I'm a little surprised I haven't read this over at Waxing Cynical before today, but what I now intend to vent about is the TV phenomenon known as “World's {adjective}st {topic}” shows.

Television Production to me seems like a sine wave of ever decreasing amplitude – as time goes by you get high points and low points, but for the most part the tendency is toward the middle (which we'll call The Mediocre). Maybe the highs and lows aren't reducing in magnitude as such; more just that there's less Really Good and less Really Bad stuff being produced, and more and more Mediocre.

As far as I can tell, the most mediocre shows are compilation type shows, where someone takes a massive volume of material, sorts out the more extreme, and pastes it all together – usually including some scripted banter from a 3rd rate celebrity who is contracted to a channel but not involved in anything popular. You all know what I mean – the titles of these programs all seem to follow the same format: the name of the region that ths program is intended to represent, an adjective suggesting the tone of the program, and a noun – presumably to denote what it is we're being fed, although it may also be just because TV producers don't have the imagination to name something in a non-conformist manner. Examples are things like “Australia's Funniest Home Videos” (inaccurately named as 85% of the footage used has been bought in from the US), “Britain's Worst Drivers” (which surprisingly doesn't play in 6 hour instalments, 7 days a week), and “Uruguay's Most Hilarious Post-Operative Complications” (well, we can all dream, can't we ?). The thing I invariably find is that the “host” – particularly if it's someone I like – seems to put across a non-verbal subtext of “Oh god, this is stealing my soul. I should have never taken this network contract”.

Anyway, the happening that's sparked all this off was last night's offering on Channel 4 – The 100 Greatest Cartoons of All Time.

Now you're probably thinking (quite justifiably) that I'm just hacked off because the results didn't fall the way I wanted them to, but in a broader sense it also cranked me off because this particular collection had some element of viewer involvement. I don't know, maybe it just proved to me how dumb entire legions of people can be.

Steve, Undies and I decided – when the show got to the top 20 – to compile our own Top 20, and see how far off we were. Or how far off they were. Whichever.

The top 20 – according to this show – were as follows:

  1. The Simpsons
  2. Tom and Jerry
  3. South Park
  4. Toy Story
  5. Family Guy
  6. Shrek
  7. The Lion King
  8. Spirited Away
  9. The Incredibles
  10. Bugs Bunny
  11. The Flintstones
  12. The Iron Giant
  13. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  14. Finding Nemo
  15. Wallace and Gromit
  16. Akira
  17. Aladdin
  18. Ren and Stimpy
  19. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
  20. Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies

The Simpsons was a bit of a no brainer, and we figured that South Park would be in the top 5. In fact, we picked 12 of the top 20! Tom & Jerry we thought would make top 20, but never 2nd place, and we were staggered when they said Bugs Bunny at 10.

It must've been quite comical to eavesdrop on – on most of the last 20, there was a chorus of “Oh WHAT !?” from the 3 of us (followed by a little giggle from Dan in the other room).

The thing is, to an Australian child of the 80's cartoons are something quite personal. Our upbringing as the time of the Saturday morning marathon – you'd park in the armchair at 6am and gorge on animation until noon, pausing only to whip out and make toast in ad breaks. And come to think of it, I suspect the reason why I prefer my toast lighter in colour is because back in my formative years, I strove to make my toast quicker so I wouldn't miss the cartoons !! So anyway, we all found it a bit of a slap that our heroes such as Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Josie and the Pussycats, Roger Ramjet, Superfriends, and even Batfink didn't score a mention, whereas such recent arrivals as Finding Nemo, Shrek, Toy Story, The Incredibles, The Iron Giant and The Lion King were crowding the top 15.

Family Guy surprised us with its arrival at number 5 – I've always been a fan, but I didn't think it had mass appeal… and I sure don't think it's better than Futurama !!

And I've never even *heard* of Spirited Away – again, for people who feel like they know a lot about a topic, a complete random inclusion (PARTICULARLY at 8th place !) seems to challenge the validity of the contest somewhat. Also, their inability to stick to the idea of cartoons was a bit strange – we constantly found ourselves scratching our heads at inclusions like The Magic Roundabout (whilst an excellent bit of animation, it's not a Cartoon, per se). Plus there was a bit of disparity as to whether it was characters, shows, or exactly what they were thinking – essentially I declared the whole exercise invalid after the total omission of Pinky and The Brain was made clear.

Still, all in all I suppose it wasn't that bad. Although the lasting thought I'm having is that if so much of today's TV viewing is dedicated to retrospectives and best of's, what exactly are the next generation going to have to reminisce about ? Best Compilation Shows of the 2000's ?

2005-03-01 : And now… the World’s 100 crappest TV shows !!
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