.
Now that that's out of the way, can we just take a moment to talk about the fast-paced action, lightning-quick jokes and interpersonal drama that go into every episode of Sonic Boom? I don't know about you, but I for one sure think we should all run to our local Toys R Us and buy as much Sonic merchandise as we can carry!
...Oh, and Polygon seems to think the show's pretty okay, too.
If you get a distinct Bob's Burgers type of feel from these characters, that's because one of Sanjay and Craig's creators, Jay Howell, was the original character designer for the Belcher family. And for good measure, the show is produced by the duo who created The Adventures of Pete and Pete.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, the people who make Sanjay and Craig know what they're doing, and they know funny. Sure, the show ventures a little too far into stupid humor sometimes, but as a parent, you could do much, much worse.
Real talk: it doesn't matter if you have kids or not. Either way, you need to be watching Steven Universe. Created by the 20-something wunderkind behind the best episodes of Adventure Time, Steven Universe tells some of the deepest, most emotionally-gripping stories on television today and I'm not just talking about kids' programming.
This show is something else, dude. If you're into goofy, absurd takes on super heroes, it doesn't get much better than Teen Titans Go! Sure, some purists still resent the crazy direction it went in after spinning off from the equally well-regarded Teen Titans, but if you can manage to get past that, TTG is one of the best.
As a bonus, the show constantly plays with the structures and tropes of television itself. Episodes sometimes end with characters dying, only to return to normal next week. Heck, in one episode they killed Batman!
Flying in the face of the TV executive mantra that kids can only relate to shows about kids, Regular Show is about two slacker 20-somethings who work at a local park. While the episodes can be formulaic at times, the surrealistic plot turns and nonstop '80s pop culture references should keep you more than entertained.
In fact, I hesitate even calling this a "kids show," but hey, Regular Showis rated TV-PG, and it does air during the after-school hours on Cartoon Network. That just about seals it, right?
Note: Parents will only actually want to watch this one if they grew up with ABC's Friday night TGIF lineup in the mid and late '90s. If that's you, though, prepare for a nostalgia overload as just about every episode is crammed with cameos from Boy Meets World alumni. Sure, sometimes they can be a little forced (Shawn's deadbeat dad appearing four times as a ghost "spirit guide"?!?), but it's worth the price of admission to check in on these old friends.
Yeah, I know. Most adults don't want to sit down and watch an episode of Sesame Street during their free time. But if you actually give it a look, you'll find original sketch parodies of some incredibly un-child-friendly material, such as Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Homeland and Boardwalk Empire.
The writing on these is really smart, and 100% goes over the heads of the kids watching. Parents, those jokes are all for you.
Any red-blooded American who enjoys road trips should be watching Gravity Falls. It's a kids show about those weird towns and tourist traps you see while driving through the middle of nowhere. The writing is often surreal, absurd and, well, touching. Plus, it's got Kristen Schaal in it. Everybody loves Kristen Schaal.
And lastly, we have perhaps the greatest cross-generational TV show on the air today, Adventure Time. The critical darling (that has by now amassed a janitorial closet full of awards) is set to enter its seventh season later this year. And, with an unprecedented 8-part episode set to air in October, you know we'll be watching.