Artwork by Ellie Hoskins
As kids of the 90’s, we grew up on children’s television and saturday morning cartoons. The culture of saturday mornings and after school TV becomes embedded in your brain, you can remember what time you watched things, what you would routinely eat during that time and the order of your tv schedule for the night. Here, 5 SQ’s recount their favourite childhood tv shows and if they’ve had an influence later in life..
Boy Meets World – I used to watch it on ABC Family every day after school. I still remember every moment when I re-watch the episodes now. And it’s still as funny- if not funnier- watching it as an adult. What people love the most about the show is that it balances humor with great life lessons. While the show could be over the top silly at times (there’s a time travel episode, Eric getting struck by lightning inside, Mr. Feeny following them to college…) it was often still grounded in a humble suburban reality that made it very relatable. They’ve made a sequel series on the Disney channel now, about Cory and Topanga’s daughter, called Girl Meets World. And yes, I’ve been watching it. So many people wanted to see what happened to Cory Topanga and Shawn in the future, but the new show is kind of becoming kind of a letdown to those fantasies. But I’ll give it a break, since it is for kids after all. Boy Meets World is a tough act to follow.
Lizzie McGuire- I was definitely a Disney child more than anything, and my favorite Disney Channel original series was Lizzie McGuire. It was such a charming and sweet sitcom. One of my favorite things about the show is actually the editing. They would use funny angles, slow-motion or silly sound effects as a way to make the humorous moments even more quirky and fun. The use of a cartoon Lizzie voicing her inner thoughts was unique and creative. I randomly started re-watching it again when I was super depressed from moving and it really made me feel a lot better. It still holds up as being absolutely hilarious and sweet. It also made me long for the early 2000s when butterfly clips were still in fashion.
Sailor Moon- I started watching this when I was 5 years old on Cartoon Network. I wasn’t big on anime or anything but I just happened to love these magical girls. I read the manga books at the library and I would spend my allowance money on the VHS. I re-watched the series again in college. What I love about Sailor Moon is that all the girls are well-rounded and unique. Like Jupiter is a tomboy who loves to cook, Mercury is super smart, Sailor Moon is a crybaby that doesn’t do well in school. That really made me feel better about getting bad grades in math and being super sensitive all the time. If a hero like Sailor Moon was like that, then it’s okay if I was too. I was Sailor Moon for Halloween this year so it’s safe to say I still love it!
Dr. Zitbags Transylvania Pet Shop: Nobody else I have ever talked to has ever heard of Dr. Zitbags, heck, I haven’t even seen it on the TV. That VHS tape has been in my house for as long as I can remember. The title pretty much explains the premise. A dubbed French cartoon, DZTPS tells the story of a crazy scientist type man named Dr. Zitbag, who runs a pet shop in Transylvania where he sells a wide range of scary and creepy creatures he creates using his inventions. He’s helped with his journey by his skeleton dog Horrifido and his neighbours The Exorsisters (bagsie this is my all girl punk-rock band name). Dr. Zitbag is well meaning but often his experiments go to pot and he ends up in all kinds of crazy situations. Running from 1994-97 this was pretty much my first intro into the world of horror, also it’s got a ridiculously catchy theme tune.
Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids: My family never had Sky so naturally I watched a lot of CiTV. Grizzly Tales For Gruesome kids was about as extreme as a kids show could get, and is still to this day, pretty hard-core gross content for children. GTFGK was on at around 4pm on Channel 3 and that was my after school snack time when I’d sit and watch TV with a packet of crisps. ‘Welcome to Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, a series of cautionary tales, for lovers of squeammmmmm’. Each animated episode was introduced by a creepy old man who works in a cinema called the Squeam Screen, which told the individual tales of tale of ill-fated children who usually were disobeying their parents or not doing as they were told. I think the aim was to have some form of moral teachings for kids but when there’s kids being grabbed by a spaghetti man and turned into pasta, cockroaches wriggling out of popcorn buckets and little boys being turned into real life jack-in-the-boxes, there’s not much time for life lessons. My initial disgust at this show as a kid soon turned into worship and revelry and is probably the key to my passionate love of horror in later life.
