Kid-centric television series are incredibly important, as they not only serve as an escape for young viewers but can also teach them life lessons. Sesame Street, Rugrats and DuckTales are only a few of the titles that match that criteria. Programs like these have significant effects on popular culture, which is why they’re still widely discussed today. However, there are more than a few notable classic children’s TV shows that amassed solid fanbases but aren’t talked about anymore. On that note, let’s discuss some of them.
Those who watched Fox Kids during the ‘90s may at least be somewhat familiar with Bobby’s World, which was actually set for a revival in the 2010s. The show had seven seasons that aired between 1990 and 1998, and it centered on the titular kid, whose active imagination gave him a unique perspective of the world. The Howie Mandel-created comedy was loads of fun, and you’d think it would be talked about more.
The short-lived H.R. Pufnstuf was an interesting piece of work. A one-season production that aired on NBC in 1969, it followed young Jimmy, who – along with his talking flute, Freddy – washed up on the fantastical Living Island. It was there that he met and befriended the friendly, titular dinosaur and others while evading villainous witch Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo. The puppet-filled series’ run may have been short, but it notably spawned a 1970 film adaptation and sparked a lawsuit involving McDonald’s McDonaldland characters.
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, All That and more are widely recognized among the top Nickelodeon shows from the ‘90s, but Aaahh!!! Real Monsters doesn’t get as much play? Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo helped conceive this delightfully twisted four-season series, which ran from 1994 to 1997. It also produced three lovable characters in young monsters (and best friends) Ickis, Oblina and Krumm. Let’s talk about this one more, please?
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
Hey, hey, hey, who remembers this from back in the day? Inspired by creator Bill Cosby’s childhood in Philadelphia, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids centered on the eponymous crew and their shenanigans. This was an after-school staple for children, and that’s probably why it ultimately notched eight acclaimed seasons between 1972 and 1985 on CBS and in syndication.
Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?
PBS has always been high on children’s education, so it totally tracks that it produced the children’s game show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego. It was meant to teach kids about geography, as they competed to discover the location of the show’s elusive namesake. It’s honestly surprising that the series’ five-season run from 1991 to 1995 isn’t mentioned more often. I mean, come on, it spawned some (short-lived) offshoots, earned Emmys and was even rebooted by Netflix in 2019.
The Real Ghostbusters
Yes, a lot of people know just about the Ghostbusters movies and their good and bad qualities. But that high level of focus on the feature films is arguably why few people discuss 1986’s The Real Ghostbusters, which spun off from the franchise’s OG flick. Airing on ABC and in syndication, the offshoot saw the four paranormalists (and Slimer) confront supernatural forces in New York. The fantastic seven-season toon spawned comics and a 1997 spinoff, creating a solid legacy for itself in the process.
While many of Hanna-Barbera’s productions are highly regarded, Laff-a-Lympics is mostly an afterthought. This Saturday-morning delight – which aired two seasons on ABC from 1977 to 1978 – was a crossover lover’s dream. It featured plenty of the studio’s greatest characters, like Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear and Grape Ape, and saw them compete in humorous olympic-style games. Believe me, this show can compete with the best of them.
KaBlam! is a Nickelodeon classic worthy of your attention. Debuting in 1996, the animated anthology sketch comedy centered around the eponymous comic. The delightful hosts, Henry and June would curate a variety of segments, from the hilarious Action League Now! to the quirky Life with Loopy. It was wildly entertaining and, by the time it ended in 2000, it had provided a space for creatives to showcase experimental forms of art.
Aside from serving as an EP on TV gems like Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures, Steven Spielberg helped birth Freakazoid. Kids’ WB viewers may remember that it was a superhero satire about a nerdy teen who transformed into a heroic wildman. During its two seasons, which aired from 1995 to 1997, the series provided big laughs and some genuine comic book-esque thrills.
Nickelodeon had many game shows during the ‘90s, with Double Dare and (the since-rebooted) Legends of the Hidden Temple becoming hits. Yet Nick Arcade remains mostly overlooked today. Phil Moore (one of Nick’s best game show hosts) called the shots, as youngsters completed rounds of trivia in order to earn a chance to face that day’s “Video Game Wizard.” The tech-infused series only ran for two seasons in 1992 but should be recognized for its innovative concept.
