Adult animation is a genre that's growing more and more popular through the years. Beginning with more tame shows such as The Simpsons, the boundaries of humor have been continuously pushed by shows such as Family Guy, South Park and Archer, which all offer different jokes to different demographics. As with other things, you want all your friends and maybe even your mom to enjoy something you find amazing, but with so many shows, episodes and seasons, where do you even start?
With that in mind, I've compiled a list of brilliant episodes from great shows that you can use to introduce somebody unfamiliar with the genre into the wacky, hilarious and sometimes super dark world of adult cartoons. Take a look and get recommending!
1. 'Road To The Multiverse' (Family Guy)
What's good about #FamilyGuy is that it's similar to the household staple, The Simpsons with its family dynamic and setting. However, Family Guy has a very different brand of humor (written and created by comedic genius, Seth MacFarlane). It combines social commentary with wacky plots and cutaway humor, which the show has essentially popularized.
The episode to use when introducing someone to this show is definitely Season 8's "Road To The Multiverse." Not only is this one of the most well-received episodes, but it's the highest grossing episode to date from the entire series. This episode is a staple for Family Guy fans and contains everything good about the show — the irreverent jokes, the insanely random plot, and creativity through different animation styles.
The episode sees Brian and Stewie use a remote control invented by the infant genius Stewie to traverse parallel universes, including a universe where dogs have humans as pets, a Disney universe, a live-action universe, and a limbo universe of nothingness. This episode gives us classic Family Guy humor combined with a light sprinkling of existentialism.
2. '201' (South Park)
There are four pillars of #SouthPark: ripping on celebrities, controversial humor, social and political commentary, and completely insane plot lines that will definitely leave you saying "WTF." "201" is a glorious celebration of everything that is South Park. While this is technically a two-parter with its predecessor, "200," "201" is the culmination of the insanity the plot provides.
This episode is just as interesting behind the scenes as it is when actually watched. To provide a little back story, South Park doesn't allow actual celebrities to voice themselves — only impersonators — so they can further make fun of them (George Clooney once asked to come on the show and play himself, to which the show's creators responded with the offer of playing Sparky, Stan's gay dog). The show has made fun of almost every mainstream celebrity, including: Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand, Tom Cruise, Paris Hilton, Bono, and so many more.
This episode was also the most controversial by far, as the writers (Parker and Stone) were set on being the first show to show an image of the prophet Muhammad, which resulted in numerous violent threats from Muslim terror groups, leading to Comedy Central heavily censoring the episode and even cutting out Kyle's potentially profound speech about the topic of censorship in the episode's ending. This episode rocked the world, and South Park was being talked about by everybody.
3. 'Surro-Gate' (American Dad)
Like Family Guy, American Dad (also created by MacFarlane) centers around an American family. However, the show tackles issues in a much more subtle way by showing the characters' reactions to things rather than simply telling us a core message. It's totally worth a watch as it's a genre-defining staple. Stan, for example, represents a very particular archetypal middle-aged, middle-class, conservative Republican. Oh, and #AmericanDad also features an alien named Roger just to inject a little more craziness.
In "Surro-Gate," Francine kindly offers to be a surrogate for their gay neighbors, Greg and Terry. Stan, who is against homosexuality at this point, is mortified. After Francine, who is nothing but happy for their neighbors, gives birth to an adorable little girl, Stan immediately kidnaps her in fear that the world will literally end if she is raised by gay parents. This episode has a simple enough premise yet is still very profound with its message of acceptance and equality. Plus, it's a hilarious half hour, too.
4. 'Mole Hunt' (Archer)
It's very rare that you'll ever get a recommendation to watch the pilot episode of a TV show as your introduction to it, animated or otherwise. It's TV tradition for a show to evolve throughout its first few episodes until it becomes it's best self — this was not the case with #Archer.
Archer is a slick, witty and hilarious spy-themed cartoon with an ensemble cast of kooks. Unlike American Dad, there is no doubt that the protagonist, Sterling Archer, is really an antagonist (or, at least a side splitting, funny, asshole of an protagonist). "Mole Hunt" is Archer at its core — spy espionage that goes wrong at every turn. This is also a great way for each main character to be introduced to the audience. Unlike most of the other entries in this list, Archer generally has an ongoing plot through the series, which is why it's great to see recurring jokes as they appear, adding to your viewing experience as you inevitably end up watching every episode of this Emmy-winning show.
