Television has been around for over 70 years now. This means there have been a lot of shows in that period, with most of them becoming forgotten in time. There are a few shows in particular that need to be remembered and re-watched by new fans and, in my opinion, should never have been forgotten in the first place.
First up is “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast,” which ran on Cartoon Network from 1994-2008. The premise itself, while wacky, is pretty simple: obscure animated superhero Space Ghost (based on a real Saturday Morning cartoon in the ‘60s), having retired, gets the chance to host his own talk show.
His director, the helmeted lava monster Moltar, and his band leader, the giant alien praying mantis Zorak, are both villains he captured during his original show and forced to work on the show. Both villains despise Space Ghost.
This show is essentially what happens when you get a bunch of stoners together and tell them to make a cartoon show. It’s weird and eclectic, but that’s part of its charm. There’s a kind of anarchic nature to the show, with obscure references to old movies, punk bands, art films and everything in-between that makes it a unique — and consistently odd — viewing experience. Even more amazing are the celebrities they were able to accrue as contributors, including Charlton Heston, Steve Allen and the band Metallica.
Another animated show that should be more fondly remembered is the mid-‘90s Comedy Central show “Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist,” which ran from 1995-1999. This show was about a well-meaning, middle-aged psychiatrist named Jonathan Katz (voiced by, and physically based on, stand-up comedian Jonathan Katz, who was also one of the show’s co-writers) and his relationship with his patients and his perpetually lazy and idiotic 24-year-old year old son, Ben (“Bob’s Burgers’” H. Jon Benjamin).
If you look past the shoddy animation, you get a really hilarious show that’s consistently funny. Many of Dr. Katz’s patients were standup comedians, most of whom appeared before getting famous, like Louis C.K., Jim Gaffigan and Patton Oswalt, as well as actors like Jeff Goldblum and David Duchovny. The progressing relationship with Dr. Katz and his son Ben was recorded with very naturalistic and improvisational dialogue, similar to Judd Apatow comedies. This naturalistic approach betrays the animation, giving the characters a warmth and familiarity that most family sitcoms don’t even come near. Also, Ben is an idiot and is funny as hell.
Finally, there’s the short-lived live-action superhero show “The Tick,” which ran for less than a season on Fox in 2001. The show is about a towering, buff, nigh-invincible superhero in blue tights with large antennae called “The Tick” (“Venture Brothers’” Patrick Warburton), who fights crime with a sweet, child-like demeanor. He fights alongside a wimpy, nerdy hero with a moth-themed flying suit named Arthur (David Burke), as well as other dysfunctional heroes. The show is kind of like “Seinfeld” plus superpowers, as it deals with each of the character’s neuroses, relationships and quirks.
While there was a successful animated version that played on Fox Kids! in the ‘90s, it was a watered-down version of the character due to its time-slot and intended audience. The live-action version allowed for a more adult-oriented take on satirizing the superhero tropes. This includes the blatant homoeroticism inherent in the superhero/sidekick dynamic and the ridiculousness of the comicbook court system. Everything is done with a sense of playfulness and reverence to old superhero stories, and the send-ups of the genre are done with love rather than scorn. It’s a shame the show never picked up, because the costumes, effects and set design were all purposely off-kilter and meticulously realized, like a comicbook brought to life.
Since TV has been around so long, this is by no means a comprehensive list of great, forgotten TV shows, but hopefully you’ll check these out and enjoy them as much as I did.
And with that, I will say goodbye to my readership (all three of you), as I am graduating and probably won’t be able to update my column from now on. However, I feel blessed being able to write for my own column. Not only that, but I got to write about what I wanted to write about. I feel this is the perfect article for my swan song as it accomplishes what I’ve always tried to do with the column: to expose people to new things — whether it’s obscure films, new ways of thinking about art and media, or the aforementioned lost TV shows. People have told me that they saw “Birdemic” or “Mystery Science Theater 3000” because of my column, which is all I set out to do. There is so much art out there, no matter what form it takes, and I think people are willing to explore as long as they’re given a direction. Hopefully you enjoyed reading my columns as much as I enjoyed writing them. Thank you.