#5 – Total Drama Island
While Total Drama Island didn’t exactly present us with any heavy themes, the early seasons provided a show that had some angsty humor and memorable characters that attached and rooted for. TDI was essentially an entire show that gagged on competitive reality shows like Survivor. While the show presents us with over-the-top stereotypes in late teens, throughout the run of its seasons it begins to add real relatable personality to these characters. Although it wasn’t extremely popular when it first debuted, I think that by today it’s gotten the attention it deserves. Total Drama Island could’ve still been making a run if they didn’t do it dirty with whatever Total-Drama-Rama is. I’ll never get over that.
#4 – Chowder
While Chowder may have been a show more geared towards children, its animation was stunning and weird all at the same time, likely serving as inspiration for other Cartoon Network shows down the line such as The Amazing World of Gumball and The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. While it didn’t have much of a plot, it was an exciting and enjoyable show to watch, giving us tales of Chowder following in the footsteps to be a chef.
#3 – Teen Titans
Teen Titans was just awesome. I didn’t appreciate as much as a kid as I do now. The show deals with heavy problems and has a mostly continuous plot. The animation was American but had that anime blend to it that made everything look great. The greatest flaw of this show was that it never got an ending when it was cancelled. Teen Titans’s reputation was tarnished with Teen Titans Go’s childish humor and lack of plot or tone. Out of this whole list, this is the one show I wish was brought back the most.
#2 – Regular Show
Regular Show was far from regular. Most of the show consists of the two main characters, Mordecai (a humanoid blue jay) and Rigby (a childish raccoon) trying to solve some out-of-this-world problem or trying to have fun without their boss, Benson (a sentient gumball machine) firing them. The show deals with problems such as maintaining life-long friendships, troubling relationships, and doing what’s ultimately right, no matter how difficult it may be. While most of the show follows a pretty loss plot, letting us watch the two main characters slowly mature, the last couple seasons see a full story play out in space for an epic hear-wrenching finale. JG Quintel’s animation holds up as some of my favorite to this day, bringing a lot of personality to Cartoon Network’s entire corporation, while extremely blurring the line at some points between childish and adult animation.
Cartoon Network is full of other phenomenal shows that barely didn’t make the cut for this list. Samurai Jack, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Ben 10, The Amazing World of Gumball, and Steven Universe.
#1 – Adventure Time
Do I even need to explain why Adventure Time is #1? Not only is the animated world beautiful and strange, but there’s a main plot with many side arcs that have amazing storytelling elements. This is one of those shows that sets clear main characters, yet every side character feels fully explored and fleshed out. The show deals with heavy themes and emotions, such as dealing with loss and trauma, righting wrongs, loving people with memory loss, and coping with sadness and depression. Pendleton Ward, the creator of Adventure Time, often gets viewers thinking with philosophical questions or quotes. This show is the magnum opus of Cartoon Network and arguably the best animated show ever created.