Kid Shows are more Mature than Ever

Chad White
Likes: Kid shows
Dislikes: Kids
Hates: Having so many kids, shows at his disposal

Spoilers may follow for the shows written about in this article.
Read at your own volition.

“People make mistakes. It’s a part of growing up and you never really stop growing.” – Duke of Nuts

This quote came from a kids TV show. Not just any show, mind you; it’s Adventure Time. Taking place in the distant future where candy people, goo monsters and other magical creatures roam the land, Adventure Time follows the exploits of the last human and his magically stretching dog. One of the most defining aspects of the show is that it is shown on Cartoon Network. For years, I’ve heard people complain about today’s TV being silly or stupid. Those same people don’t seem to give anything new a chance. I’ve been watching Adventure Time since its release in 2010 and every season I’m amazed at how grown-up the show has become. Episodes in the earlier seasons dealt with a bit on inane irreverence while later seasons tend to shift toward a story arc centering on topics like family, truth and love. Never has there been a time when a “kids show” been layering important, adult messages on viewers. Sure, The Magic School Bus gave insight on the body or Arthur taught viewers how to share but today’s shows offer more in terms of messaging.

"Remember! Reality is an illusion the universe is a hologram BUY GOLD BYEEE!" - Bill Cipher

Take Disney XD’s Gravity Falls. A pair of twins tries to uncover the truth behind the weird happenings of a small town. The show is full of mystery and suspense that are hidden behind a wall of entertaining jokes and a quick moving, deep story.

Gravity Falls just premiered the first episode of its second season last week, answering most of the questions the finale left the audience with. Mysteries and conspiracies turn into science fiction for two twins who thought they were spending the summer with their uncle Stan. Little did they know he’d turn out to be a twin himself and, to add to that, he stole his brother’s name. There’s so much going on in the show at this point that it’s hard to believe the story arc lasted this long without becoming convoluted.

The latest iteration of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Nickelodeon is as dark as Adventure Time and carries much of the same weight in terms of story as Gravity Falls. The series is as childish as the previous two but the lore is already established and it’s interesting to see what the showrunners can do with the characters, animation and changing landscape of children’s cartoons. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an anomaly in kid’s shows as it still airs new episodes on weekend mornings whereas Adventure Time, Gravity Falls and others capture the early primetime markets.

But TMNT is just as good too. The turtles have their personalities in order with the voices really playing a part to differentiate them as well as other characters. Leonardo is a default leader character but Raphael has a sort of inner city accent that fits his angry personality. Donatello’s nerdy voice falls in line with his abilities and Michelangelo is appropriate with his surfer-like vernacular (although he doesn’t say cowabunga anymore).

What these shows all have in common is the ability to tell a long, complex story while keeping entertainment a top priority. Kids can lose interest quickly with the distractions they have and other kid stuff they do. Plus, they have all the time and devices in the world to catch up while past generations had to catch their shows at their particular times. Those who aren’t watching Adventure Time have no idea what they’re missing. It’s weird, subversive and at times too unique (see CGI episodes or ones that offer .0005% backstory) but the show grows on you. The only negative aspect of kid shows is that the networks never give them complete seasons or full schedules. At one point, Gravity Falls could be on for four weeks straight and then disappear for two weeks only to return with no warning. Adventure Time is a bit more informative but not by much.

Should you get back into watching kid’s TV shows? Of course. You might – nee will – find more substance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than you would in Mike and Molly. There needs to be a balance in our lives between cartoons and reality. It’s easy to fall into the trap of finding kid’s shows droll but you could find them invigorating if you gave them a chance.

Look, just watch Sofia the First and you’ll thank me later.