Whether you were a child of the ’80s, ’90s, or 2000s, one thing remains true: there was a whole lot of television marketed specifically for you. As sitcoms increased dramatically in popularity in the 1980s, and as Saturday morning cartoons began to pick up steam along with advertisements for toys, it quickly became clear that media was being made for children just as much as it was for adults.
Yet just because there was more being made for kids specifically, that hardly meant that what kids were watching was worth watching at all. Understandably, having too much of a good thing often leads to being stuck with quite a lot of a really not that great thing. And as kids age out of the target demographics of the often simplistic and boring TV series, it’s not hard to look back and wonder how the shows ever held their attention to begin with.
Making a mental list of every show you watched in your childhood that you would never be able to sit through now could take a really, really long time. So to save you the trouble, we’ve gone ahead and rounded up some of the worst offenders in this list of 18 TV Shows You Loved As A Kid (That TOTALLY Sucked). Buckle up.
Degrassi has been a staple of Canadian tweenage television ever since 1979, when the first installments of the franchise aired as after school special movies, followed by short-lived series The Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High, and Degrassi High. It wasn’t until 2001, however, that the series went fully mainstream with Degrassi: The Next Generation, which ran for a whopping 14 seasons and 385 episodes.
Yet even though Next Generation ran for as long as it did, its real claim to fame is possibly being the longest running soap opera designed for tweens of the ’90s and ’00s. Addressing traumatic topics such as rape, eating disorders, suicide, and drug abuse, Degrassi held no punches in its mastery of the Very Special Episode…and, as a result, produced very little else.
But hey, at least they gave us Drake. So…there’s that.
17. Ed, Edd n Eddy
Shows that relied on the cruder ends of the comedy spectrum were a common staple of kids’ TV in the ’90s, perhaps exemplified by The Ren & Stimpy Show better than any other series to date. Another show that falls perfectly into that category, albeit with less narrative success, is Cartoon Network’s Ed, Edd n Eddy. Revolving around a trio of idiotic tweens known as The Eds, the show depicted the Three Stooges-esque hijinks the boys would engage in, most frequently all in pursuit of their favorite snacks.
But while the Stooges are timeless, The Eds can’t help but feel hopelessly dated and derivative. Relying heavily on jokes about bodily fluids, and veiled sexual innuendos that push the limits of the censors (such as dirty magazines, characters stripping, and frequent visual cues for masturbation), Ed, Edd n Eddy is a show that remains too stuck on the playground to think about joining the ranks of the comedy greats.
16. Dora the Explorer
When it comes to the claim that children’s shows usually don’t have a purpose, Dora the Explorer clearly defies that suggestion. The “edutainment” series worked off a bilingual script, embracing Spanish-speaking audiences as well as increasing potential interest in the language among young children who were invited to participate with the challenging activities Dora faced on her adventures.
Yet even though Dora did great things for language inclusivity and critical thinking, no amount of educational merit can make up for one simple fact: almost all of the characters on the show are mind-numbingly annoying.
Whether it’s Dora’s overly perky behavior, Swiper’s pathetic whining, or Backpack’s insufferable singing, Dora is full of characters that annoy, rather than characters you enjoy. Except for Boots the monkey. He’s still pretty cool.
15. Johnny Bravo
If Johnny Bravo did one thing right in its seven years of airing on Cartoon Network, it’s this: it never, ever took itself seriously.
The animated series – which centered on the life of a larger than life Lothario with perfectly styled hair and an unrealistic body – had fun with its format, utilizing over the top celebrity cameos at every turn, as well as tributes to previous animated and live-action series. Yet as much fun as the series has with itself and pushing the conventional envelope, there are far more drawbacks than highlights.
For starters, making the character of a kids show’s ostensible main goal to be seducing as many girls as possible is…questionable at best. But going one step further and giving that same character a very young female child sidekick, who also clearly has a massive crush on him, just makes things even more uncomfortable.
14. Hey Dude
Nowadays, Nickelodeon is no stranger to making live action TV series, with successes such as Kenan & Kel, Drake & Josh, and iCarly tucked safely under their belts, along with many, many others. However, back in the ’80s, forays into non-animated entertainment were relatively new to the kid friendly network that would come to be synonymous with high quality cartoons. Yet before there were cartoons, there was the bizarre series Hey Dude.
Revolving around the clearly realistic premise of young teen friends working on a dude ranch, complete with a schlock-y theme song that blends western charm with attempts at hip slang, the entire premise and existence of the series is kind of something you have to just scratch your head at. Admittedly, it’s easy to justify it with “it was the ’80s, man,” but still. It suffices to say that Nickelodeon hadn’t found itself yet, and although Dude would have a 65-episode run, it was perhaps for the best that the Nick series, for lack of a better phrase, got along, little doggies.
13. Peppa Pig
Kids’ shows about talking animals can be pretty great. PBS’s Arthur has been a mainstay for 20 years now and continues producing quality episodes every year. Countless series about Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh have been aired on the Disney Channel and have entertained generation after generation of children. But when it comes to Peppa Pig, there’s just no sugar coating it: Peppa is what happens when the line between anthropomorphic and animal is horribly, eerily blurred.
