While The Simpsons catered to a previously ignored market of adult and teenage animation fans, nothing had a greater influence on the development of adult animation than Cartoon Network's popular nighttime programming block, Adult Swim. Since its premiere in 2001, Adult Swim has divided Western animation into two distinct categories - the Disney-influenced half aimed at children and the Adult Swim-influenced half aimed at an older crowd. In a relatively short amount of time, Adult Swim has cultivated its own unique brand of cartoon entertainment, combining surrealism, anti-humor and bad animation. For better and for worse, Adult Swim has consistently pushed the boundaries of how weird TV can get while still being mainstream. While Adult Swim has branched out and created some live action shows, their live action material rarely strays from the path forged by their cartoons.
Of course, any successful network is going to have misses along the hits. For every major success that Adult Swim has had, it's produced three or four shows that lasted a season or less. On top of that, the popularity of some Adult Swim shows has lead them to become at least a touch overrated. With that in mind, here are 20 Original Adult Swim Shows No One Remembers (And 10 That Are Overrated).
30 No One Remembers: Lucy, Daughter Of The Devil
Adult Swim has built a brand out of cultural transgression and what could be more transgressive than a show that had the Antichrist as its sympathetic protagonist? Perhaps such a premise would be far more transgressive in an earlier era, but it still stayed true to the anarchic spirit of Adult Swim.
The show's basic premise could have made for some big laughs, but they never came, leading the show to be cancelled after a mere eleven episodes.
29 Overrated: Family Guy
Family Guy remains one of the most polarizing shows in the history of television. Even the show's most ardent fans have to realize that it's not a bastion of clever writing, and it often relies on clichés, cheap gags, and stereotypes. Fans enjoy those aspects of Family Guy, but its detractors feel that the show is increasingly formulaic and tired.
Family Guy's staff writers need to learn that a television show's characters need to be at least somewhat likable for it to work and that bad taste is not inherently funny.
28 No One Remembers: Mary Shelly's Frankenhole
Mary Shelley's Frankenhole was a short lived television series where every episode revolved around a famous historical figure or fictional character going to Victor Frankenstein for help with a problem they have. Most of the humor on the show is scatological or takes aim at beloved men and women of history.
It's well-trodden ground for Adult Swim. What made the series stick out was its blocky, stop motion animation reminiscent of the works of Rankin/Bass Entertainment.
27 Overrated: Rick and Morty
Rick and Morty has some well fleshed out characters and great gags. However, its basic college kid nihilism is nowhere near as brilliant as its fans perceive it to be, and the science fiction tropes that it makes use of are all as old as the hills. As hard as it may be for some to hear, the episode where Rick turns himself into a pickle for no reason is not funny or clever in the slightest.
The fact that it has become one of the most iconic television episodes of the past decade makes this Golden Age of TV seem a little less golden.
26 No One Remembers: Moral Orel
There's another show memorable primarily for its animation style. The show attacked some very obvious safe targets - Christian fundamentalism and Middle Americans.
There was one genuinely clever thing about it: the show was animated in the style of the popular evangelical stop motion series, Davey and Goliath, with Orel from Moral Orel being so similar to Davey from Davey and Goliath to the point where Davey and Goliath's producers might want to sue Cartoon Network, if only they had the money.
25 Overrated: The Venture Bros.
The Venture Bros. is a show that was clearly written by people who absorbed lots of American popular culture without having much to say about it. The series references everything from The SCUM Manifesto and The Village People to Johnny Quest and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? but rarely gets any laughs out of alluding to these pop culture phenomena.
These issues aren't helped by the show's ugly drawing style.
24 No One Remembers: God, The Devil And Bob
Regardless of one's feelings on religion, God and the devil are two endlessly fascinating figures to write about. God, the Devil and Bob, however, doesn't reach the artistic heights of John Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. It doesn't even reach the low points of Rosemary's Baby.
The cartoon was cancelled after only thirteen episodes partially because of a pressured campaign orchestrated by religious activists but they may as well have ignored.
23 Overrated: Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Stupidity can, at times, be clever - anyone whose seen movies like Airplane or The Kentucky Fried Movie knows that. Aqua Teen Hunger Force is proof that stupidity can simply be stupid.
Cartoon Network was apparently aware that its core audience are teenagers and twenty-somethings who like to sit around and giggle with their friends while they have the munchies, so of course, the main characters of Aqua Teen Hunger Force are an anthropomorphic meatball, and an anthropomorphic milkshake. If there was anything worthwhile in that premise, the show didn't find it.
22 No One Remembers: Delocated
Reality television has been the subject of satire from its beginning. The very first reality show, An American Family, was the target of Albert Brooks' acclaimed comedy Real Life, which was released only a few years after An American Family was cancelled. Since then, reality TV has been the subject of everything from Saturday Night Live skits to The Truman Show.
The fact that Adult Swim's Delocated, a mock reality show about a man in the witness protection program, was able to save any laughs when its subject matter has been so widely skewered is a testament to its quality.
