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Cartoon Network's best shows

David Daw | April 15, 2013
At the start of April, Netflix added a ton of content from one of the unsung heroes of cable programming, Cartoon Network, with days worth of great TV that you can stream right now. Here's a guide to where to get started with all the animated content that's Now Streaming.

Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated

★★★½ 

Netflix, season one now streaming

The same techniques Venture Brothers use to make Hanna Barbara's history into a minefield of psychological trauma, Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated (Cartoon Network, 2010-Present) uses to breathe new life into the Scooby-Doo franchise. Since there hasn't been a good revival of Scooby-Doo in my lifetime before now (and my lifetime has seen a good half-dozen of them) many people have ignored Mystery Incorporated as just another cash-in on a show whose bits were tired when it first aired decades ago. That's a shame, though, since Mystery Incorporated manages to take the core of Scooby-Doo's wacky energy and transport it into the modern television landscape efficiently and effectively. The show has a season long arc and over-arching mythology, but it also digs back into this history of Scooby-Doo and other Hana Barbara shows to create a fleshed-out universe where all the stories that adult fans of the show watched as kids are part of the Scooby gang's history. More than any other show on this list, Mystery Incorporated is clearly made for kids first and adults second, but it still shows an intelligence and respect for its classic forebears that deserve more attention than the series has received.

Batman Beyond


★★★ 

Netflix, full series now streaming

Not everything added from Cartoon Network's library is actually a Cartoon Network original, but that doesn't make them any less valuable. Batman Beyond (WB, 2001--2003) has long been the black-sheep of the DC animated universe. Its premise sounds like the kind of "edgy" 1990s remake that doomed so many other franchises. It transports the Batman mythos into a far future gotham where Bruce Wayne has become too old to wear the mask and a new, hip teenage Batman--Terry McGinnis--has to take on the role of Batman. While the premise could have gone horribly wrong, the same creative team responsible for Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League helm the show, turning what could have been a train-wreck into an intelligent exploration of what Batman would be without Bruce Wayne and what Bruce Wayne would be when he's no longer physically capable of continuing his single-minded obsession with justice.

Children's Hospital

★★★½ 

Netflix, first two seasons available now

Perhaps the strangest thing about the modern line-up on Cartoon Network is that the network no longer exclusively shows cartoons. Adult Swim has quietly built up a solid line-up of quarter-hour, live-action comedy shows that share the rest of the network's manic energy. One of its earliest and best non-animated offerings is Children's Hospital (Cartoon Network, 2010-Present). On a basic level, the show is a parody of hospital dramas but it often feels free to abandon that premise completely. One of the show's best sources of comedy is the idea that Children's Hospital has been running in one form or another for decades and that you're just tuning in for random episodes. This lets Children's Hospital, which is gleefully insane in even its most mundane episodes, branch out into truly strange experimental episodes including a "lost episode" from the early 1970s and an entirely "live episode" as the second season finale that seems to be almost entirely unrehearsed.

 

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