So I’m one of those people that is just old enough to remember when Nickelodeon was coming on the scene. The early days before it got popular back when you can’t do that on television was their big hit. So I was there at the start of the Nicktoons craze in the 90s and like most kids I watch Nicktoons and kept watching until Snick came along but something happened that made me lose interest and it wasn’t getting old.
The first few Nickelodeon cartoons that we classify as Nicktoons were Rugrats, Doug and Aaah! real monsters. A few others came along shortly after namely recess and then later we got Hey Arnold and then the Seminole Nicktoons SpongeBob SquarePants. A lot of people have good nostalgic feelings for these Nicktoons. But why? They’re not very good!
I’m not saying all Nicktoons were bad and I’m not saying that there are inherently evil or unethical or anything weird like that but when you actually watch them most of the time they’re not memorable. My favorite episodes of cartoons that I remember watching whether it is Garfield and Friends or Transformers, Scooby-Doo, X-Men or Batman the Animated Series the thing that stands out in my mind is I can always picture those episodes I can recall every little detail. But that’s not the case with Nicktoons every episode bleeds together in my memories every series.
I know what you’re thinking you have terrible memory. Maybe but I doubt it because I can remember lots of other things but no that’s not it I had fond memories of those cartoons my favorite ones were Rugrats and Doug I love those two shows I ended up like I’m really like real monsters but I didn’t care for anything that came after Hey Arnold I lost interest real fast losing all hope for Nickelodeon as a network when SpongeBob came on the scene.
I’ll start with Rugrats. Rugrats is the iconic one that everyone.
When we were kids we love Rugrats because it was cute you were seeing the Adult World from the perspective of babies written from adults who are pretending to imagine what babies would think of the world. Except they were adults there were a lot of things in there that as an adult you watch it now and you go a baby wouldn’t notice that. Obviously they couldn’t make the show exactly what a baby would think because we don’t know what babies think. But I can’t picture in my mind whole episodes I can remember the one where the cool kid quote unquote. Picks up Tommy and combs his hair. But I can’t remember the rest of the episodes or any specific plots from any of the episodes and that’s the thing I can remember vaguely what the character for like you had the twins who ate bugs you had the redhead who was scared of everything you had the bald kid that was in charge and then how is it the adults were just kind of sort of there in the background. I love the show when it was new I loved it and I have fond memories of it the problem is when you watch it now you realize that it was definitely cater to a young audience whose mental functions weren’t fully developed but also the show yes it’s a cartoon and it’s humorous obviously but I just don’t feel like it holds up anymore and looking at it I think that one of the reasons why people thought it was so groundbreaking at the time was simply because it was on a cable network cater to kids and that’s it it was knew it was original it was something that didn’t exist before and so I think we all got caught up in the newness of the Nicktoons and the whole idea of we can watch cartoons any time we want instead of waiting for Saturday morning I think once the novelty wore off and don’t get me wrong it was a very innovative concept but once the novelty wore off we realize that these weren’t quality shows. They were very low budget and I don’t just mean in the animation I mean in the storytelling and I mean in the the marketing and the presentation everything about them was low-budget again nothing wrong with that but the truth is they were cable channel that didn’t have the vast resources a broadcast network did.
Of course everyone will tell you after the movie came along Rugrats went to hell but I’m going to tell you it pretty much went to shit after the first season. And it didn’t have far to go because like I said it was Innovative and impressive but once you got past the that it wasn’t very quality
This was most obvious when the Nicktoons migrated over to ABC for there Saturday morning block when recess Hey Arnold & Doug stopped being Nickelodeon cartoons and started being Network TV cartoons they were trash in comparison to the stuff we were watching on network TV. They weren’t as good as shows like eek the Cat or X-Men or Scooby-Doo Where Are You or it’s 13th different reiteration That season. The truth is Network TV shows had the budget and we’re giving the care because they had this for our block on Saturdays that they had to sell all the kids on Clump together and every kid was watching the same show so those shows got all the resources when you started spreading us out over multiple networks because Cartoon Network came along and a few others right after all of a sudden it’s harder and harder for the cartoons to find a big audience in the quality goes down and anyone that you talked to everyone I talked to who’s a fan of animated shows say that the Nicktoons were the downfall of Network cartoons but I’d say they were the destruction of animated storytelling all together if it wasn’t for Pixar and Disney doing amazing things in the cinema I’d say animation would have died out outside of video games. And it’s because of Nicktoons.
