Netflix by John Hardberger
Classes have started, but we are still chilling in the peaceful valley between the end of break and beginning of midterm season. It’s cold outside. Like single digits cold. Perfect weather for Saturday morning cartoons, but do those even still exist? Even if they do, are they recognizable? Are they even of the same genus as the hits we watched as kids?
Nostalgia is strong stuff, and the wistful desire of cartoons long gone can be powerful. Netflix, as it so often does, has the answer to this problem. Its expansive collection of classic (for millennials, at least), instant-view TV is perfect for perpetuating your lethargy over your next break, or, hell, before classes pick up this quarter. I for one am only half way through season three of Jackie Chan Adventures and don’t intend to stop just because I have Spanish class in the morning.
Jackie Chan Adventures
The only negative comment I have on this show is that Jackie Chan doesn’t voice his animated counterpart. I know, the resemblance is uncanny, but that little cartoon Kung Fu master is actually brought to life by the vocal talents of James Sie, otherwise known as the Cabbage Merchant from Avatar: the Last Airbender. It also turns out that Sie voices Master Monkey in the TV show and video game incarnations of Kung Fu Panda, a character who Chan voices in the movies. Small world.
For those of you not familiar with the series, it reimagines Jackie Chan as, basically, Indiana Jones circa The Last Crusade: an archeology professor who moonlights as a consultant and agent for a top-secret US government association that deals with ancient “magical” artifacts. Each season of the show pits Jackie, his feisty niece Jade and his crotchety wizard uncle against various figures of Chinese mythology. They collect talismans that represent the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac and get up to all kinds of crazy shenanigans with the magic powers those talismans posses. It’s a fun action-comedy, like a lot of Chan’s work (he executive produced and developed the show) and I’m totally addicted, which is great, because all five seasons are on Netflix Instant.
Classic 90’s Nickelodeon
Your mom may not have let you watch much of this as a kid, but cheer up! This is your chance to catch up! (That was just my mom? Ok...)
Nickelodeon’s 90's lineup was full of oddball classics, and the shows have aged well. On Netflix instant, you can find such gems as Rocko’s Modern Life, The Angry Beavers and Ren and Stimpy, all of which are full of jokes that would have gone right over my head as a kid (had my mom let me watch them).
Rocko’s follows an Australian wallaby’s new life in the surreal city of O-Town, USA. Part of the reason it’s still funny twelve years after it started airing is that it’s creator, Joe Murray, definitely didn’t write the show for kids. But for some reason, Nickelodeon kept approving seasons. You can find all four on Netflix.
I think I mixed up Ren and Stimpy and The Angry Beavers a lot as a kid. Both feature a duo at odds with each other in a number of ways but come together for the sake of their friendship and family ties (respectively). Both are also heavy on the innuendo and off-color comedy mentioned in the previous show, and they’ve aged equally well. Shows like these (and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, also streaming) are what gave Nickelodeon a cult following in the 90's.
And if the off-color puts you off, there’s Hey Arnold!, a show about the titular kid and his youthful inner-city adventures, helping strangers and investigating urban legends. It doesn’t get much more wholesome than Hey Arnold, and smile-inducing to boot. And if that’s not enough to earn a watch, don’t forget that you learned some of life’s most important lessons from this show.
Speaking of life lessons, this show packs them in like sardines. Arthur has been helping kids deal with life’s adversities since it began in 1996. Pet died? So did D.W.’s beloved bird. Have dyslexia? So does George the moose. Grandparent has Alzheimer’s? So does Arthur's. But beyond serving up important issues in child-size bites, this show apparently has a pretty big online following full fan-fiction and weird blogs. Fans certainly have a lot of material to work with: at 16 seasons, it’s the longest-running children’s show on television. 14 of those seasons are available on Netflix Instant.
Beyond these shows are numerous others. I didn’t even get into Nickelodeon’s 2000's lineup, which is very well represented in its own right on Netflix. Danny Phantom, Jimmy Neutron, Invader Zim and All Grown Up have all found a home on the video giant, as have other Saturday morning classics like Beyblades, X-Men Evolution and the Transformers animated series. If these are a little too recent for you, what would you say if told you He-Man: Masters of the Universe is streaming on Instant? As, for that matter, is the half live-action, half animated Super Mario Brothers show from the 1980s. Talk about life lessons.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Babar. 1960's animated Spiderman. Everything we love as a generation is currently streaming.
