Students may think they’re too old for cartoons and children’s shows, but when it comes to childhood favorites of the ’90s, things seem to differ.
TeenNick will start showing vintage Nickelodeon programming in a block from midnight to 2 a.m. called “The ’90s Are All That,” which the channel’s general manager Keith Dawkins claimed was by demand of “kids who are now 22, 23 and 24.”
The University of Georgia was even plagued last week with graffiti of cartoon characters from “Johnny Bravo” and “Rugrats.”
The Oracle revisits six ’90s cartoons and children’s TV shows.
“The Adventures of Pete and Pete”
One of the best “The ’90s Are All That” shows so far is “The Adventures of Pete and Pete,” a show still fondly remembered for its strange, subversive humor and characters like Artie, the Strongest Man in the World.
The show follows two redhead brothers named Pete Wrigley – Big Pete and tattooed Little Pete – in quirky suburban adventures ranging from recreating a favorite song to preparing for a drive-in date.
Though kids may not have picked up on it then, the show featured an impossibly hip cast including Janeane Garofalo and Steve Buscemi as schoolteachers and Iggy Pop as a straight-laced, suburban father.
Even the music emanated coolness, with indie artists like the Magnetic Fields and Velocity Girl and jangle-pop band Polaris’ genuinely great soundtrack, “Music from the Adventures of Pete and Pete.”
Another confirmed offering for “The ’90s Are All That” – and part of its title – is the Nickelodeon sketch show “All That,” which brought “Saturday Night Live” sensibilities to preteens.
The show’s 11-year run featured silly sketch characters such as old women and employees at Good Burger and musical performers ranging from Backstreet Boys to Outkast.
The show was among a long list of live-action Nickelodeon programming alongside “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” “Kenan and Kel” and even horror in “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”
Famous alumni from the show’s ’90s incarnation include Amanda Bynes, Nick Cannon and Kenan Thompson – the last of which fulfilled his destiny by joining the “Saturday Night Live” cast in 2003.
Cartoon Network housed several quality ’90s creations – not the least of which was “Dexter’s Laboratory.”
The show’s title character is an orange-haired child genius with a secret laboratory, annoying sister Dee Dee and large-headed rival Mandrake.
The strange humor of “Dexter’s Laboratory” may actually work better for adults – whether it’s Dexter’s life wildly improving after learning the French phrase “omelette du fromage” – cheese omelet – or his father’s dark, disturbing muffin obsession.
Genndy Tartakovsky created the show along with “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Samurai Jack,” and his style can be seen in modern cartoon series such as “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.”
Unlike many Nickelodeon cartoons that centered on crudely drawn animals, “Hey Arnold!” offered a relatively realistic look at children living in the inner city.
Arnold – a fourth-grader with a football-shaped head – continually found himself involved in the misadventures of fellow kids and apartment tenants.
Meanwhile, he had to suffer the simultaneous attacks and secret affections of the unibrowed bully, Helga.
The episodes involved everything from Chinese checkers and eating competitions to protecting the neighborhood from overdevelopment.
Cartoon Network’s “Johnny Bravo” brought the personality of the vain, lady-chasing skunk Pepe Le Pew into the ’90s by reimagining him as a muscular man with the voice of Elvis and wavy, yellow hair.
The show follows the title character as he unsuccessfully attempts to catch women’s eyes and avoid the attentions of little girl Suzy (Mae Whitman from “Arrested Development”) and local geek Carl (Tom Kenny from “Mr. Show).”
Seth MacFarlane’s script and storyboard work for the show isn’t surprising, as the show’s pop-cultural parodies strongly resemble his own future creation “Family Guy.”
The show also helped start “Batman” actor Adam West’s new, self aware career of playing himself. In “Johnny Meets Adam West,” he deprecatingly portrays himself as an overdramatic wannabe-detective.
“Rocko’s Modern Life”
One trademark of ’90s cartoons was the messy but artful animation style, and crude but charming sensibility of shows like “Rocko’s Modern Life.”
The loose storyline centered on Rocko – a mild-mannered wallaby who inexplicably owned a dog – along with the loud-mouthed steer Heffer Wolfe and the meek Filburt Turtle.
Beyond the show’s childish violence and toilet humor, “Rocko’s Modern Life” would also freely cover subjects spanning from coffee shops to nudism.
Perhaps no episode better sums up these dual elements than “Wacky Deli,” which features both grotesque cartoon caricatures of deli meats and a joke that references Andy Warhol’s art.