Young Dracula: Young Dracula started on CBBC in 2006 and was the entire reason year 6 and 7 were so traumatic for me. The show followed a young vampire named Vlad whose family had moved to Wales from Transylvania, fleeing angry mobs. Vlad is keen to see what normalcy Wales can offer him and turn his back on the vampiric lifestyle; something his dad and sister Ingrid are never very happy about. Vlad seeks solace in a baby Craig Roberts as his only friend, who is very interested in the vampire lifestyle. Whilst completely lacking in actually scare factor, Young Dracula did have one thing; Ingrid. Ingrid was the foul mouthed, bad attitude rebellious teen I had been searching for. Her complete repulsion at all the boys in school who swooned at her motivated me to do the same, BOYS ARE GROSS AND GIRLS ARE THE BEST was my new motto and pretty much still is. I got the same haircut as her, I wore the same eyeliner, I started shopping in ‘alternative’ shops that sold lots of dragon statues and smelled of incense and spent £20 on a studded belt because it was ‘so Ingrid’. I even started referring to myself as a vampire in the playground (I was Twilight as fuck before Twilight even happened okay), this led to a lot of bullying and name-calling but I’m glad Ingrid was up there with Mel from My Parents Are Aliens as one of my first proper role models.7
Dick N Dom in da Bungalow: Anarchy, mayhem and copious amounts of silly toilet humour squeezed into weekend mid-mornings. ‘Dick and Dom in da Bungalow’ was kids TV like no other and it stands out as the definitive show of my childhood. If it was on today, I’d watch it and I still watch clips on YouTube all the time (hell, so does my Mum). Dick and Dom were special because they were so non-patronising. They wanted to run riot like the ‘bungalow heads’ and create gross games and skits which involved the most ridiculous names they could think of – Baldy Slap Heads, You’ll Never Do That With a Carcass on Your Hands and Ferrity Trousers to name just a few. It just looked like the most fun TV show to work on ever, it makes me ridiculously happy to hear the laughter of production crew in the background, off-camera looks, the spluttering cast not knowing what to do next. I really don’t know how your heart couldn’t be lifted by the screams of laughter that always rang throughout the shoddy set. Plus, da Bungalow bested the ‘gunge’ of any other kids gameshow – Creamy Muck Muck has taken on near iconic status.
My Parents Are Aliens: My other favourite TV show (and coincidentally, also that of my Mum – I guess it’s true that the best children’s TV entertains the parent’s too) was ‘My Parents Are Aliens’, which was just as surreal as Dick and Dom but with a lot more heart. The show clearly challenged what ‘family’ really meant through the role reversal constant gag of ‘they’re aliens and therefore know nothing about Earth!’, but also by having Brian and Sophie work through new parental, human emotion. It was so sweet, and so funny. ‘My Parents Are Aliens’ had some of the coolest kids in TV too – Mel, Josh and Sophie were all smart and funny and kind. A children’s TV show dealt with issues of being made an orphan and foster parents better than I reckon a lot of solemn adult dramas could.
My parents tell me that before I could even speak I loved The Simpsons. At a few months old I would scream in laughter while they were on, and scream again if anyone attempted to change the channel. The Simpsons was the first thing I really obsessed over, a big part of my weekly schedule was watching it every other night on Channel 4 at 6PM. If it wasn’t on TV, I would watch my personalised VHS, of all my favourite episodes that I had recorded, again and again and again.
18 years on I still watch it weekly, last night I found myself talking along with I Love Lisa, and my 52 year old mother knows the entire “mediocre presidents” song from the school show. It’s an unspoken rule in my household that if The Simpsons is on telly at the same time as dinner, we all eat in the front room without question.
The show probably contributed to my sarcastic humour, my keen interest in film (See: Deep Space Homer), and general love of satire and cartoons – be it Akira or Adventure Time. I like to think the liberal politics of The Simpsons shaped me today: where would I be without a role model like Lisa, the sarcastic vegetarian feminist, who always does what she believes in and regularly out smarts all the adults? Who, like me, was also told her fingers were to stubby to play an instrument? (I’ve given up on bass, piano, and guitar)
It is also especially great to look at. All the yellow, the simplistic MS paint style animation, and I especially love the colours; the hues of pinks and blues used at night time. Even John Waters himself gushed at the kitsch decor of The Simpsons household. (Speaking of which, I probably wouldn’t have found out about Waters films, or the Ghost World graphic novel.). Back in the good old days, when guest voices were few and far between, what really made the show was the wealth of wonderful background characters, and even the carefully selected guest voices, like John in the wonderful ‘Homers Phobia’.