Watch Mr. Wizard
NBC sought to provide kids with an educational offering in 1951 when it dropped Watch Mr. Wizard. It was created and hosted by late science expert Don Herbert, who – along with a kid – would conduct experiments in order to teach lessons. 547 episodes were ultimately produced by the time the show ended in 1965. It’s interesting that it’s not discussed more, given the acclaim it received and its popular ‘80s revival that aired on Nickelodeon.
Those of us in the states should tip our hats to our friends across the pond for delivering quality TV series for kids. Danger Mouse is one such creation that hails from the UK, and it made quite an impression when it debuted on ITV in 1981. This comedy was a spoof of British spy fare and chronicled the exploits of the titular character. 10 seasons were produced through 1992, and yet the clever rodent barely gets mentioned these days.
Count Duckula was one of the more creative concepts to come out of the 1980s. A version of the lead character originally appeared on Danger Mouse, but he was heavily altered for the spinoff. For four seasons that aired from 1988 to 1993, fans watched the chuckle worthy misadventures of a feathered, well-meaning and staunchly vegetarian vampire. It’s a shame this one hasn’t caught on much within the 21st century.
The now-defunct Playhouse Disney block was filled with excellent shows, including the wonderful PB&J Otter. This animated classic was about anthropomorphic otter siblings and the various animal residents of their community. Across three seasons that dropped from 1998 and 2000, viewers were gifted with a funny show with a lot of heart. If anything, it should at least be remembered for introducing the “Noodle Dance.”
Bear in the Big Blue House
Few shows can exude as much warmth and charm as Bear in the Big Blue House did. The Jim Henson Company – which gave us The Muppets, Fraggle Rock and more – created this production, which debuted on Playhouse Disney in 1997. At the center of the proceedings was the titular Bear, who delightfully interacted with his friends within his massive abode. The series concluded after four seasons in 2006, and TV has been a much poorer place for not having it.
The Puzzle Place
One of PBS’ Kids crowning achievements of the ‘90s was The Puzzle Place. Produced with puppets, the 1995 show followed the adventures of a multiethnic group of kids, who would gather at the eponymous workshop to hang out and solve problems. There was true diversity here, and topics like racism and sexism were tackled during the three seasons that aired through 1998. I just can’t piece together why this one isn’t talked about anymore.
After Top Cat made its debut and before Garfield and Friends hit the airwaves, there was Heathcliff. Another show centered around the comic book strip feline was produced in 1980, however, it was this show with two seasons and 86 syndicated episodes spanning 1984 and 1985 that really made a dent in pop culture. A straightforward romp centered on the lead character and his friends, it provided plenty of laughs – and some solid advice on pet care.
House of Mouse
House of Mouse is a nearly forgotten jewel from the early 2000s. This crossover effort saw Mickey Mouse running a dinner theater alongside Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and more. What was even more fun was the fact that the place was frequented by countless Disney characters. The first two seasons aired on ABC’s One Saturday Morning block from 2001 to 2002, while the third and final one ran on Toon Disney until 2003. Not only do few talk about this, but you can barely find it anywhere.
Sabrina: The Animated Series
The Melissa Joan Hart-led Sabrina the Teenage Witch is among one of the best TGIF comedies. And its cartoon offshoot, Sabrina: The Animated Series was just as delightful and deserves some credit. Featuring a younger version of the character voiced by Melissa’s sister, Emily Hart, this show cast its spell on both UPN and ABC’s Disney blocks for one 65-episode season in 1999.
Shining Time Station
Anyone who is or ever was a fan of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends needs to know about Shining Time Station. Conceived as an American “spin-off” of the British-born Thomas series, this was a live-action PBS show centered around the denizens of the titular station. That included the magical and diminutive Mr. Conductor, who told stories about the cheeky blue engine and his buddies. The three-season show, which debuted in 1989 and wrapped in 1993, is the reason the Thomas franchise landed in the states, and it’s worthy of love.
