The year 2017 was a dynamite year for television, with shows like GLOW, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Mindhunter raising the bar for fresh, original programming. Still, even in this golden age of the small screen, there are times when the medium seems caught up in a frenzy of imitators, with remakes (The Killing), reboots (Hawaii Five-O), or worst of all, rip-offs.
Though our TV screens might seem more and more saturated with rip-offs every year, the truth is that copycats have been part of television since the very beginning, and it pains us to inform you that this includes some of your favorite childhood programs.
Remember those warm, fuzzy memories of curling up on the sofa and binging your favorite Saturday morning cartoons and sitcoms? Well, the sad truth is most of those “original” shows are simply knockoffs based on graphs and charts about what’s “hip” with youngsters.
For this list, we’re counting down beloved kids’ shows that are blatant rip-offs, though that doesn’t mean they’re bad. Some of the shows on this list are critically acclaimed.
However, it still doesn’t excuse the fact that they stole ideas, knocked-off storylines, and lifted entire characters from shows that came before and, frankly, had done it better.
With that said, here are the 15 Beloved Kids Shows That Shamelessly Ripped Off Better Ones.
15. Yu-Gi-Oh! Ripped Off Pokemon
There are few shows that can call themselves pop culture phenomenons, and even fewer that were as big as Pokémon.
The story of young Ash and his quest to become the greatest Pokémon trainer ever resonated big time with Western audiences. Pikachu, Squirttle, Meowth and the rest of the pocket monsters took the world by storm, and it didn’t take long for copycats to start cropping up.
Even though the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga was very much its own thing, the developers of the anime decided to capitalize on the recent success of Pokémon. What was once a story about a young gambler quickly turned into a show about a collectible card game involving pocket monsters fighting each other. Coincidence? We don’t think so.
14. Big Bad Beetleborgs Ripped Off Power Rangers
By the mid ‘90s, Power Rangers-mania had officially taken the world by storm, and production companies took notice. The craze began an onslaught of Might Morphin knockoffs, one of the most successful being Big Bad Beetleborgs.
Thought up by Saban Entertainment (the same production company responsible for Power Rangers), Beetleborgs centers on three kids who gain the ability to transform into their favorite comic book heroes in order to fight crime.
Like Power Rangers, the series spliced together combat footage from a Japanese series, Juukou B-Fighter, with new American footage into a sci-fi/action extravaganza whose primary function was to sell toys.
13. She-Ra: Princess of Power Ripped Off Masters of the Universe
Along with ThunderCats and G.I. Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was one part of the holy trinity of Filmation cartoons that permeated ‘80s popular culture.
With his bulging biceps, a pet tiger, and a catch phrase to end all catch phrases (“I have the power!”), He-Man videotapes, toys, posters, and lunch boxes found their way into every prepubescent boy’s bedroom.
It wasn’t long before Filmation and Mattel thought up of a way to double their market by appealing to prepubescent girls as well, creating He-Man’s female counterpart: She-Ra: Princess of Power.
Though Princess of Power is technically a spinoff, it’s use of same animation, same stock characters, same stories, and same line of toys from Masters of the Universe restricted it from being purely a copycat product.
12. Baby Looney Tunes Ripped Off The Muppet Babies
The Loony Tunes are some of the most iconic cartoon characters of the last 100 years. Bugs Bunny is so popular that the rabbit even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
However, even though they’re the most celebrated cartoon troop of all time, the Looney Tunes aren’t above stealing an idea or two from a like-minded franchise.
Released in 2002, Baby Looney Tunes features Daffy, Porky, Tweety, and Bugs as adorable tots getting into wacky hijinks. If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the exact same concept as The Muppet Babies, which came out nearly two decades earlier.
11. Food Party Ripped Off Pee-wee’s Playhouse
Running from 1986-1990, Pee-wee’s Playhouse starred Paul Reubens as the titular manchild playing in his wacky funhouse made up of toys, gadgets, and talking appliances.
