Ink & Paint List-O-Rama: Top Five Underrated Cartoon Series

The latest Top Five podcast from Major Spoilers covered cartoons you think don't get the love they deserve.  This is, obviously, a topic near & dear to my nerdy little heart, so here's my list.  I'm basing this on size of fandom, staying power, & availability as well as my own love.

5.) Super Robot Monkey Team Hyper Force GO!  A loving tribute to 70s/80s sentai anime, this is the only series on this list that I haven't seen in full.  But what I saw was so impressive that I resent I can't legally see more or own it in a nice set.  It's got giant robots, it's got cute monkeys, it's got a boy hero with an awesome scarf who falls in love with an android girl, it's got freaky-ass set pieces, it's got an art style that seems to have inspired others in its wake... how could this fail?  Maybe, even though it made the full 65-episode run, it was just too unique to succeed.
- Following: Small but loyal.  I've never met anyone, but hell, someone's responsible for making that TV Tropes page so thorough.
- Staying Power: Disney wishes we'd all forget it existed, in all likelihood.
- Availability: Not even on iTunes.  But you can find bits & pieces of the series on YouTube, for all the good that does.

4.) Sheep in the Big City:  A spiritual heir to the anything-goes Jay Ward productions, this was nominally the intentionally illogical story of a sheep running away from life on the farm to avoid being used by an evil general to power a sheep-fueled raygun.  It had a snarky narrator, weird recurring bits like The Ranting Swede (who closed out every show) and the Sobrero Brothers, and characters breaking the fourth wall to argue with each other, the writing, the narrator, & the audience.  I think it failed for the same reason Police Squad! failed - you had to watch it, not leave it on in the background while you snoozed.
- Following: None that I can find.
- Staying Power: I may very well be one of ten people to remember this show.
- Availability: It was on iTunes, but it appears to have vanished.  Again, some of it is on YouTube, with "The Ranting Swede" in particular under a subseries called "Forgotten Media".

3.) Legion of Super-Heroes:  The last potential entry in the DCAU, it was confined to a moribund network block for its two seasons.  A take on the most maligned super-team in comics done with a Teen Titans flare, it streamlined & adapted the 31st century's crazy mythology for a new audience.  That they made "OMG aren't they lame?" characters like Bouncing Boy, Triplicate Girl, and Matter-Eater Lad key players and gave an episode to the Subs (featuring the greatest take on Starfinger ever) makes me love it even more, since these are the characters more likely to speak to kids.  And if there's one thing superhero fandom needs, it's more kids to keep it vital.
- Following: Like all things Legion, small but loyal.  For some people, this was their gateway into the Legion and thus "their" Legion, which is awesome.
- Staying Power: None, but at least Keith Giffen worked in a shout-out during a back-up story where various Legion timelines came to visit young Clark Kent.  I love you, Keith Giffen!
- Availability: First season only is available on iTunes.  If you wanna watch the second season, you'll have to play on YouTube a bit.

2.) Static Shock:  The truly, unjustly forgotten entry in the DCAU canon, it was my gateway into Milestone Comics & the works of Dwayne McDuffie in particular.  A story about a superhero in a crime-ridden city where the accident that gave him his powers also gave them to many young gang members, along with other problems, it didn't shy away from harsh topics like racism or bullying (before it became trendy to care about those of us being bullied), and homelessness (in my experience, one of the most sympathetic & understanding portrayals of the homeless ever seen on TV).  It also was just FUN, which is apparently a four-letter word to fans of superhero TV as well as comic books.
- Following: I have yet to meet a DCAU fan who dislikes this series.
- Staying Power: Every DCAU hard-canon series is in some syndication except this show.
- Availability: First season only is for sale on iTunes.  Anything else is clips or partials on iTunes.  This is the ONLY entry of the DCAU not on DVD - even the disconnected spinoff The Zeta Project got a release of their whole series but not this.  I think I know why, and that reason makes me wanna punch the execs in the face.

1.) The Critic:  Good Lord, I love this show.  I've spoken before about how we need it more than ever to fight the ever-rising tide of Michael Bay movies, but it's also one of the best primetime sitcoms, animated or live, that aired in my lifetime.  Even when they had to make Jay "more likable", it never talked down to the audience.  It assumed you cared about movies, good art, good business, integrity, and an occassional dose of Franklin-delivered randomness.  But as history has proven, TV is largely aimed & done by morons, so shows like this never get the chance to thrive.
- Following: Small, but between The AV Club adding it to their Classic TV review cycles & the influence of people who came from this show (in particular Judd Apatow), it may be getting some more props.
- Staying Power: It's not in syndication anywhere, but again, AV Club is keeping it out there.
- Availability: Happily, the entire series is out on DVD, but I don't know if it's still in print.  Clips & highlights can still be found on YouTube.

Honorable Mentions: As usual, I have a few that fell out of the top five but that I wanna address.
- W.I.T.C.H.: Especially the second season.  The first suffered from execs trying to make a magical girl show more "boy-friendly" and it sucked a lot of the story logic from the comics out with nothing to fill the void.  The second season, helmed by Greg Weisman, approached it as a fantasy series that happened to star magical girls, and it was a LOT better.  It played with the comics mythology, added its own stuff, and tried to make sense of the first season's stupidity.  Like the comic series, it deserves more respect than it gets in the States.
- Wolverine and the X-Men: A victim of both network politics & fan's weariness with the title character, this was a very solid X-Men AU story.  It played with mythology from the comics & from the movies and was building its own history that will never be filled out (ending a cliffhanger involving the Age of Apocalypse, no less).  Just like toon!Legion is some people's preferred Legion, this could have been someone's preferred X-team with more love.
- Wait Till Your Father Gets Home: If Seth McFarlane has never watched this show, I will be shocked.  An attempt in the 70s to make an animated sitcom in the Norman Lear mode by Hanna-Barbera, it addresses similar hot topics using the freedom that animation brings.  In fact, I find it to be less dated & a bit braver than its live-action inspiration.  But it's been forgotten by most people except for Warner Archive.
- The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest: My love for this series is the stuff of legend, warts & all.  It was aired to the point of overkill in the first year or so of Toonami, but now that there's been some distance, it should be re-evaluated.  Warner Archive has allowed the first "series" (the first production team), but my personal favorite (the second "series" by the guys behind Swat Kats) remains in TV Limbo for now.  Get cracking, Warner Archive!  I've got money to burn!
- He-Man 2002: If only because they had plans to introduce She-Ra in the season that was cancelled.  For the Honor of Grayskull!  Good on its own right, but that unfulfilled promise drives me nuts.


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