Sure, things like Arthur and the Mickey Mouse series muddy things a bit by giving humanized animals pets of their own, but Peppa confuses matters even more by having the human-like animals make the noises their animal counterparts make. The pigs snort frequently, the horses neigh, the dogs bark, the cats meow…all while carrying on normal conversation.
And even putting this trip to the animated uncanny valley aside, Peppa’s…kind of genuinely the worst all on her own.
12. Rocket Power
Rocket Power is basically the answer to the question all ’90s kids wondered: what would happen if the Rugrats grew up and got obsessed with extreme sports?
Except…we’re pretty sure that literally no one wondered that. Putting aside the fact that the show hails from the Klasky-Csupó brain trust behind Rugrats, and the extremely similar animation style that is used for the babies and boarders alike, the parallels able to be drawn between the characters hamper Rocket‘s narrative from the get go. Otto and Squid feel reminiscent of Tommy and Chuckie, with a few traits and design features swapped here and there, while Reggie and Twister are clear copies of lovable twins Lil and Phil.
11. Bob the Builder
While shows like Dora the Explorer still had educational merit despite an abundance of annoying characters, a series like Bob the Builder can’t lay claim to any similar distinction. Sure, maybe the call and response refrain of “Can we fix it?” “Yes, we can!” is supposed to foster feelings of teamwork and getting along in the young kids who are viewing each episode. But we can all but guarantee that everyone who watched the show was in it for the dump trucks, not for the potential morale boosting.
Between Bob’s constant quasi-cheerleading attitude, and the frequent arguments that erupt between the conflicting personalities represented by trucks such as Scoop, Muck, and Lofty, the show presents a lot of moments that are easy to roll your eyes at. Yet nevertheless, the show has been rebooted as of 2015 and continues to air to this day, showing that kids will continue to tune in as long as it means dump trucks and dirt are involved.
Taking risks in form and content is always a good way to break out from the mass mold and make a name for yourself in any field. In children’s entertainment in particular, it’s easy to confuse the plots of many similar stories—say, any of the Disney princess films—because of how exactly they follow the same kinds of narrative formula. It’s an even bigger risk to radically change the way you present your story, however, and sometimes, experimentation can go a little too far.
In the case of LazyTown, ambitious medium mixing leaves viewers with a show that often veers into creepy territory.
The series combined live action with both puppets and CGI, painting a picture of a disjointed, loudly colorful world populated by characters ranging from irritatingly cheerful (Stephanie and Sportacus) to downright disturbing (Robbie Rotten and literally every single puppet). You have to give the show credit for trying so many new things, but…at the end of the day, LazyTown is a place most kids would be better off avoiding.
9. As Told by Ginger
Teenagers are an awkward group to understand, and that’s even before you try to capture them in art. While most live action teen dramas are criticized for not providing accurate representations for young viewers, animated efforts starring teenagers have similar unenviable obstacles to overcome.
As Told by Ginger clearly took a lot on in its portrayal of a teenage girl’s life. But in the process of trying to do something new—including being the rare example of an animated series with continuity and stakes—Ginger‘s good intentions get muddled and lost along the way.
The primary narrative concern of the series is Ginger’s, as well as her friends’, ability to navigate from the world of the uncool nerds to the higher echelon of popularity. As a result of this particularly shallow pursuit, some of the series’ episodes trend towards soap opera-esque topics that a show like Degrassi explored in spades, such as overwrought breakup plots, backstabbing friends, and addiction—none of which seem exactly well-suited for the target audience.
At a first glance, there’s nothing wrong with Caillou, the Canadian animated series about the adventures of an inquisitive toddler. He loves stuffed animals, playing pretend, and his family, including his little sister, Rosie. In many ways, he’s a perfectly normal little boy. And since he’s perfectly normal, he shows all emotions, including the whining typical of a toddler.
Yet viewers, and parents in particular, have reported totally torturous experiences with the series, ones that become all the more understandable as the child viewers age into adolescence. According to the Canadian publication The National Post, Caillou is “quite possibly the world’s most universally reviled children’s program.” Caillou has been credited with inspiring children to mimic his improper behavior, causing tantrums left and right.
But maybe the real reason children are acting this way stems from the fact that they’re being made to watch the show at all. Its slice of life stories are generally quiet, and not exactly engaging for the kids who are meant to watch.
7. Courage the Cowardly Dog
By its very nature, Courage the Cowardly Dog is a show that isn’t exactly meant for all kids. A surrealistic adventure series with horror and supernatural elements, Courage revolves around the life and struggles of the titular scaredy dog. The show isn’t afraid of exposing kids to any kind of horror threat, including undead horsemen, demons, living puppets, and even a zombie version of Quentin Tarantino. (Yes, really.) It also doesn’t shy away from blood and guts levels of violence, which makes the series even scarier for younger viewers.
