An obvious place to start, yes, but for a reason. After getting teens in the 90s all het up with its colourful language, and enthusiasm for taboo subjects, over the years, South Park has proved itself to be a genuinely thoughtful show. No, really. It’s dealt with just about every human issue there is, with little respect, but a lot to say - and there’s a reason its creators went on to write a Tony and Olivier winning musical in The Book Of Mormon.
Essential viewing: Imaginationland - a three part epic in which a magical land is invaded by all the most evil characters, and no one but the South Park lads can save it.
Rick And Morty
Kind of like Doctor Who, if The Doctor was an alcoholic sociopath, Rick and Morty takes all the light hearted SciFi tropes you know and love and explores the really, incredibly dark implications you never considered they might have. You will never be able look an alternate universe in the eye again.
Essential viewing: Total Rickall - a parasite that creates false flashbacks takes over the household, populating it with people everyone can remember, even though they never existed.
Ok, this one is technically made for kids (it’s a Disney Channel show) but it makes the list because a) it’s basically perfect, and b) it has a two second crossover with Rick and Morty which is very, very much not for kids. A tiny town chock full of weird conspiracies and incredible voice talent, that may never well fill that Lost shaped hole in your heart.
Essential viewing: The Time Traveler’s Pig - Dipper wants to win the girl, Mabel wants to win a pig, and a time travel anomaly investigator loses his time travel tape measure. Chaos ensues.
Archer (Added bonus: Frisky Dingo)
A private spy organisation with more in fighting than Gossip Girl. The magical voice of H. Jon Benjamin. An ocelot. A troublingly amoral scientist. Archer is like the love-child of James Bond and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and to mix things up, the group have gone from spies, to drug runners, to private investigators. As a bonus, creator Adam Reed’s previous series, Frisky Dingo, explores the complicated relationship between a truly terrible superhero and his nemesis, Killface - who is also a struggling single father.
Essential viewing: Space Race - NASA recruits Archer and team to go after a team of space pirates on the International Space Station. Naturally.
Archer is available to watch on Netflix
As far as you can get from the suave, adrenalin junkie that is Archer Sterling, while still having the same voice, Bob Belcher runs a burger joint we genuinely wish existed in the real world (although the cookbook based on it may fill the gap). With a nine-year-old evil genius, constant health code violations, and a real life tribute band in the form of The National, AND a crossover with Archer, Bob’s Burgers is pretty much a classic at this point.
Essential viewing: How Bob Saves/Destroys the Town - an attempt to crush the competition before it appears leads to Bob being trapped under a wharf with a vaguely homicidal stranger.
The Venture Bros.
A super scientist and his two teenage sons (who seem to have walked out of the pages of an Enid Blyton novel and got lost) go up against a slew of obstacles, including a super villain modelled after a monarch butterfly. It’s violent and strange, and really something that just has to be experienced.
Essential viewing: Tag Sale - You’re It - Dr. Venture holds a yard sale, but selling on your super science weapons is a much more complicated task than you’d think.
There are adults with jobs and mortgages and children, who have never lived in a Simpsons-free world. The show that made it socially acceptable for grown-ups to devote 30 minutes a week to watching cartoons is edging perilously close to its 30th year, and while it’s not been the most consistent journey, there is a reason it’s lasted this long.
Essential viewing: Marge vs. the Monorail - obviously.
The official “can we make something like The Simpsons but less family friendly” show, Family Guy won everyone over by making a baby a super villain. Smooth move, Seth McFarlane. About a normal American family, who are really anything but (they have a talking dog and an evil monkey in a closet, after all), Family guy patented the never-ending flashback gag.
Essential Viewing: Blue Harvest - Family Guy parodies Star Wars for all its worth.
A post-apocalyptic world in which wizards control ice, candy is sentient, and a teenage boy and his brother (who is an elastic dog) do battle against whatever evil dares show its face. With a mad scientist as a benevolent despot, a vampire who plays the bass, and a rainicorn (a rainbow that is also a unicorn, somehow) Adventure Time is weird and hyperactive and brilliant.
Essential viewing: Holly Jolly Secrets - the heartbreaking origin story of Finn and Jake’s greatest nemesis is revealed - you’ll never look at an evil wizard the same way again.
The star of a TV show that was a massive success a couple of decades ago, BoJack Horseman (who is a horse) is struggling to remain relevant in a world that has moved on. Darkly funny while being an incredibly nuanced look at depression, anxiety, alcoholism and other general difficulties that being an adult bring, BoJack Horseman is possible one of the best new shows of the last couple of years.
Essential viewing: Escape From L.A. BoJack attempts to fix his problems by running away from them - which goes about as well as you’d expect.
Bojack Horseman is available to watch now on Netflix
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