- DORA THE EXPLORER (DORA L’ESPLORATRICE)
Story: Hispanic toddler Dora Marquez, who lives in the jungle with her mother and her pet monkey Boots, goes on a quest to find or do something important, and overcomes three challenges in each episode, whilst also fending off the sly fox Swiper, and teaching language lessons (Spanish in the US version, English in the international dub).
Criticism: Okay, so this show does have some educational merit in that it teaches foreign languages to children, and it is so popular that John Leguizamo, Ricardo Montalban, Mel Brooks, Hilary Duff, Alan Cumming and Cheech Marin all made guest star appearances on it – that’s like an A to Z of my favourite actors! However, the animation is a mixed bag (cute character designs and vibrant graphics that move at the pace of a neurasthenic sea slug), and the same rudimentary plots recur from one season to the next. It’s a shame that the show is such a humdrum chore to watch, because its premise is wholesome, and it’s nice to see a Latina cartoon character, but the proof is in the pudding that a good idea poorly handled does not make for a good result.
- THE ARCHIE SHOW (ARCHIE E SABRINA)
Story: Based on the 75-year-old American comic book about high-schooler Archie Andrews, his burger-scoffing BFF Jughead, and his TWO girlfriends (Betty the lovable small-town hick and Veronica the rich spoiled brat).
Criticism: Now, the schmaltzy tone, silly jokes, and mushy romance were all flaws inherent in the comic books. But at least those had awesome, vibrant and colourful artwork! The cartoons, on the other hand, were uglier and stiffer than Hugh Hefner’s phallus, with black empty eyes and janky movements, plus an awful laugh track. Somehow, this manure bonfire was very popular and spawned the atrocious hit single “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies. See my 3-part Archie special for more information.
- SPACE GOOFS: HOME FOR RENT (LES ZINZINS DE L’ESPACE / SPACE GOOFS: VICINI TROPPO VICINI)
Story: five alien monsters have crashed their spaceship into the French countryside and invaded a manor house to live in it – oh, and they always get into trouble somehow.
Criticism: The characters in this cartoon are so nauseatingly ugly that the show feels almost like an assault on the senses, and it’s not like the lazy writing, cheap animation and gross-out humour will change your opinion. This series is so unfunny and downright painful to see and hear that it’s as powerful an emetic as castor oil (Google it).
- BARNEY & FRIENDS
Story; a crew of children use their imaginations to bring to life a purple dinosaur, who speaks, sings and teaches spelling and maths.
Criticism: Barney’s annoying, simpering mannerisms will make your skin shrivel up. His lessons are on the level of Sesame Street, but with none of the comedic wit or loveable characters that make Jim Henson’s series so popular. Worse still, whenever there is a problem, Barney solves it right away so that the brats can have their cake and eat it. That’s not how life works, you dinosaurian douchebag! Barney just teaches children to avoid or deny their fears, rather than overcome them, and that’s a terrible message.
Story: the series follows the everyday life of Caillou, a little boy living with his parents, baby sister Rosie, and grandmother, somewhere in Québec.
Criticism: the voice acting is some of the worst I’ve ever heard. Caillou sounds like someone put a goose into a meat grinder together! Worse, every episode revolves around Caillou being a whiny little idiot who moans, grumbles, and bickers his way through the show’s mercifully-short runtime, without being punished, even when he meaninglessly antagonises his sister Rosie. His parents will always cave in to his every whim, even if he probably deserves a spanking.
Story: Clark Kent (Tom Welling) discovers that he is the last son of the extinct planet Krypton, and possesses superpowers which he must use for good to become Superman.
Criticism: admittedly this teenage drama has good acting, creepy horror and classy bullet-time CGI effects. However, it has three big problems. Firstly, the writing is terrible, with storylines full of technobabble and foreshadowing that ultimately builds up to nothing but disappointment. Secondly, the characters are repellent, and Clark’s girlfriend Lana Lang is as appealing as a chronic purulent haemorrhoid begging to be removed. Thirdly, the show has a reactionary political agenda in which the “freak of the week” has done something vaguely anti-conformist, which gets them turned into a villain (also, there’s a lot of sexism and racism). But worst of all is what the series does to Superman: Clark (never referred to as “Superman”, never wears a costume or flies) is a selfish, whiny bastard who lies, cheats, lets his foes die, and drinks milk out the bottle – I feel more sympathy for Lex Luthor! And if you’re going to make a lame soap opera about Emo teens, why did you add Superman in it in the first place?
