Saturday morning cartoons aren’t what they used to be. For one, they’re no longer limited to morning time slots on weekends. What’s even better is that, while plenty of modern animated shows for adults continue with the tradition of cartoonish and stylised designs, the themes have evolved beyond the hilarity and high jinks.
Adult animations have managed to strike a balance between sobering subject matter and irreverent humour. It’s no surprise how content can veer towards the risqué. Several of the following recommendations have in fact come under fire in the past. However, these are arguably some of the most watchable over-18 animated series you can find on Netflix today.
Bojack Horseman plays on the anthropomorphic styles of Looney Tunes, but the similarities end there. The series has been lauded by critics for its tone and narrative, despite its first season receiving only a lukewarm reception. The titular character is a Hollywood actor past his prime, whose numerous personal flaws become increasingly apparent. Bojack Horseman takes the time to thoroughly explore his relationships with his friends and his environment. Over time, the series reveals the depth of his psychosis and his struggle in coming to terms with it. It may sound like your typical “jerk with a heart of gold” trope at play, but the recently concluded series excels at highlighting the darker aspects of human relationships.
It’s hard to create something new and exciting when one’s creative legacy includes works like The Simpsons and Futurama. Yet, Matt Groening has once again managed to surpass expectations with his Netflix-exclusive Disenchantment. Moving to Netflix has allowed Groening to explore a longer format of storytelling, which has its own set of disadvantages. Fans of his earlier work cannot expect to “drop-in” as easily as they would with The Simpsons or Futurama. However, patience does prove rewarding in the area regarding character arcs and individual backstories. The series centres on the misadventures of protagonist Bean, a 19-year-old alcoholic princess, and her two companions – Elfo, the overly optimistic forest elf; and Luci, Bean’s demon companion. There’s a significant amount of black comedy at play in here, which is quite un-Groening. Still, there’s plenty to love in Disenchantment‘s medieval fantasy universe.
Admittedly, Final Space got off to a rocky start. When the majority of Reddit users see the protagonist as an annoying and unlikeable buffoon, it can take quite a bit of effort to point out the silver lining. Thankfully, those who stuck around were able to witness Gary Goodspeed grow into his role as an unlikely intergalactic hero. Joined by a ragtag team of miscreants, Gary’s quest to defeat the big baddie becomes a journey of sacrifice and self-realisation. While season two is where Final Space hits its stride, it’s worth starting from the top with season one, as David Tennant’s portrayal of the villainous Lord Commander is truly impressive. A third season of the show is already on its way.
It’s hard not to love everyone’s favourite superspy-cum-serial womaniser. When Sterling Archer isn’t busy riddling baddies full of bullet holes or explaining the practicalities of a tactical turtleneck, he spends his time mouthing off to fellow espionage professional Lana Kane or antagonising the spy agency’s accountant, Cyril Figgis. As you might have guessed, Archer is as far as you can get from your typical spy story. The show is filled with a colourful cast of characters with distinctive personalities. Furthermore, the series is driven by some of the best voice work in the industry today. The past three seasons of Archer have been imaginative, with the series exploring different time periods and environments. Truthfully, there’s not a lot of deep thinking involved with Archer. However, it’s hard to deny the show’s appeal in its compelling story arcs and crude humour.
A show exploring the growing pains of a teenage boy is nothing new, but Big Mouth takes the concept to a whole new (and frankly, ribald) level. The show’s setting is based on your average American middle school, featuring students Nick Birch, his best friend Andrew Glouberman, girl-next-door Jessi Glaser and the hormonally-overcharged Jay Bilzerian as they navigate the vagaries of teenhood. Hilarity ensues when each child comes into contact with their respective “hormone monsters”, signalling the start of their puberty. There’s plenty of sexual awakenings, burgeoning romances and all sorts of debauchery that makes Big Mouth a hoot from start to finish. While it may seem a tad bit low-brow (particularly during the scene about birth control selection being made to resemble The Bachelor), there are several heart-warming moments involving trust and friendship that are sure to resonate with adult audiences.