So why am I even bothering with my Spanish homework? I have two more seasons of Jackie Chan Adventures to watch.
Hulu by Carter Sherman
When I need to just turn off my brain, I admit I usually head to Netflix first. Not only does that site not have commercials, but sometimes a girl just needs to get her Doctor Who on. However, I may need to revise my Bookmark options after trawling through Hulu’s secret stable of quality television—few of these shows appear on Hulu’s homepage, but they are all astonishingly good and dangerously addicting. (It helps that most of them have British accents.) Not all of these shows are exclusive to Hulu, but they are all worth the commercials.
The Lying Game
With Gossip Girl over and Pretty Little Liars off the air for another week, how can I satisfy my crippling craving for teenage intrigue, lust, and good old-fashioned blackmail? Luckily, The Lying Game just swooped onto Netflix. Sutton Mercer appears to be your typical high school Queen Bee: she rules her family and friends with an iron fist, freely spends her parents’ enormous paychecks, and tends to view people as disposable tools. However, Sutton has a secret—she isn’t Sutton Mercer at all. Her real name is Emma Becker and she is Sutton Mercer’s long-lost twin, impersonating her bitchy sister while Sutton hunts down their birth parents. The concept is crazy, but somehow The Lying Game makes it work. In its deliciously campy world, everyone hides a dirty little secret, and Sutton and Emma’s scheming could even give Blair Waldorf a run for her money.
Lost In Austen
For every Pride and Prejudice lover who just isn’t satisfied by Colin Firth’s wet shirt, Lost in Austen understands, and offers new twist on Jane Austen’s classic. Modern Londoner Amanda Price escapes her boring life through Austen, never expecting more than the ordinary. Of course, this all changes once Elizabeth Bennett appears in Amanda’s bathroom. Intrigued by the other’s world, the two end up swapping places and Amanda finds herself living Pride and Prejudice, complete with all the drunken shenanigans and lesbian undertones you wish Austen had included in the original. But don’t worry—not only is Darcy still totally swoon-worthy, his romance with Amanda is just as sly, witty and passionate as Darcy and Elizabeth’s. (And yes, this Darcy does go swimming, wearing nothing but a white shirt and a smoldering gaze.)
Before Simon Pegg and Nick Frost tackled zombies and action movies, they starred on a little show about — what else? — people obsessed with zombies and action movies. Pegg is Tim, a twenty-something slacker who platonically moves in with slacker Daisy when they find their dream apartment. Unfortunately, their landlord is more than a little insane, and to avoid being kicked out, the two must pretend to be dating. However, this initial plot rarely intrudes on the main action, the ridiculous lengths Tim and Daisy will go to procrastinate. So self-aware and surreal it makes Community look realistic, Spaced is simply about a group of friends and their hilarious, everyday mischief.
Take five juvenile delinquents, add a lightning storm, stir in a healthy dollop of horniness, and you have Britain’s hit superhero-comedy show, Misfits. This show is possibly the best British export on Hulu, so if you haven’t watched it already, drop that orgo homework and start marathon-ing immediately.
After Nathan, Kelly, Alisha, Simon and Curtis are struck by lighting while doing community service, each teenager starts developing super powers. But being actual teenagers, the gang uses their powers to party, not to save lives or even to agonize over what it means to be “normal.” (Smallville, if a teenage boy discovered he had Superman’s powers, he would not use them to catch criminals. He would be X-raying women’s shirts.) While Misfits has its share of CW-approved brooding montages, the show focuses much more on the daily misadventures of these sex-crazed kids.
Because British actors always think they have somewhere better to be, the original characters eventually leave the show and new misfits are brought in, but the quality amazingly remains the same. I’ll always mourn Nathan, television’s most lovable asshole, but Rudy and Jess are equally hilarious. Plus, there’s an episode where a cat turns cheerleaders into zombies. If that’s not a reason to watch a TV show, I don’t know what is.