If there was anything that kept Gen-Y babies inside and safe on Friday nights, it was “Cartoon Cartoon Fridays” on Cartoon Network. We’d postpone rounds of Manhunt until Saturday nights at our own freewill thanks to the beloved cartoon marathon offered to us after a long, stressful week of commuting via the yellow bus.
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Whether we remained completely innocent by staying in and watching these series is questionable. If you were like most of us who stayed up way past our bedtimes, you’d let the kid-appropriate cartoon specials roll right into Adult Swim, forever corrupting our childlike innocence but molding our senses of humor into dark, satirical creations for years to come.
Yet, re-watching some of those so-called “innocent” series now (Powerpuff Girls, for example), you’d be surprised at how offensive and off-the-wall certain episodes could be, although at the time the under-the-radar remarks went unnoticed. Here’s where you can find all of Cartoon Network’s most beloved series, innocent and corrupt, on Netflix and AdultSwim.com.
10. Adorably Innocent: Codename: Kids Next Door (2002-2008)
This should have been called the Biggest Bullies Club: Why Being in a Spy Gang is the Only Way to Get Ahead as a Kid. Codename: KND taught us a few things about adolescence and beyond, “Numbuh One” being you have to have a cool nickname like “Numbuh One” and have access to a sick treehouse equipped with intimidating weaponry like mustard guns. It also helps if the adults in your life are completely clueless so your gang operations prove effective.Codename also clued us into what acronyms are since the only seemed to speak in abbreviations.
Fun Fact: Numbuh One’s rocket shoes are activated when he clicks his heels together like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
Codename: Kids Next Door is available on Netflix.
9. The Faux-Feminists: Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005)
Welcome to the City of Townsville; where sugar, spice, and everything nice were the ingredients used to “create the perfect little girls.” Don’t let the name deceive you, as this show was anything but adorably innocent. Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup were created by their scientist father, Professor Utonium, who accidentally knocked a heavy dose of “Chemical X” into his daughter-making concoction, spawning three crime-fighting dolls whose arch nemesis is an evil brainiac monkey known as Mojo Jojo. Perhaps we weren’t aware of it at the time, but in addition to fighting crime, the girls also dealt with heavy bouts of sexism where they were often treated like property (i.e. Professor Utonium declares in one episode that he “invented them”) and ended up fighting between each other about who was the cutest, the strongest, or the leader of the group.
Fun Fact: Elizabeth Daily (then known as E.G. Daily), the actress who voiced Buttercup, also voiced Tommy Pickles of Rugrats and played Pee-Wee Herman’s love interest, Dottie, in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
Powerpuff Girls is available on Netflix.
8. Reason for the Worst Pick-up Lines in Recent History: Johnny Bravo (1997-2004)
Often entering the room announcing “Heeere’s Johnny” before flexing his pecs, Johnny Bravo was a self-obsessed women-chaser who lived with his mother, had one serious head of hair, and a voice like Elvis. “Women? That’s slang for babes,” and “How about you and me go find an island somewhere and make fishy lips,” are among the many overeager pick-up lines from Johnny, who tries and fails repeatedly to land a hot date.
Fun Fact: Seth MacFarlane was one of the original writers on the series, along with Craig Bartlett (Hey Arnold!) and Butch Hartman (The Fairly Oddparents).
Johnny Bravo is available on Netflix.
7. The Deeply Disturbed Duo: The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy (2001-2007)
Originally titled Grim & Evil, The Grim Adventures follows Billy, who isn’t the brightest bulb in the socket, Mandy, who is is permanently in a bad mood, and the Grim Reaper, their supernatural friend whose powers Billy and Mandy use to their advantage. How this show got the green light is questionable, but it helped us laugh in the face of death, quite literally.
Fun Fact: Grim speaks in a Jamaican accent.
The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy is available on Netflix.
6. Wish We Could Unwatch: Courage the Cowardly Dog (1999-2002)
In case you were too terrified to watch this show (which is completely understandable, as the only people who watched this horrifying series had very sick senses of humor), it follows Courage, an abandoned pup with a distracting hole in his tooth, who gets adopted by the sweet Muriel and her grumpy husband, Eustace. All three live together in a creepy barn house in the middle of nowhere, and just about every episode is like a mini kids horror movie. This is one of those shows that we look back on and say, “Whoa, there’s no way we watched this before bed.”