Pee-wee’s Playhouse was like a live-action LSD trip for toddlers where you could have a conversation with a chair and then get a visit from the King of Cartoons.
Released more than 20 years later was Food Party, a bouncy, brightly-colored children’s cooking show in which host Thu Tran would whip up tasty delights with her cast of puppet guest stars.
Sure, Pee-wee’s program wasn’t a crazy cooking show, but it’s clear that Food Party was directly inspired by Reuben’s irreverent humor and unique set designs.
Everything from the multi-colored cardboard sets to the wide range of puppet pals is a complete knockoff of Playhouse, but it still couldn’t keep Food Party from being cancelled after two short seasons.
10. Teamo Supremo Ripped Off The Powerpuff Girls
Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup became household names in 1998 when The Powerpuff Girls aired on Cartoon Network. Developed by animator Craig McCracken, the show centers on the three bobblehead sisters with superpowers who were created by the Scientist Professor Utonium.
With a unique blend of old school animation and sharp, satirical humor, The Powerpuff Girls became an overnight success, hitting it big with audiences and racking up six Emmy Award nominations in the process.
It was a success that would prove to be hard to replicate, and as Teamo Supremo proved, even harder to rip off. Debuting in 2002 on the Disney Channel, Supremo also centered on three tiny tots with superhero powers using a similar animation style as Powerpuff.
9. Totally Spies Ripped Off Charlie’s Angels
Charlie’s Angels was one of the most iconic shows of the ’70s. It starred Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith as three crime-fighters working in a private detective agency led by their mysterious boss Charlie.
Despite some less than favorable reviews from critics, Charlie’s Angels became a bona fide smash hit thanks to its quick action, saucy humor, and, of course, Fawcett’s quintessential hairdoo.
The groovy ’70s show gained cult status and had a massive influence on pop culture, inspiring a couple live-action movie remakes as well as countless copycats, including the comedy cartoon Totally Spies.
With an anime-like animation style, Totally Spies follows the lives of three teenagers trying to juggle school life with their lives as spies. It rides that fine line between homage and knockoff, and in the end pales in comparison with the weight and impact left by Charlie’s Angels.
8. Naruto Ripped Off Hunter X Hunter
Originally a Japanese manga written and drawn by Yoshihiro Togashi (who is married to Naoko Takeuchi, the author of Sailor Moon), Hunter X Hunter was adapted into a 62-episode anime series in 1999.
The show followed the life of Gon Freecss, a young kid attempting to walk in his father’s footsteps by becoming a rare treasure hunter.
Naruto, created by Masachi Kishimoto, focuses on a similar concept about a young ninja who has big dreams of becoming the leader of his village.
Though Naruto follows a different arc than Gon, the show has more than a few striking similarities, especially in parallel characters like Kurapika and Sasuke, and story beats from the Hunter‘s Hunter exam and Naruto‘s Chunin exam.
7. Johnny Test Ripped Off Dexter’s Lab
As one of the key shows of Cartoon Network’s golden age, Dexter’s Lab follows boy genius Dexter who has a secret laboratory inside the recesses of his bedroom. Most episodes consist of his many experiments coming under attack from his annoying sister Dee Dee, who always manages to find a way inside his lab.
The brainchild of Genndy Taartakovsky (Samurai Jack), Dexter’s Lab is a quirky and creative blast, filled with robots, super-powered monkeys, and giant monsters. That same brand of mischief, fun, and pathos is hard to come by, and though Johnny Test tried, it didn’t exactly succeed.
6. Butch Cassidy Ripped Off Johnny Quest
Back when Hanna-Barbera ruled the airwaves, kids everywhere were swept up in the fantastic world of Johnny Quest. As the James Bond of kids’ cartoons, it followed the adventures of Dr. Breton Quest, his son Johnny, their bodyguard Race Bannon, and Hadji, an adoptive Indian orphan.
