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The Top 5 Animated Adult TV Shows Of All Time

Updated on October 20, 2017

For a few decades, cartoons were only for children. Either they were filled with kid-friendly story lines or they were “PC” enough that everyone could enjoy them. What a terrible world...

Luckily, something fantastic occurred in the late 80’s: cartoons for adults went mainstream. All of a sudden, it was cool to be in college and watching cartoons. Sometimes the shows were good, other times they were odd and still others were just plain terrible.

After 25 years, tons of shows have come and gone, with only a few standing out as the best of the best. Here are my top 5 adult animated TV shows of all time:

5) Archer

Archer is quite possibly the best thing to happen to television in recent history. Few other shows have the wit, timing and storytelling that never fails to crack me up on a weekly basis. Archer is the 5th best adult animated TV show in history.

Archer follows the life of Sterling Archer, the sex-obsessed, heavy-drinking top agent at an international spy agency. Despite being surrounded by idiots even dumber than himself, Archer always finds a way to save the day, get the girl, get her drunk and get himself laid.

With so many adult shows focusing on shock value, Archer uses it as icing on the cake. Every episode, every scene has a point, where even the smallest detail could come back to save the day later on. Toss a few hookers into the mix, spill a little blood here and there and you have a nice glaze of “raunch” on one of the funniest and smartest shows ever created.

A perfect James Bond parody with fantastic comedy, insane inter-relationships, and plenty of filth, Archer is definitely in my top 5 best cartoons for adults of all time.

4) Beavis and Butthead

Sure, the Simpsons opened the door for edgier animation, but Beavis & Butthead blasted down that door. Possibly the dumbest, yet funniest, and most real show of all time, Beavis and Butthead is the 4th best animated TV show in history.

It looked like The Simpsons would be the worst thing for kids to watch, and then MTV threw us Beavis & Butthead, softening the impact of everything else out there. A show about two kids hanging out, watching music video and just being idiots just so happened to resonate with 90’s kids more than anything else.

The show raised all kinds of hell for concerned parents, leading to multiple lawsuits and debates over impressionable viewers and creating a TV rating system. That’s right, if there was anything in the way of creating a rating system for television, it was promptly tossed out the window when B&B arrived. Be it good or bad, this cartoon for adults made an impact.

Although the show loses some serious points for lack of great storytelling, the impact the series made, and its ability to return to television over a decade later, makes it one of the best adult animated TV shows of all time.

3) Family Guy

By the late 1990’s when we thought we had seen in all, Seth MacFarlane arrived. After a few years of animating children’s cartoons, Seth brought to the table one of the raunchiest, most terrible and insulting animated TV shows we had ever seen. Family Guy is the 3rd best adult cartoon in history.

Another record-breaking series from Fox, the show centers on the Griffin family from Rhode Island. Peter (the idiot), Lois (the sane one), Chris (the Peter-in-training), Meg (the ugly one) and baby Stewie (the evil one), along with the family dog, Brian (the pretentious one) spend their days living lives of greed, lust, violence and every other major sin known to man.

Every episode is filled with hilarious moments, mainly from the flashback cutaways, which have now become a standard in all animation. Sometimes the storyline will make little or no sense, which will inadvertently lead to even more laughs.

The show has an amazing history, starting with a decent 3 season run before cancellation. A few years and some massive DVD sales later, the show was resurrected, cancelled again and resurrected a third time. Seth MacFarlane was given two more animated series over the past few years, with tons more material coming, some animated and some live action.

Family Guy is not for those who love story, but it is for anyone who loves comedy. It’s weird, hilarious, odd as all hell and definitely one of the best cartoons for adults of all time.

2) The Simpsons

No, it’s not the best of all time, but it sure as hell is number 2. The show that made it possible for everything that followed it, The Simpsons is the 2nd best cartoon for adults in history.

The Simpsons is the first adult-friendly animation since The Flintstones or The Jetsons. Those animated TV shows were meant to be family friendly and especially appealing to kids. Certainly not edgy in the least by today’s standards. Once The Simpsons arrived, the game was changed forever. Surprisingly enough, it even came to be considered a family friendly show after a while.

The Simpsons is about a regular blue-collar, yellow-skinned family from suburbia. The family hits all the classic characteristics, the idiot father and husband, the smarter but willing to get along mother and wife, the douchy son, the smart daughter and the baby. Lucky for us, these people are just a bit more screwed up than most families. Through it all, The Simpsons always makes it a point to have a good message at the end of every episode.

Since premiering, the animated TV show has racked up 600+ episodes, 28 seasons and syndication all around the world. Pretty impressive for the family that was once considered “the worst thing on television” and later “the quintessential American family”.

The Simpsons is by far the leader in the adult animation world, the standard setter for everyone else. No doubt the show will be remembered forever as one of the best animations and one of the best adult animated TV shows of all time.

1) South Park

What’s not on the list yet? Only one left! If The Simpsons couldn’t do it, only South Park could, being (IMHO) the best adult animated TV show in history.

South Park managed to raise a crazy amount of hell with its premiere in 1997. A cartoon for adults with 3rd graders talking like sailors, one of them dies every week and a talking piece of Christmas poo? Suddenly everything else was squeaky clean by comparison.

Even the slightest conservative viewers were turned off. The lucky few who stuck around, however, were treated to some of the sharpest social commentary ever to hit the airwaves. Nearly every episode brought to light some worldly injustice, tore it to shreds, and taught us a lesson. More often than not, the audience themselves could learn about their own hilarious hypocrisy.

The show is known for its ability to hit the major news stories nearly at the speed of the newscast itself. Episodes usually have a turnaround time of 6 days! Above all else, South Park manages to use the perfect blend of raunchy comedy, social commentary and moral message to weave together an amazingly hysterical, disgusting and thought-provoking story each and every week.

Take the moral fiber of The Simpsons, the crudeness of Beavis & Butthead, the ridiculousness of Family Guy and the wit of Archer, shove them together and you have South Park. Everything in one place, blended perfectly to create the single best adult animated TV shows of all time.

The Future of Adult Animation

Adult animated TV shows have come a long way in just 25 years. The bar was set, raised, raised again and raised yet again. At this rate, these five could be considered crap by the standards of 10 years from now. Though, somehow I doubt that.

No matter where the genre goes from here, cartoons for adults are not going away anytime soon. With so many TV-PG and TV-14 animations out there, there’s a good chance we will see a lot more blending of kids-adult animation as well. And no doubt, plenty of raunch for the late night crowd as well.

Which is your favorite from the List?

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Archer Intro

The First Simpsons Intro

South Park Intro


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