Much like the polarizing movie franchise “Twilight” with Team Edward and Team Jacob, the general audience of cartoon watchers has a similar divide between Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Nickelodeon, more or less, had limited competition when it debuted in April of 1979, as Cartoon Network didn’t come into the picture until October of 1992. But the lack of competition didn’t spell success early on for Nickelodeon, as it struggled for ratings with shows like “Dusty’s Treehouse,” “First Row Features” and “Special Delivery.” All of the shows that premiered on Nickelodeon during that time were live-action. By 1984, the network had lost $10 million.
Ironically, it wasn’t until Cartoon Network was in its development stages before Nickelodeon’s popularity took off. Nickelodeon opened Nickelodeon Studios, a television studio/attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., in 1990, which created the network’s first batch of animated series in 1991. In 1991, “Doug,” “Rugrats” and “The Ren and Stimpy Show” aired on Nickelodeon as the first three nicktoons produced by Nickelodeon Studios. I was one when these cartoons debuted, so by the time I first discovered cartoons, both “Doug” and “The Ren and Stimpy Show” had already aired their respective season finales. “Rugrats” was still in its prime. A re-run of “Doug” was the first non-“Sesame Street”-ish cartoon that I watched as a young kid. If I had to make a list of good cartoons and bad cartoons, “Doug” would go in my good cartoons list. It had some good qualities to it, although a large aspect of the show was pretty bizarre. The cartoon focused on Doug, a high schooler living in Bluffington who recently moved from Bloatsburg after his father receives a job promotion. The best part of the series is the names and how they are drawn. Aside from Doug Funnie, there is Roger Klotz, Patti Mayonnaise and Mosquito “Skeeter” Valentine. Roger is yellow-skinned, Patti has the skin color of a beef patty and Skeeter is blue. It’s the only time I’ve seen a character (besides the Smurfs) that’s blue-skinned. The cartoon dealt with the issues of unfamiliarity, bullying and love, although I was too young at the time t0 understand that.
For every good cartoon, there is also a bad cartoon, and that was “The Ren and Stimpy Show.” Everyone I talked to in elementary school loved that show, but I never knew what the commotion was when it came to that nicktoon. First of all, the show was stupid and unlikable. I know the creators were going for that, but it was over-the-top stupid. Even someone my age (eight at the time) could notice that. It was trying to deliver cheap laughs, but all it was doing was killing my still developing brain cells. I don’t even know what the two characters were supposed to represent. Ren looked like a rat and Stimpy looked like a blue and white pillow. Nothing in that show was working for me.
As Nickelodeon’s success grew, a new competitor in the form of Cartoon Network emerged in 1992, which started as a network that re-ran episodes of old Looney Tunes and Popeye cartoons. But in 1994, Cartoon Network launched Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast, an animated parody talk show, featuring Space Ghost, a 1960 cartoon by Hanna-Barbera studios. To date, “Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast” has lasted the longest of any cartoon launched by Cartoon Network, lasting 104 episodes over 14 years. This goes on my good cartoon portion of the list. The humor was spot on and the characters of the talk show worked perfectly, mainly because his crew was serving Space Ghost against their will as punishment for their crimes. Space Ghost’s lack of intelligence in certain situations made for a half-hour worth of entertainment.
Unlike Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network had a strong stretch at the beginning of great cartoons. There wasn’t a bad cartoon for several years, as “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Johnny Bravo,” Cow and Chicken,” “Powerpuff Girls” and “Ed, Edd n Eddy” put the network at the pinnacle to the end of the 20th century. All of those shows fell under the good cartoon side of my list. But the turn of the century wasn’t kind for Cartoon Network at first, as “Mike, Lu & Og,” a spinoff of “Ed, Edd n Eddy,” bombed, as did “Sheep in the Big City” and “Time Squad.” They all lasted approximately 26 episodes. As someone who enjoyed “Ed, Edd n Eddy,” “Mike, Lu & Og” was a big waste of time. The plot of three kids being stranded on a deserted island doesn’t show any creative thought and each episode was less memorable than the last. It was the first bad cartoon on my list from Cartoon Network. It was shortly followed by “Sheep in the Big City,” which was about a sheep in the big city. To be fair, I never watched it. There was nothing in any of the commercials that I saw about it that made it seem appealing. And the 27 episodes it lasted was proof of that.
For Nickelodeon, after “Ren and Stimpy,” things turned around and the network experienced an 11-year golden period, starting with “Rocco’s Modern Life” and ending with “Danny Phantom.” In between were some of my personal favorites like “Angry Beavers,” “As Told by Ginger,” “Invader Zim” and “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.” During that 11-year period, 18 of the 20 cartoons that were launched lasted at least 40 episodes, “Hey Arnold,” “Spongebob Squarepants” and “The Fairly Oddparents” have all surpassed the 100-episode threshold. All the above listed cartoons landed in my good cartoon list.
But in today’s society it’s all about what have you done for me lately. And it’s no secret that both networks are struggling to produce quality cartoons. Nicktoon Studios has been shutdown and the masterminds behind Cartoon Network’s “Cartoon Cartoons” have found jobs elsewhere. Every single show that Nickelodeon has produced since 2004’s “Danny Phantom” has been pure garbage. None of the cartoons can keep my attention for more than two minutes before I can feel my brain cells exploding. Even their most successful cartoons of today, “The Penguins of Madagascar” and “Back at the Barnyard,” are awful in my opinion. Talking animals do nothing for me. They are just annoying. “Spongebob Squarepants” is Nickelodeon’s claim to fame and I can’t stand hearing that annoying laugh of Spongebob’s anymore. That show is past its prime and needs to be thrown away. The creativity in that show has clearly fallen apart and it’s more annoying than entertaining anymore.
Cartoon Network has one good show today: “Adventure Time.” Although the show is stupid, it is actually quite funny, as the main character and his pet/friend find themselves in a number of unfortunate situations with some very peculiar foes. It’s one of those rare cartoons these days that are geared toward all age groups. Everything else, including “Regular Show” and “Ben 10” are overrated in my opinion. “Ben 10” just takes concepts of a bunch of older shows and meshes it into one show. “Regular Show” should be renamed to “Below Average Show.”
Although they haven’t produced a good show in quite some time, Nickelodeon gets the nod for me. While Cartoon Network has produced 10 shows I’ve enjoyed throughout my life, Nickelodeon has made 17. With that, Nickelodeon wins the debate.
A history of Nickelodeon:
A history of Cartoon Network up until 2010: