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The Top 5 Western Animated TV Series

Everyone loves a List article, right? It's one of the internet's foremost pleasures, reading a list of top this or that and loudly shouting at the screen what entries they have forgotten, or occasionally even agreeing with them. We sure love 'em so you can expect regular list articles here on AFA! I originally wrote this top 10 animated TV shows for Screen Highway, in response to a top ten US TV shows that had appeared on the site. To make it easier I decided to divide into Top 5 Western animated shows and Top 5 Japanese animated shows. For AFA I am going to publish the two lists as separate posts- Western today, with the Japanese list coming later. Feel free to sound off in the comments about the wrongness of my choices!

    5) Archer (****)

    The youngest show on the list, FX's spy comedy has only racked up 4 seasons so far, but is already earning itself an impressive reputation. Archer earns extra points for not being another damned domestic family sitcom- instead it revolves around the dysfunctional employees of the Intelligence agency ISIS, including the titular agent Sterling Archer. As the series has gone along it has become more ambitious, both in terms of animation and in plot, with some stories that sustain multiple episode arcs. Boasting a fantastic central performance from the one and only H Jon Benjamin, it also features a stellar voice-cast including Judy Greer, Aisha Tyler and Arrested Development's Jessica Walter. The show has been a hit, critically as well as with audiences, so hopefully we have many years of Archer left to look forward to

    4) Danger Mouse (****)

    The only British show on the list, and the only one that was originally aimed at kids, it is however our second show that features a secret agent! This classic, and so very British, 80's series was the first in a wave by the much missed UK studio Cosgrove Hall, who would go on to produce such other fantastic fare as Count Duckula, Victor and Hugo and the BFG. Unlike so many other cartoons from your childhood this has aged remarkably well. The animation may look dated, but the sharp scripts hold up brilliantly, proving just as funny today. It may have been aimed at children but it pulls of the trick of working on different levels for adults and kids. These days that's attempted by most animation you see, but DM was ahead of it's time. Good Grief indeed.

    3) Futurama (*****) 

    It's a testament to how hard it is to keep an adult animation on the air that's not The Simpsons, when even Matt Groening, the creator of that very show, can't do it. After Fox cancelled it Comedy Central stepped in to rescue it before cancelling it themselves after two extra seasons..It follows hapless delivery boy Phillip J Fry, who is accidentily frozen in 1999 and thawed out on New Years Eve 2099. Fry meets a cast of colourful characters including a hard drinking, foul-mouthed robot named Bender, his distant nephew Professor Farnworth, a Cyclops called Leela and an incompetent alien doctor named Zoidberg. A sci-fi comedy that pulls of the science-fiction just as well as the jokes, it's a work of genius. There's a million references for geeks of every stripe- put there by writers who are clearly true geeks themselves,   not Big Bang Theory style fakers. If that wasn't enough this is also a show that can sometimes show real heart- check out the episode “Jurassic Bark”, and try and be unmoved, I double dare you!

    2) South Park (*****) 

    While nobody was looking, South Park quietly became the second longest running animated series: unbelievably it has been on the air for fifteen years.. It hasn't always worked and the quality has varied wildly, but when it's at the top of it's game it's amazing, and like nothing else. Showing the world through the eyes of four elementary school kids allows the writers to point out the ridiculousness of the adult world. It seems rude, crude and offensive (well, it is..) but it's not stupid. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are in fact very very clever and it often shows. Or sometimes it's just about poop jokes. Parker and Stone go to places nobody else would dare, and it's an equal opportunity offender- nobody is safe from their sights. Frankly it serves as a helpful barometer- if you still get offended by South Park from time to time you know you're not beyond saving. The uniquely fast turn around time (thanks to the still crude animation) means they can react to real world events faster than any other animation can ever hope for. Parker and Stone may go on to even bigger and better things as indicated by their musical Book Of Mormon but their place in pop culture history is already assured thanks to South Park. If nothing else Eric Cartman is easily one of the best comic characters of all time.


    1) The Simpsons (*****) 

    Conventional online wisdom says that nobody watches it any more but this is patently untrue. While even the most hardened fan would have to admit it's not quite as good as it used to be, it's not like it's ever become actually bad. Even if it was (and there are those who argue it is), the quality of the show at it's peak is enough to earn it this coveted spot. There's little more that can be said about this towering behemoth of a show that has not been said before. Without The Simpsons, four out of the five shows on the list wouldn't exist. There are no more influential shows in western animation, and few in culture as a whole. It's characters have become part of our shared culture, their catchphrases have become part of our lexicon. There was only ever one real contender for this spot. Could it ever really have ever been anything else?