Out of the Box
Out of the Box truly encouraged kids to use their imaginations. It saw hosts Vivian and Tony watch over a few neighborhood kids in “The Box” – a clubhouse made out of cardboard boxes. While there, the group would play games, act out skits and more. The Playhouse Disney classic delighted audiences when it debuted in 1998 and did so until it ended after three seasons in 2004.
Lamb Chop’s Play-Along
Puppeteer Shari Lewis parlayed the success of one of her most famous creations into a half-hour PBS Kids show: Lamb Chop’s Play-Along. With the help of the eponymous puppet, Charlie Horse and more, Lewis employed activity segments to encourage participation amongst children. Considering how prolific Lewis was, it’s weird that most people don’t discuss the fact that this show or the fact that it had four seasons that ran between 1992 and 1995.
CatDog managed to delight audiences with its weird and sweet qualities. Nick’s oddball comedy introduced the world to conjoined brothers (the show’s namesake), as they navigated everyday life. It was an Odd Couple-esque romp that premiered in 1998, with the final episodes dropping in 2005.
The Angry Beavers
Nickelodeon had a thing for sibling stories and anthropomorphic animals back in the ‘90s, and The Angry Beavers checked off both of those boxes. The charming Norbert and uncouth Dagget were bachelor brothers, who lived on their own and didn’t mind coming to blows every once in a while. This comedic concoction had four seasons and aired from 1997 to 2003.
Life with Louie
The late, great comedian Louie Anderson contributed way more to pop culture than just his stand-up work. Among his other credits is the 1995-1998 Fox Kids show Life with Louie, which he co-created. Its focus was fictionalized 8-year-old Louie, a good-natured boy coming of age in Minnesota. Three seasons were produced before it was canceled.
Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series
Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series didn’t include a cast composed of Emilio Estevez, Joshua Jackson and other franchise veterans. It, instead, put focus on a group of humanoid Ducks, who hailed from an alien planet and brought an intergalactic war to Earth. ABC put it on ice after only one season that aired from 1996 to 1997, and that may be why it doesn’t get as much attention as the films that spawned it.
Flipper actually proved to be very popular while it aired on NBC for three seasons between 1964 and 1967. Inspired by the 1963 movie of the same name, the show highlighted the adventures of the eponymous bottlenose dolphin and his owners, marine preserve warden Porter Ricks and his two sons. This one may get overlooked due to its similarities to Lassie.
Remember that time the Tasmanian Devil led a family sitcom-style show and had a dad that sounded like Bing Crosby? I do. Taz-Mania hit Fox Kids in 1991 and aired four seasons before ending in 1995. This Looney Tunes spinoff was a creative swing, and it should warrant more respect.
In the ‘90s, one of the shows sci-fi aficionados enjoyed was Street Sharks. It revolved around four human brothers, who were transformed into the titular anthropomorphic fish by an evil scientist and subsequently used their abilities to fight mutants. With three seasons that aired in syndication and on ABC from 1994 to 1997, this series now swims under the radar.
SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron
Hanna-Barbera jumped into the action game in a big way when SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron premiered on TBS in 1993. Set in a world of humanoid felines, the explosive show saw two former military officers work as salvage yard employees by day and act as high-tech vigilantes by night. Sadly, just two seasons aired before it was axed in 1995.
It can be argued that ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock! set a new standard for educational TV aimed at children. For seven seasons that spanned 1973 and 2009, the producers on mathematics, grammar, history, science and more. Its catchy tunes, like “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just A Bill,” alone should still have people talking this program up.
Franklin was a Canadian show that aired six seasons from 1997 to 2004 and made its way to the states by way of CBS and Nick Jr.. Its lead character was an impressionable young turtle, who played and learned alongside his family and friends in their woodland community. This was a sweet show with a protagonist who was truly lovable.
Each of the TV shows that are mentioned here definitely should have their time in the sun. As is the case with any kind of small-screen productions, some children’s series are more popular than others. With that being said though, when we talk about vintage kids fare, let’s work these into the conversation.