Every time my children turn on the television, my six-year-old self that woke up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons withers into the past. The shows they watch now are mildly entertaining at best, and mindbogglingly unbearable to watch at worst. Sitting there as they take in the newest show about dinosaur/truck hybrids or fairies that own a cafe makes me long for the years when the best cartoons weren’t available on-demand. We had to work hard — by getting up at 6 a.m. on weekends — to watch our favorites. There were fun storylines that (more often than not) that included inappropriate violence that wouldn’t touch a modern cartoon with a 10-foot pole. (Not that I’m condoning violence, per se, but the shows today are so saccharin and pristine that they could use a little more of an edge.)
Here are some of our favorite ’80s cartoons that kids today are missing out on. They don’t know what they’re missing, but the rest of us do.
6. Garfield and Friends
The Garfield segments were always far more entertaining than the parts of the show with the farm friends. Who didn’t love that lazy, grumpy cat that couldn’t get enough lasagna? He loved to sleep and eat. We can all relate to that, right?
5. Inspector Gadget
It’s nearly impossible to say the title of this show without immediately singing the song. We all loved that dopey guy with the cool contraptions built into his body and outfits. And we all knew that Penny (and her loving dog, Brain) were the ones who were really saving the day when Dr. Claw was causing trouble. Even though we knew how every episode would end, we couldn’t get enough of it.
4. The Smurfs
We loved going on adventures with these adorable, little blue creatures. They all had distinct personalities and skills and all lived in their little mushroom world as they tried to constantly escape the evil Gargamel and his cat, Azrael. You can still find Smurf figurines (and there was even a movie a few years ago), but it’s not as good as waking up and watching these guys every weekend.
3. The Simpsons
Yes, The Simpsons is still on television today, but we watched it when it first came out! (It’s certainly proven to stand the test of time.) But remember when “ay caramba” and “doh!” were catchphrases that everyone was quoting? Remember when Apu wasn’t a divisive character? Remember when we tuned in every Sunday night to see what the new opening would entail? Today’s kids have zero concept of any of this, and it’s so unfortunate.
2. Tom and Jerry
When you watch this show now, it’s funny to see just how much of it would never be allowed in a modern-day cartoon. Tom and Jerry really go for it when they’re trying to sabotage (or eat) the other one. They’re set on fire, hit with large, heavy objects, and everything in between. Jerry always won in the end. But the cat and mouse chase (literally) was too much fun to pass up.
1. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
“I have the power!” Oh how we all lived for this moment in the show! More likely than not, every time He-Man underwent his transformation, you were right there in front of the TV going through the motions with your invisible sword too. She-Ra was supposed to be the answer for girls who wanted their own version of the cartoon, but I always felt like she paled in comparison. Of course today, everyone would question why He-Man has that odd haircut (he’d be more likely to have a man-bun instead), and his rippling muscles would probably be a bit too much for today’s audiences. But the show would still be great.