Fun Fact: The names Muriel and Eustace were inspired by Chandler Muriel Bing and Ross Eustace Geller of Friends.
Courage the Cowardly Dog is available on Netflix.
5. All That Was Missing Was the Joint: Ed, Edd, ‘n’ Eddy (1999-2009)
One of the most memorable bromances in cartoon history, Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy followed three codependent friends and who always seemed to be on summer vacation as they annoyed everyone in their neighborhood on a daily basis. Ed was completely brain dead and only seemed to respond in third person followed by a “huh huh huh” chuckle. Edd, or “Double Dee,” was the token Nervous Nelly of the group. Finally, Eddy clawed to be the center of attention, got off by constantly making fun of other people, and was obsessed with making money in any devious way he could.
Fun Fact: Since he wanted to the show to be accessible to any generation, creator Danny Antonucci had his characters use various technology that span decades, from a rotary phone to a computer.
Ed, Edd, ‘n’ Eddy is available on Netflix.
4. The First Adult Swim Show You Understood: The Venture Bros. (2003-present)
Currently in it’s tenth year on the air, The Venture Bros. is an Adult Swim classic that helped define what the iconic late-night cartoon go-to is all about. The series follows scientist Dr. Rusty Venture and his entourage of nerdy characters who are re-imagined from the ’60s series Jonny Quest. The show’s off-the-wall humor and relentless homages to nerd culture have made it an animated treasure for over a decade. Corrupt in its own demented way, this is the show our parents or older siblings should have encouraged us to watch more often as youngsters because we would all be far more cultured had we indulged in it as kids.
Fun Fact: Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld, Rules of Engagement) voices bodyguard of the Venture Brothers, Brock Samson.
The Venture Bros. is available on Netflix and AdultSwim.com
3. Cue Guitar Sound for Cusses: Metalocalypse (2006-present)
Dark parody humor at its finest, Metalocalypse follows the worshipped heavy metal band Dethklok in a distant future when heavy metal culture is now the prevailing culture and the only way of life. The unruly cast of characters includes Dethklok frontman Nathan Explosion, who is the only level headed member of the group (and rocks some of the most beautiful hair in animated history), followed by William Murderface, Skwisgaar Skwigelf, Pickles, and Toki Wartooth. The most defining aspect of the show is its intricate soundtrack that deterred many parents who bought into the stereotype that heavy metal “is bad,” making Metalocalypse all the more fun to watch.
Fun Fact: Series co-creator Brendon Small plays and records all of the music for the series and performs songs from the show live as Dethklok with other musicians.
Metalocalypse is available on Netflix and AdultSwim.com
2. Completely Warped Brilliance: Sealab 2021 (2000-2005)
One giant satire, this show was way too intelligent for us to fully understand until we got to high school. A parody of ’70s-era Hannah Barbara classics, Sealab followed the mishaps of an aquatic colony and the shenanigans they got into on the job. However, this show covered nearly every topical issue in pop culture Simpsons-style but with late-night adjustments. RevisitingSealab, the realization washes over you that Seth MacFarlane and Bob’s Burgers creator Loren Bouchard were heavily influenced by this totally dark underwater classic.
Fun Fact: Marco’s full name is “Marco Rodrigo Diaz De Vivar Diego Garcia Marquez” inspired by a Spanish national war hero and a Columbian writer.
Sealab 2021 is available on Netflix and AdultSwim.com
1. Totally Corrupt: Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2000-present)
“Arise chicken, arise!” Inspiring enough for an entire Danger Doom album, Aqua Teen is one of the best social commentaries on America through one of the most widely known definers of American culture: fast food. The dark comedy follows Meatwad, Master Shake, and Frylock as they roam their suburb of New Jersey and relentlessly annoy their trashy, hapless neighbor Carl Brutananadilewski. Home to some of the best throw-away lines and bizarre plots, Aqua Teen is one of those shows that serves as a litmus test for coolness. Want to determine whether someone’s friendship is worth your while? Ask them if they grew up on Aqua Teen and you’ll have your answer.
Fun Fact: Dana Snyder, the voice actor behind Master Shake, was born with that distinct a voice. The famous voicemail from Shake featured on Danger Doom album, The Mouse and the Mask, was inspired by an actual drunken voicemail from Snyder to series creator Dave Willis.