I could talk all day about The Simpsons, in my opinion, the early seasons are equivalent to Shakespearian comedies (Think about it: they’re moral, quotable, timeless, philosophical, and full of puns and innuendo…). Of course, I know it’s no way near as good as it used to be and probably should have stopped about ten years ago. It can’t and shouldn’t go on forever, but at least I have my season 5 box-set that I can re-watch forever.
Hey Arnold: Since my parents never monitored my TV intake as a kid, I probably watched every American childhood show created–which explains why I now, as an adult, spend most of my time binge-watching television shows. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Although this caused me to have many, MANY favorites (seriously, it was so hard for me to choose which to write about), one of the most prominent shows from my childhood was Hey Arnold!
This is quite possibly the greatest cartoon that has ever existed. When it comes down to it, every aspect–the storytelling, the animation, the music–is so incredibly original and up my alley. Obviously Arnold is the protagonist, so he’s the one who makes the rational decisions and saves the day. He made me want to be the “cool, calm, and collected” kid who people could look up to. I would like to think that’s what ended up happening since my classmates would run up to me on the playground during recess and ask me to settle disputes. Although Arnold typically kept a down-to-earth attitude throughout the series, the show revealed sad thematic elements that caused him to react accordingly. Arnold never knew his parents, which becomes a bigger deal later in the series, leaving Arnold (and me for that matter) very emotional. Leading up to the revealing of his parents, Arnold lived with his grandparents in a boarding house full of colorful neighbors. I liked that he was given an untraditional background and that he grew up in an urban environment. It not only made it easier to sympathize with him, but it breathed new life into cartoons as a whole. Not to mention Arnold had a kick-ass room, complete with a remote that controlled everything–including his couch. Arnold wasn’t the only character who influenced my own actions and personality, thanks to good ol’ Helga G. Pataki.
Helga was one of Arnold’s bullies, but definitely wasn’t the antagonist. Watching the show, we as an audience were able to observe Helga in private settings. This is where she would profess her love for Arnold to a heart-shaped locket with his picture in it, or even sometimes stranger things, like a shrine made from Arnold’s chewed gum. I admired Helga for being tough, but also for having a soft side where I could see that she truly cared about Arnold, her family, and friends. I remember this one particular episode when Helga doesn’t get invited to Rhonda’s slumber party because she isn’t “girly” enough. Helga gets offended so she decides to give herself a makeover. When she arrives at the party, everyone is in awe. She eventually realizes that changing herself and consequently getting accepted isn’t what she wants, so she goes back to her old ways. That episode has stuck with me to this day, and I’m already 22. Yes, this show is ultimately about Arnold, but it was valuable for me as a young girl to resonate my experiences with another girl who continuously experienced rejection and unrequited love. The even cooler thing about Hey Arnold! is that it allowed you to connect with each of the characters. Episodes often surrounded Arnold, but ever so often, they were dedicated to supporting roles. I especially enjoyed this when I was able to look into the lives of Gerald, Phoebe, and Mr. Hyunh–three of the few people of color in the show, which happens to be my criticism of the show. (Tip: You can like things but still acknowledge that they’re problematic.)
After doing a bit of research, I read that Craig Bartlett (the creator), based the show on a combination of people and experiences he encountered when he lived in Seattle, Portland, and Brooklyn. I personally think that’s awesome since I currently live in Seattle and I’ve visited Portland and Brooklyn. The vibe definitely gives justice to these places while maintaining a unique feel. I grew up in numerous different cities and my parents were always adamant about taking my siblings and me to urban outings, causing this show to feel quite comforting to watch. The soundtrack consists of jazz music that ranges in intensity to correlate with the events that take place. I wish I had the soundtrack just so I could listen to it everywhere I go–it’s that great. At this point, I feel that whoever is reading this and has not watched Hey Arnold! should definitely do so, because I could honestly continue gushing about it for the rest of eternity.