Guy’s Top 5/Bottom 5 Saturday Morning Cartoons

Saturday Morning Cartoons were a weekend staple growing up.  A reprieve from the busy school week, and something fun to look forward to when starting out the weekend.  It was a special ritual that has been lost over the years due to the on-demand benefits of home video, video gaming, and eventually phone apps, but for those that lived it, it was special.

Here are my “Top and Bottom 5 Saturday Morning Cartoons”.  While I would easily add Dungeons & Dragons to the “Top” mix, I already covered that in a review, so I’d like to see other shows get their due.

GUY’S TOP 5 SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981)

Marvel Productions still put out one of the best Spider-Man cartoons of all time.  Peter Parker (Spider-Man) lived with two college roommates Bobby Drake (Iceman) and Angelica Jones (Firestar) at his Aunt May’s home in Queens.  When supervillains would rise up, their bedroom could turn into this high tech crime-stopping base, and they’d “Go for it” to save the day.  They really did a great job of blending in the Spider-Man comic mythos with an antagonistic Flash Thompson and J. Jonah Jameson, a ton of super hero cameos, and even new villains like the arcade based Videoman.  It was classic ’80’s Marvel, and who could forget Ms. Lion the Lhasa Apso?

The Real Ghostbusters (1986)

The first three seasons of this long-running show perfectly captured the humor and tone of the blockbuster movie.  Sure, the character designs were radically redone, and the green ghost “Slimer” was now a sidekick/pet, but the writing was solid, and took the Ghostbusters on adventures that while still resided primarily in New York, also gave them the freedom to bust ghosts over the world.  It could scare as well as it could snark, and how many places are you going to see the Ghostbusters go up against Cthulhu?

Captain N: The Game Master (1989)

Truly a guilty pleasure, this show took place during the height of the Nintendo Entertainment System craze, zapping teenager Kevin Keene into a video game world populated by beloved NES icons and a beautiful princess.  This was one show that I really wished could happen to me in those far younger years.  Despite a puzzling depiction of Mother Brain, and a near-total dive of the show’s quality for the third season (see Game Boy and the skateboarding Alucard from Castlevania), it really was a time capsule of how popular the NES was in pop culture at the time, and my other favorite “Normal kid being pulled into a fantasy gaming world” show outside of Dungeons & Dragons.

Batman: The Animated Series (1992)

This was a “gold standard” cartoon for me.  Not just for Saturday mornings, but for animation in general.  Taking cues from the Tim Burton Batman films, and placing the entire world within a dark and gorgeous Art Deco aesthetic, Batman: The Animated Series realized Batman’s world in way the comics and movies never did.  They gave time to better realize Bruce Wayne’s role.  They made characters such as Mr. Freeze sympathetic, they introduced Harley Quinn to the Batman mythos, and who could ever forget Mark Hamill’s delightfully psychotic take on the Joker?  This is still my definitive interpretation of Batman to date, and Kevin Conroy’s iconic and growly take on the Caped Crusader is as good as it gets.

X-Men (1992)

I was obsessed with X-Men when this series debuted on Fox.  The “Blue Team” was my go to X-Team, and having both old and new stories adapted with some pretty faithful adaptions ensured that I never missed an episode.  Of course, there were things that I didn’t care for, like the random introduction of the original character Morph, or sidelining Beast for the bulk of the first season, but the show still captured the look and fun of the 1990’s era X-Men incredibly well, and like Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, had more hero cameos than you could shake an adamantium claw at.

GUY’S BOTTOM 5 SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS

Laverne and Shirley in the Army (1981)

Take beloved sitcom characters from their brewery in Milwaukee.  Put them in the army.  Give them a pig drill sergeant named Sgt. Squealy. You know what?  I’m not going to wax poetically about this one, or how it somehow ranks lower than the show starring the gang from Happy Days being time travelers.  This one just makes me tired.

Rubik, The Amazing Cube (1983)

This was a total fad cash-in show.  A bunch of kids find said cube, and when it’s properly solved, it grows a face and feet and starts talking.  How the kids never screamed and tossed it into a river is beyond me.  Seriously, could you imagine Rubik competitions where you basically release some sentient flying cube when you’re only shooting for fastest completion times?  As with all shows like this, there was an evil magician who wanted Rubik back to do… something.  It was never explicitly clear.  Only my confusion about this show was.  And that remains so to this day.

Turbo Teen (1984)

Creepy.  Seriously, you couldn’t unsee the hideous transformation of young Brett Matthews into a sports car when exposed to extreme heat.  Oh my God, the face morphing alone was a special level of Hell aimed at children.  How was he expected to live like this?  Could he ever visit Las Vegas?  If some girl ever turned him on whilst in the thralls of puberty, did he risk crushing her?  There are so many questions to be had about all of this, such as who exactly thought this show concept was a great idea to greenlight?

Slimer! And the Real Ghostbusters (1988)

Somewhere, some studio executives decided to take The Real Ghostbusters show and turn it almost completely Slimer-centric in the 4th season.  And with it, Slimer became the star of the show, having full conversations, having a social life with a full circle of friends, an arch nemesis named “Professor Dweeb”, and the animation took a near-total dump.  Instead of being annoyed with Slimer, or allowing him to reside in the firehouse for scientific study, the Ghostbusters team got… creepy affectionate about Slimer, including Peter, reducing the comical rivalry the two had to non-existent.  Reality went out the window at this point, and everything humorous, scary, or interesting went with it.

HammerMan (1991)

You know, I just….  I don’t make this stuff up.  Another “fad” show based off 1990’s rapper M.C. Hammer.  For being just one minute long, the intro theme manages to tell the longest story in existence, all about “magical shoes” granting Hammer (nee “Stanley”) to become “HammerMan” and do… all sorts of… hammery things…?  I can see why one of M.C Hammer’s most popular songs begged the artist not to “hurt ’em”.  Because terrible things in his name were unleashed upon the public.  This cartoon ranking high up there.