Johnny Quest was a unique styling of science fiction and pulp adventure, combining horror, humor, and action into one imaginative thrill ride that kids couldn’t get enough of. With its enormous success, it inspired an entire line of imitators, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids.
Also created by Hanna-Barbera, Butch Cassidy was a Saturday-morning cartoon about a group of teenage rock and rollers who moonlighted as spies.
5. Jabberjaw Ripped Off Scooby-Doo
Speaking of Hanna-Barbera, the animation studio had their biggest hit on their hands yet with the original 1969 release of Scooby-Doo.
The groovy cartoon followed the adventures of four teenagers and their talking Great Dane, as they investigated paranormal mysteries involving supernatural demons, creatures which usually turned out to be an old guy in disguise.
We probably don’t have to tell you that Scooby and the gang went on to inspire an entire string of rip-offs, including a show about a goofy-talking shark.
Released in 1975, Jabberjaw is basically the underwater version of Scooby-Doo, swapping out scooby-snacks for fish food. Like its predecessor, it followed around a group of young teens and their animal companion as they solved mysteries.
4. VR Troopers Ripped Off Power Rangers
Big Bad Beetleborgs wasn’t the only show to piggyback on the success of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Karate, teenagers, colorful costumes, and evil monsters made up was a surefire recipe for success in the mid ’90s, and nobody knew that better than Saban Entertainment.
VR Troopers (short for Virtual Reality Troopers) was yet another sci-fi superhero mashup produced by Saban trying to capitalize on the success of Power Rangers, as well as the growing fascination for virtual reality. It focused on a team of teens trying to keep evil forces from crossing over into our dimension with the use of virtual reality.
Unlike Power Rangers, however, VR Troopers wasn’t able to find a wide audience. Part of the problem was that the Japanese footage used for the battle sequences was quickly used up, and the show was cancelled after just two seasons.
3. The Jetsons Ripped Off The Flintstones
Another Hanna-Barbera classic, The Flintstones was a pop culture smash that’s somehow just as popular today as it was more than 40 years ago.
The misadventures of the Flintstones and the Rubbles found that perfect balance between cheeky humor and relatable issues. The cartoon sitcom quickly became a hit both with kids and their parents.
In fact, The Flintstones was so popular that Barbera decided to copy and paste the nuclear family formula into a future setting just a few years later with The Jetsons.
The Jetsons is essentially the same show as its prehistoric predecessor with all the familiar elements, including marital drama, cheesy humor, and those annoying laugh tracks.
2. The Flintstones Ripped Off The Honeymooners
Lasting six seasons and nominated for an Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy (a milestone moment for animation), The Flintstones far exceeded Hanna-Barbera’s wildest expectations int the early ’60s.
However, the fact that the modern Stone Age family was so wildly successful shouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone, especially since The Flintstones was basically a rip-off of the already popular Honeymooners.
Released in 1955, Jackie Gleason’s comedic take on working-class America was a cultural smash and became one of the greatest American television shows of all time.
Remaking The Honeymooners so that both adults and kids could enjoy it was a masterstroke by Barbera, even though the animation company never fully admitted to ripping it off.
1. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Ripped Off Super Sentai
VR Troopers might be a rip-off of Power Rangers, but it might come as a surprise to you that Power Rangers itself is a rip-off.
Released in 1993, Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had the genius idea to adapt stock footage from a popular Japanese program called Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, which was the 16th addition of Super Sentai.
Saban Entertainment then shot a new storyline about teenagers growing up in the fictional town of Angelgrove, California who become the Power Rangers after stumbling on ancient alien tech.
The new American footage was spliced with the stock footage to create the show all millennials now know and love. Though you might have fond memories of Tommy, Kimberly, and Jason fighting evil monsters, it’s kind of a bummer as an adult to discover it’s someone else inside the costumes.
Can you think of any other kids’ shows that ripped off better ones? Let us know in the comment section!
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