21 No One Remembers: The Oblongs
The Oblongs was so unpopular that it didn't last for an entire season - only eight of the series' thirteen episodes were ever aired. While the full series was released on DVD for fans, the show never garnered much of an audience which is a real shame.
The show centered on a family of people mutated by the radiation brought to their town by the upper classes, a commentary on social stratification and elites' disregard for the environment.
20 No One Remembers: Tom Goes To The Mayor
Tom Goes to the Mayor is probably the least animated animated-program of all time. The show's characters are depicted via photographs of the show's cast with different facial expressions put though a filter, giving them a look that is stiff and cheap.
Whether you love it or hate it, it's a look that undoubtedly ties in with the oddball humor of the show's star comedy duo, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. While the show is polarizing, it still manages to be strange on a network built on being strange - a true accomplishment.
19 No One Remembers: Mission Hill
If Mission Hill isn't remembered, that's because people have taste. The show centered on a series of childless adult friends who live in the same apartment building. Outside of being animated, it did little to set itself apart from similar sitcoms like Seinfeld, Friends or How I Met Your Mother, except that it lacked the charms of a Jerry Seinfeld or a Jennifer Aniston.
The best thing that the show had going for it was its soundtrack, which regularly featured music from popular artists like Culture Club and Dolly Parton, alongside indie darlings like Cake and Basement Jaxx.
18 Overrated: Squidbillies
Squidbillies is a show about a family of redneck stereotypes, with one of the sons being the show's voice of reason. And they're all squids for no apparent reason outside of Adult Swim's long-standing and arguably limiting obsession with the offbeat.
While the similarly themed King of the Hill celebrates and gently satirized Middle America, Squidbillies is a show made with unappealing venom that isn't made any more appealing by a horrible animation style that just looks lazy.
17 No One Remembers: Newsreaders
Newsreaders is vaguely similar to Saturday Night Lives' popular Weekend Update sketch stretched out to an entire program. Rather than commenting on current events, which have increasingly become Saturday Night Live's bread and butter, Newsreaders news was fictional stuff that only existed in its own universe.
Part of the appeal was a commanding performance from Ray Wise..
16 No One Remembers: Eagleheart
Eagleheart was a parody of police procedurals that lasted for a mere thirty-four episodes. That's not as bad as some of the shows on this list, but Eagleheart might have lasted longer if not for the fact that it was airing at a time when cop shows were not particularly popular.
Much of the Adult Swim audience probably wasn't even familiar with the main target of the show's satire, the Chuck Norris series, Walker Texas Ranger; if anything, the network's audience was only familiar with Mr. Norris through memes.
15 No One Remembers: NTSF: SD: SUV
No, that title isn't the result of someone randomly banging on a keyboard. Cartoon Network made another parody of police procedurals called NTSF: SD: SUV - the show's title was supposed to satirize the acronym-heavy titles of shows like Law & Order: SVU and CSI: Miami.
That title is only moderately funny and that's about as witty as the show ever gets. NTSF: SD: SUV did not have anything to offer that Eagleheart didn't, which is why it was quickly cancelled.
14 Overrated: The Eric Andre Show
The Eric Andre Show has given the world memes that are pretty good, as far as memes go. That doesn't mean that it's particularly worthwhile programming. At times The Eric Andre Show feels like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Good Job watered down for an audience who found Tim and Eric's style of surrealist comedy to be a bit too avant-garde for their taste.
Andre has shown himself to be talented through some of his less prominent roles, so he can, and hopefully, will step things up for this show's upcoming fifth season.
13 No One Remembers: The PJs
The PJs was a short-lived sitcom co-created by Eddie Murphy. It featured some of the most unique stop motion television animation of all time. That doesn't necessarily make the animation good. In fact, the show's look was often grotesquely goofy, in the manner of many of the characters that Murphy has played, like Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps and Norbit.
The show itself wasn't anything special, but it had a shockingly good soundtrack featuring contributions from sone of the biggest stars of late 1990's hip hop and R&B.
12 No One Remembers: The Heart, She Holler
The Heart, She Holler was an attempt to mix the Southern Gothic tradition with soap operas and surreal humor. It's a fit like if a Tennessee Williams play was turned into a series by the writers behind the 1980's cult classic soap opera parody, Soap.
Mel Brooks once said that a parodist must love the targets of their jokes lest they come across as bitter and unpleasant. The Heart, She Holler doesn't seem to care much for the grandeur and complexity of the Southern Gothic tradition. In fact, it seems to hate it. Viewers (rightfully) didn't record the show with much Southern hospitality and it was cancelled after three seasons.
11 No One Remembers: Toonheads
Toonheads was the closest that Cartoon Network has ever come to Turner Classic Movies programming, and that's a very good thing. The series broadcast a series of short cartoons from masters of the form like Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, the Fleischer Brothers and Friz Freleng, alongside commentary about their creation.
