Best and Worst Animated TV Shows

A run-down of animated TV shows, from binge-worthy to not worth your time

We're living in a golden age of TV, with enough smart, funny, thought-provoking cartoons to keep a binge going for weeks. There are also animated TV shows, however, that are so bad it's hard to understand how any network was willing to greenlight them. How can a cartoon, that requires the work of dozens of people and thousands of dollars per episode, wind up with a final product that's lazy and boring?

Let's run down the best and worst animated TV series.

Best: 'The Simpsons'

"Brick Like Me" - 'The Simpsons'. FOX

Many fans of The Simpsons tuned out after the eighth season, when Matt Groening left the show in the hands of its executive producers so that he could focus on Futurama and later, The Simpsons MovieThe Simpsons became a half-hour episode of watching Homer fail in one ridiculous stunt after another.

In recent seasons, The Simpsons reverted to form by creating groundbreaking episodes and hilarious parodies. "Brick Like Me" turned Springfield and its characters into Legos. "Clown in the Dumps" focused on Krusty dealing with the death of his father. The Halloween and Christmas episodes were hilarious parodies of pop culture phenomenons, like The Others and Frozen, respectively. The Simpsons deserves to keep its spot in the top twenty-five scripted shows on TV.

Worst: 'Mr. Pickles'

'Mr. Pickles'
'Mr. Pickles'. Adult Swim

Mr. Pickles debuted in 2014 on Adult Swim. The premise, that the family pet is secretly a brutal killer, is dark and funny. But the joke gets old quickly. We're asked to believe Grandpa is the only family member who sees what Mr. Pickles is up to, kind of like believing no one in Metropolis can see past Clark Kent's glasses to find Superman. Gore alone does not a funny or interesting cartoon make.

Best: 'Bob's Burgers'

"Mazel Tina" on 'Bob's Burgers'. FOX

Bob's Burgers, an animated comedy from creator Loren Bouchard, has been smart, funny and endearing since its mid-season premiere in  2011. Finally, audiences are catching on to what critics have known since the start: Bob's Burgers is able to ground its occasionally absurd characters and plots. Tina Belcher, the middle child, especially has risen to star status, with Slate.com hailing her as a feminist folk hero. The voice performances, the goofy storylines and the big heart of Bob's Burgers make it a gem of a show.

Worst: 'Brickleberry'

"In Da Club" on 'Brickleberry'. Comedy Central

Brickleberry lasted three seasons on Comedy Central. Let that sink in— three seasons. It's amazing that Comedy Central threw money at this weak TV cartoon about a group of bumbling park rangers. The episode synopses for Brickleberry are funny and topical. But the episodes themselves are usually full of lazy, obvious jokes that don't live up to the show's promise. 

Best: 'Robot Chicken'

Legion of Doom - 'Robot Chicken DC Comics Special II: Villains in Paradise'
Legion of Doom - 'Robot Chicken DC Comics Special II: Villains in Paradise'. Adult Swim

Robot Chicken has been one of the most successful cartoons on Adult Swim, after premiering in 2005. Co-creators Seth Green and Matt Senreich continue to bring the funny, especially in Robot Chicken special episodes.

Take these specials for examples of Robot Chicken's success: Robot Chicken DC Comics Special II: Villains In Paradise starred the bad guys from the Legion of Doom, showing them trying to enjoy their vacation. And then there was the hilarious The Robot Chicken Lots of Holidays but Don't Worry Christmas is Still in There Too so Pull the Stick Out of Your Ass Fox News Special, an episode that made fun of just about everything related to the holidays, with superheroes thrown in, too, of course. Each of these episodes was smart, quick and funny, with eye-pleasing stop-motion animation.

Worst: 'TripTank'

'TripTank'
'TripTank'. Comedy Central

Comedy Central debuted this cartoon anthology back in the spring of 2014.   is half hour block of animated shorts with recurring characters. The first few shorts were great, unique and funny. But watching thirty minutes of  TripTank is akin to the torture in A Clockwork Orange. You become numb to what you're seeing. TripTank would work better as a 15-minute cartoon, like Robot Chicken on Adult Swim. Even better, TripTank is perfect for a web series. However, TripTank stumbles as a half-hour animated comedy.

Best: 'The Legend of Korra'

'The Legend of Korra' Book Two: Spirits
Bolin, Korra and Mako in 'The Legend of Korra'. Nickelodeon / Viacom

The Legend of Korra delivered two glorious seasons (or Books) in 2014, although they didn't air on Nickelodeon. To watch these episodes, you had to see them on the Nick app, at Nick.com or pay for them. They were well worth their price because, after a lackluster and slightly confusing second season, Team Avatar was back on form, digging deeper into characterizations and the Avatar mythology.

The timeline saw huge changes, including Korra losing her connection to all the past Avatars. The biggest surprise came at the very end of the series when Korra walked off into the spirit sunset with Asami. Their friendship had been growing since they were stuck in the Si Wong Desert, but it wasn't obvious they were headed into a romantic relationship. Kudos to creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko for bringing such diversity to a TV cartoon.

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Basile, Nancy. "Best and Worst Animated TV Shows." ThoughtCo, Mar. 17, 2017, thoughtco.com/best-and-worst-animated-tv-shows-136890. Basile, Nancy. (2017, March 17). Best and Worst Animated TV Shows. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-and-worst-animated-tv-shows-136890 Basile, Nancy. "Best and Worst Animated TV Shows." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-and-worst-animated-tv-shows-136890 (accessed November 23, 2017).