- MARIO BROS. PLUMBING (from THE SUPER MARIO BROS. SUPER SHOW)
Story: Mario and Luigi live in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and run a plumber’s workshop where various celebrity guests go when they want a problem solved. Later episodes, called Club Mario, featured a group of 90s teenagers skateboarding and breakdancing.
Criticism: This was the first live-action appearance of the Mario Bros. But as good as its accompanying cartoon was (Adventures of the Super Mario Bros, which aired in-between the two halves of the episode), Mario Bros. Plumbing was terrible. Bad plots, worse dialogue, awful jokes, lame celeb guests, and unfunny slapstick, plus some of the hammiest acting this side of a pork meat commercial with a terrible over-the-top performance from pro-wrestler Lou Albano as Not-So-Super Mario, and an equally-execrable Danny Wells as Luigi. It was cancelled, only to be replaced with Club Mario, a turgid deluge of teenage clichés that is best confined to the Dumpster of TV history.
- MASKED RIDER – KAMEN RIDER BLACK RX (IL CAVALIERE MASCHERATO)
Story: Dex is an alien boy from Planet Eidenol who came to Earth to protect it from his wicked uncle Count Dregon. He uses a motorcycle, gadgets, and power armour to battle the monsters, whilst also living with a multiracial family in the suburban USA.
Criticism: Kamen Rider is one of the most popular Japanese series of all time. So of course, when Saban (producers of Power Rangers, itself an import of Toei’s Super Sentai) imported the 1988 season Black RX, they kept only the action footage and jettisoned all the rest, replacing it with a sitcom in which Dex constantly endured the antics of his dim-witted pet monster, Ferbus. Gone was the dark tone that defined Kamen Rider; instead, we got hammy acting and terrible video editing! Saban forgot that Power Rangers worked only because Super Sentai was light-hearted enough for the US version to be more juvenile without losing its appeal. Kamen Rider, however, is a grim and gritty series that should be taken seriously, not butchered into this subpar version of The Secret World of Alex Mack (Il mondo segreto di Alex Mack).
- HANNAH MONTANA
Story: an ordinary teenager named Miley Stewart whose father is a former country singer dons a blonde wig to become the pop star “Hannah Montana”. The show centres around her double life. Each episode usually includes at least one song.
Criticism: A comedy finds its strength in a likable lead character brought to life by a good actor. Miley Stewart is a textbook example of how NOT to do this. Cyrus often lacks personality and struggles to emote; it doesn’t help that the writing is often terrible, with artificial, gimmicky plot contrivances in lieu of a story, lousy jokes, and cringeworthy songs which not even Cyrus’ decent singing can save. Also, this show tends to send bad messages. Stewart has been known to beat up her boyfriend when angry, to make condescending burns such as “I didn’t know I’d have to beg for your compliments!”, and even to do pole-dancing! How did that slip past the Disney censors?
- TOMORROW’S PIONEERS (I PIONIERI DI DOMANI)
Story: in this educational series produced by the Palestinian channel Al-Aqsa TV, a network belonging to the Hamas group, Sara and her animal friends teach children how to be good little Palestinians. What does it involve, you ask? Oh, I’m glad you asked!
(TRIGGER WARNING: anti-Semitism, prison torture, murder, incitation to jihadism, martyrdom, violence against animals, and bukkake – actually, no, I made that last one up, but no amount of bukkake could make this show watchable.)
Criticism/Indictment/Ticking-off: Oh, God, where do I even begin? This show is produced by Hamas, so of course, it’s chock full of incitation to hatred, religious discrimination and racial violence, encouraging little Palestinian children to kill Israelis (of course, in this show, “Israelis” is often used as a catch-all term for the “J-word”), and if they were to perish in the battle, well, that’s the best thing that could happen, because they’ll be martyrs and be rewarded with… um… something, I suppose? As if the gratuitous Anti-Semitic hate speech wasn’t enough, this show also has the added benefit of shamelessly ripping off such famous cartoon characters as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny: Farfour (Mickey) gets beaten to death by Israeli prison wardens, while Assoud (Bugs) is killed by sniper rifles. Other talking animal sidekicks include Nahoul the bee, who threw cats by the tail to show that violence against animals was wrong (WTF?), but thankfully, like the others, he bit the dust from an incurable terminal illness. I don’t know if I should ever rejoice of the death of a cartoon bee, but there’s a special place in Hell for people who make a children’s show that incites murder and genocide, and that’s exactly what Tomorrow’s Pioneers is.