The art of making statements and creating biting political satire has been an art form for cartoon sitcoms for decades. The cartoon sitcom genre started in the late 60’s with Hanna-Barbera’s creation of The Flintstones and The Jetsons. Cartoon sitcoms were taken to a more realistic level in 1972 by Wait Til Your Father Gets home with Tom Bosley.
Cartoon sitcoms disappeared after Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, until a five minute cartoon on the Tracey Ullman Show became one of the most popular segments on Ullman’s show. The segment was the sketch cartoon featuring characters from the Simpsons. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie got their start in five minute increments, which led to the longest running cartoon sitcom on television ever.
The Simpsons (1989-present)
The Simpsons did not catch on immediately when they debuted in 1989 but the Fox Network was patient and were rewarded with the most trail blazing cartoon sitcom of all time. The Simpsons left no controversy unturned and dealt with the occasional sensitive issues.
Not every episode involved Homer strangling Bart. Some issues were treated sensitively and some issues dealt with Homer’s love of Duff beer and it’s effect on his family. Other issues revolved around the town of Springfield and their dependence on their nuclear power plant. The three eyed fish were exploited in several episodes.
Family Guy (1999-2002 & 2005 to present)
Family Guy took the cartoon sitcom to a whole other level when they blasted onto the scene in 1999. Family Guy pushed the envelope from day one and found their way onto the FCC’s naughty list soon after their arrival on the Fox.
Lead character Peter Griffin’s moral compass is hopelessly out of sync and causes most of the families dilemmas. Add to Peter Griffin, a family dog Brian, that is the smartest member of the family and a talking baby, Stewie that dreams of ruling the world and the elements of an over the top comedy are all in place.
Wait Till Your Father Gets Home (1972-1974 48 episodes)
Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was ahead of it’s time. The cartoon sitcom was popular enough to be renewed for a third season but was eventually scrapped. The cartoon sitcom was also a spin off from a five minute segment on Love American Style, much like the Simpsons path to television prime time. Tom Bosley played the father, Harry Boyle and some say he based his character Howard in Happy Days after the cartoon lead.
The show dealt with issues of the day and featured Harry as a conservative father with left wing activist teenagers and a wife that attempted to keep the peace. The show was loosely based as a cartoon version of All in the Family but in the end, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was more realistic.
The Flintstones (1960-1966 166 episodes)
The Flintstones started the cartoon sitcom genre in prime time all the way back in 1960. Amazingly The Flintstones are still relevant today in syndication 50 years later. Fred Flintstone was based on Jackie Gleason but the show was not based on The Honeymooners as many thought. The show used numerous gags having fun with the town of Bedrock. Cars that the driver had to peddle, dinosaurs used as cranes and 18 wheelers among other things. The Flintstones are still watchable today.
Robot Chicken (2005-present)
Robot Chicken makes the list but in the purest definition of cartoon sitcom, it is more akin to a cartoon skit comedy. The episodes for Robot Chicken are only 15 minutes long but they are jam packed with every possible parody known to man. Robot Chicken does not pushed the envelope the put the envelop through the shredder.
South Park (1997-present)
South Park is another cartoon sitcom that pushes the envelope. A few episodes have been pulled over the 13 year history of the show. South Park has dealt with everything from abortion and gay rights to extremist Muslims. No stone is left unturned by creative minds of the South Park writers.
Futurama (1999-2003 & 2008-present)
Futurama is another cartoon sitcom that won’t go away. Futurama is another late 90’s cartoon that has witnessed a resurgence due to the Comedy Channel and Cartoon Network. Futurama has dealt with everything from global warming to discrimination. The show returned to the television in 2008 after a five year hiatus.
King of the Hill (1997-2009)
King of the Hill was a cartoon sitcom created by Mike Judge, who also created Beavis & Butthead. King of the Hill takes the redneck character from Beavis & Butthead, Hank Hill and gave him a softer side as a family man. The show was a steady performer for the Fox Network until it finally lost it’s appeal after a 12 year run.
Beavis & Butthead (1992-1997)
Beavis & Butthead for better or worse, may have done more to side track MTV than any other show featured on the music network. The cartoon sitcom was one of MTV’s first forays into production television and now instead of videos, MTV is a wasteland of bad television. Beavis & Butthead had their moments and they are on their way back soon with new episodes.
The Jetsons (1962-1963 & 1985-1987)
The Jetsons were the second prime time cartoon sitcom effort by Hanna-Barbera. The show was meant to be the opposite of the wildly popular Flintstones but it never made headway in it’s short run on network television. The show still lives on in syndication and was brought back for a second failed attempt from 1985-1987.