Most people are quick to point out that when those Nick shows went over to network TV they sucked and a lot of people say oh it’s because they changed networks or it’s because maybe they changed management or whatever but the thing is I think those cartoons always sucked but we didn’t care because we were just happy to be able to watch a cartoon on a Monday afternoon and we didn’t care that it wasn’t a good cartoon it was just something to watch that wasn’t 5 News.
That’s not to say Nickelodeon wasn’t an amazing Network it had some fantastic TV shows absolutely groundbreaking TV shows that I will defend to the day I die but it’s cartoons actually lower the bar to the point that kids didn’t care anymore now works didn’t care any more advertisers didn’t care anymore and so now animation at least quality animation is a lot harder to come by and even when you find it it’s low budget in comparison to what we had before Nickelodeon. I’m not necessarily arguing that the cartoons themselves were pure rubbish what I’m saying is them coming on the scene destroyed pretty much everything that came before it was a disruptive Force that to this day we have not recovered from more than 30 years later.
Even when I look at something like Doug the first thing I say is even for a cartoon there’s no logical consistency you have characters that are humanoid that look like humans that talk and act like humans but then you have characters like mosquito who isn’t human and then you have a sort of anthropomorphic dog but not humanoid who acts like a dog but also acts like a person kind of sort of like Snoopy.
Don’t even get me started on things like that show with the Beavers or cat dog or that other one that I can’t remember its name. Now I’ll throw an Asterix in all of this Ren and Stimpy is probably the best animated show created in the 90s next to Daria. And that’s the kicker MTV was making good quality animation on a low budget that wasn’t dumbed-down for the audience but Nickelodeon was just throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick and they were coloring it with chocolate syrup and rainbow sprinkles so that we would fall for it.
It didn’t become obvious to me that they literally didn’t care about their audience until SpongeBob SquarePants the absolute worst piece of entertainment trash to have ever existed and this article is not sarcasm I’m 100% convinced the SpongeBob is the worst animated series ever.
You’re allowed to like bad things I like bad things The Phantom Menace is one of my favorite movies I tell people that all the damn time I actually liked Return of the Killer Tomatoes I think it’s an entertaining movie but I don’t tell people it’s a good movie and that’s the thing I can say I like GoBots but I know GoBots aren’t good and I can say I like Gremlins 2 even though that’s not a very good movie you can say you like SpongeBob or Rugrats even though they’re not actually quality entertainment that’s fine taste is subjective. But I think these cartoons get a pass because they did something unique and they hooked us on the style judge and that emotional sense of that feel good remember when I was a kid remember this remember what the days were like back then overpowers our ability to actually look at it objectively and say you know what this isn’t very good. It’s the reason why Rugrats died and Doug never got a continuation but stuff like Scooby-Doo and the Transformers get a fresh new take every season. So I don’t really know if anyone who reads this is going to write me death threats or if they’re going to really go back and look at those shows more objectively and I’m not the Nostalgia Critic I’m not one of those YouTube people who criticizes and critiques and analyzes everything and says oh this isn’t good because X Y or Z I’m just telling you I noticed these things and wanted to share them. And basically what I noticed is when you try to rewash these cartoons once you get past the nostalgic you don’t just roll your eyes you kind of well feel ashamed and I don’t feel that when I’m rewatching DuckTales or talespin I watch one of those shows and I feel like that’s good quality cartoon entertainment.