It was a great way to introduce these classic cartoons to a new generation and a great way for Cartoon Network to pay homage to the giant on whose shoulders they were standing. If only this series could be reinvented!
10 No One Remembers: Loiter Squad
It might be hard to remember now - but there was a time when Tyler the creator of the hip hop ensemble which he headed, Odd Future, were some of the most hyped musicians on the blogosphere. Adult Swim noticed that Odd Future's brand was akin to theirs - both were surreal, comic and often controversial - which lead to Loiter Squad, perhaps the first television show created by and starving a hip hop collective.
It didn't last very long or gain a strong following - Tyler has always been a niche artist but at the very least Tyler can say that he's done something that no other rapper has done.
9 Overrated: Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell
Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell is set in hell with the devil, the protagonist's boss. It's a live action show where the creatures of hell are portrayed either by people in ugly red face paint or grotesque puppets - only those with the faintest regard for aesthetics could possibly find this show appealing. It's that ugly.
Apparently, aesthetics are not a major concern for Adult Swim fans, as Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell is currently in its fourth season, making it very successful for a show on that programming block.
8 No One Remembers: Titan Maximum
Here's another show that might be less obscure if not for its timing. Titan Maximum is a parody of science fiction anime that premiered (and was cancelled) in 2009, years before interest in anime and other aspects of Japanese popular culture. However, even if the show did premiere a few years later, it's dubious that the anime subculture is large enough to sustain a program on a major television network.
Furthermore, anime fans often have taste that's too good for them to watch Titan Maximum.
7 No One Remembers: China, IL
The most interesting thing about China, IL is its title. Isn't it odd that there would be a city in Illinois named China? Despite the show's title, the series has nothing to do with China or Chinese Americans, it's just quirk for quirk's own sake.
And quirk for quirk's sake is the major theme of China, IL, which includes a giant panda bear, voice acting from WWE superstar Hulk Hogan and his daughter, Brooke, and characters named Crystal Peppers and Professor Leonard Cakes. This is all quirky to be sure, but how exactly is it funny?
6 No One Remembers: Fat Guy Stuck In Internet
What is it with Adult Swim and extremely shortly lived television series? Fat Guy Stuck in Internet - a parody of the 1980's Disney cult classic Tron, which also incorporated elements of other popular science fiction franchises like The Matrix and Star Wars - ran for ten episodes.
It was based on the Channel 102 series Gemberling, Fat Guy Stuck in Internet, which was ironically the longest running series in Channel 102 history. Fat Guy Stuck in Internet garnered a mixed critical reception, but at least no one could say that it overstayed its welcome.
5 No One Remembers: Black Dynamite
The 2009 film Black Dynamite was a critically acclaimed send up of 1970's blaxploitation movies which flopped at the box office, possibly because the 1970's nostalgia craze ended several years prior. Box office failure did not stop the film from being adapted into an animated series for Adult Swim.
Blaxploitation was a genre that never had much of a presence on television, and Black Dynamite is probably the first animated blaxploitation show. Even if the show wasn't brilliant, it was a first for animation and it single-handedly kept a long dormant genre alive, at least for two seasons.
4 Overrated: Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law
As ToonHeads proved, Adult Swim apparently has access to Hanna-Barbera's book catalogue of cheaply produced Saturday morning cartoons from the 1960's and 1970's. Someone decided to have numerous characters from the more obscure ones in a parody of legal dramas.
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law aired the same night that Adult Swim debuted, and its mix of odd humor and pop culture references helped to set the tone for the entire programming block, even if it wasn't the best that Adult Swim had to offer.
3 No One Remembers: Space Ghost Coast to Coast
Space Ghost Coast to Coast was cut from the same cloth as Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. Here, the alien superhero Space Ghost from the 1960's television cartoon of the same name is the host of a talk show, with the cheap and unexpressive artwork of the original show lovingly recreated.
While it wasn't as funny as its reputation suggests, the show did begin a miniature trend of 1960's and 1970's cultural artifacts being rebooted as self parodies, like the film adaptations of The Brady Bunch and Scooby-Doo.
2 No One Remembers: The Drinky Crow Show
Like The Oblongs before it, The Drinky Crow Show had a theme song composed by indie darlings They Might Be Giants. Apparently, getting They Might Be Giants to do a theme song for your television show is a terrible idea, as, like The Oblongs, The Drinky Crow Show was cancelled after one season.
The show featured depression, talking animals, oddball humor, mermaids, Jermaine Clement and a visual style based on 1950's television animation.
1 Overrated: Home Movies
Home Movies is a beloved cult series, which is odd. Even the worst examples of cult television and cult cinema are usually something unique. Even if examples of cult media don't appeal to everyone, they are usually unique enough that their dedicated fanbase is understandable.
Home Movies, however, is essentially Nickelodeon's popular series Rugrats with more adult humor and much cheaper animation. Even if the show wasn't great it had a great legacy. Two of the show's writers would go on to create Metalpocalypse and Bob's Burgers.