But as you get older, and you’re exposed to slasher movies and blood and guts on series like The Walking Dead, Courage starts to feel a little ridiculous, not only because of its weird blending of sitcom and horror, but also because of the dated animation style used in some of its experimental CGI scenes. Courage might have been a good show once, but time hasn’t done this dog any favors.
6. Step by Step
As one of the many shows in ABC’S TGIF block, Step by Step had all the heart and schmaltz you’d expect. Functioning as an updated version of The Brady Bunch, the series starred recognizable faces Suzanne Somers of Three’s Company and Patrick Duffy of Dallas as a recently married couple with a blended family of six.
Yet unlike its spiritual predecessor, or any of the other TGIF mainstays such as Full House, Family Matters, and Boy Meets World, the series fails to provide any storylines or characters worth gravitating toward besides the comic relief nephew, the hopelessly wacky surfer boy Cody. The characters were flat and the plots were recycled, and even worse, countless cast and plot changes made the series hard to invest in for the long term, even though both ABC and CBS would invest in the series for seven long seasons and 160 episodes.
5. Home Improvement
In the ’90s, Tim Allen was all the rage. Whether you knew him as Buzz Lightyear, Scott Calvin/Santa Claus, or Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, the odds are that you came across the comedian’s work in some form or another. In particular, Allen starred as The Tool Man for eight seasons on Home Improvement, which satirized working class American life and gave rise to ’90s teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
Beneath all the laugh track laced jokes and Tim’s clumsy accidents, all there really was to the show was caveman behavior glorified and justified for 204 episodes. Taylor’s signature line wasn’t even a line, but rather a cro-magnon style grunt of confusion, dismay, anger, sadness…and any other complex emotion cavemen lacked the capability to deal with.
4. Saved by the Bell
Few shows were cooler with kids, tweens, and teens in the ’90s than Saved by the Bell. Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski were the couple you had to root for. Screech Powers was one of TV’s geekiest, rivaled only by Steve Urkel. And Jessie Spano…well, she was involved in one of the weirdest scenes in the entire show, which has gone on to have viral infamy and countless parodies.
Yet it’s scenes like the “I’m so excited!” debacle that get to the heart of what makes Saved by the Bell a show that hasn’t aged well. Every episode, even the darkest ones addressing drug addiction and homelessness, are weighed down with saccharine, moralizing messages and tidy resolutions to problems that couldn’t possibly be solved in either one or two Very Special 30-minute Episodes.
The world of Bayside might seem ideal for kids who haven’t grown up and experienced the real one yet, but looking back years later, it’s clear that the reality SBTB was promoting is one that has never really existed.
3. The Amanda Show
After Nickelodeon had success with their kids’ version of Saturday Night Live, All That, it was only natural for them to try out a spinoff starring one of All That‘s standouts, Amanda Bynes. But while All That was a critical success, running for ten seasons on Nick with a wide-ranging and diverse cast, The Amanda Show failed to live up to its predecessor in every measure.
The series added an unnecessary show-within-a-show component that only confused the format of the variety series into something sitcom-esque. Further, Amanda only ran for three years before Bynes went on to pursue a short-lived career in movies. But perhaps most important and damning of all, Amanda’s much smaller (and less diverse) cast of regulars never gelled together in the way All That‘s core performers did.
2. VR Troopers
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but what does it say when a company tries to imitate its own work—only to do so this poorly?
The short-lived series VR Troopers, which ran from 1994-1996 in syndication, was one of Saban Entertainment’s attempts at profiting off the incredible popularity of the Power Rangers franchise. Much like the Power Rangers, VR Troopers followed a group of unlikely teenage heroes in a sunny California town, fighting a terrifying big bad the likes of which their world had never seen before.
But unlike the Power Rangers, VR Troopers got bogged down in experimenting with virtual reality concepts—hence the VR in VR Troopers—that simply laughable when viewed today. Plus, their suits just don’t look anywhere near as cool. It’s not a surprise, therefore, that it’s the Rangers who have been rebooted time and again, and not the Troopers.
1. Hannah Montana
In the ’90s and ’00s, Disney Channel produced a steady stream of iconic original shows, including Even Stevens, Lizzie McGuire, and That’s So Raven. However, everything changed with Hannah Montana—and not at all for the better.
While kids’ shows are certainly not known for logic, the entire premise of Hannah Montana requires the biggest suspension of disbelief since Clark Kent’s glasses. The show also marked the beginning of Disney’s mixed media plan: by having a main character of a TV show who was a music superstar, a precedent was set for marketing the show, the soundtrack, singing dolls, and so much more.
In addition to changing Disney’s onetime perfect pitch, Miley/Hannah herself was a profoundly unlikable character: selfish, shrill, and often just as stupid as she accused her older brother of being. Despite what the theme song claims, with Hannah Montana, you really didn’t get the best of both worlds.
What other shows did you grow up on, but now find unwatchable? Let us know in the comments!
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