5. 'Meeseeks And Destroy' (Rick And Morty)
Rick and Morty has gained more and more traction (and infamy) lately with its extremely delayed yet highly anticipated third season finally airing this summer (fingers crossed). This sci-fi Adult Swim classic has a huge cult following, and definitely tackles more adult issues than just current politics and taboos — we're talking existential philosophy here as well as scientific principles. Some episodes are darker than others however, and "Meeseeks and Destroy" is one of the lighter ones that will slowly edge you into the mental world of the Sanchez-Smith family.
In this episode, we see a rarity as the side plot is equally as good as the main plot: Rick gives the family a Meeseeks Box, which releases a friendly, slightly annoying creature that will make it its life's mission to complete the single task set by whoever asks it. Beth, Summer and Jerry each summon one and command it to a different tasks, from making Beth a more complete woman to improving Jerry's golf game.
Meanwhile, Morty wants to quit adventuring with Rick after a traumatizing experience, leading Rick to challenge Morty to create his own adventure and call all the shots, only having Rick tagging along for support. This leads to a whole load of craziness as Morty soon realizes that leading his own adventure is certainly not what it was cracked up to be, getting sexually harassed by a jelly bean, among other things.
6. 'Brand New Couch' (Bojack Horseman)
Who can forget this Netflix gem? Bojack is another show that has gained somewhat of a cult following, but centers around a Hollywood has-been rather than a family. There are actually no child characters that feature prominently, which can be a refreshing change for more audience. Oh, and it's set in a world dominated by anthropomorphic animals, as well as humans. Despite this, the show is extremely mature, and tackles different issues than most adult cartoons.
It took a few episodes for the show to really gain traction and for the plot to really get to where it needed to be, but Season 1 ended with a real downer ending with the show finding its voice. Season 2 refined this, and opened with Bojack trying to change his negative, self-destructive attitude and make his life more positive, only to find that to play his dream role of Secretariat, he would need to tap into his negative side again and harness that gut-wrenching energy to deliver a genuine performance.
#BojackHorseman delivers very grounded messages, as we see almost every character (with the exception of the ever-smiling Todd) falling back into negative habits rather than giving us a notion that people can easily change their lives for the better. This show isn't for everyone, but I highly recommend starting with "Brand New Couch" when introducing somebody (or yourself) to Bojack Horseman.
7. 'Bender's Big Score' (Futurama)
Futurama is the OG sci-fi adult cartoon that went on to run for 14 years and most likely inspired future shows like Rick and Morty. As well as having a host of (inter)stellar episodes, there were also four feature-length episodes that proved to be absolute staples for any #Futurama fan. The first of these feature length episodes is "Bender's Big Score," which combines the two things Futurama does best: a crazy, compelling plot along with profound, immense emotional weight.
Due to its length, this episodes contains some of the most well developed sub-plots as well as a well thought-out and complex story that involves time travel, scammer aliens, decapitation, romance, and a very significant butt tattoo. Each character is showcased to their best in this mammoth episode, and it's definitely worth a watch (or a re-watch if you're lucky enough to have seen it). Be warned: it's a tear jerker.
8. 'Star Wars' (Robot Chicken)
#RobotChicken is an easy show to like because almost all of what it does is spoof pre-existing pop culture, including America's most loved films, TV shows, books and celebrity icons. Therefore, anyone with any knowledge on these things is likely to find Robot Chicken hilarious, as it does an amazing job of parodying these things. Another great thing about this show is that it has a totally different style compared to almost every other adult cartoon out there, using stop motion rather than CGI, which definitely adds a sense of realism.
However, perhaps it's most well known and well received episode, "Star Wars," is the show at its best. There are currently three Star Wars Robot Chicken specials, but the first one is a great place to start. Obviously, if the person you're showing this to doesn't like Star Wars, they may actually have a great time. However if they have no knowledge of the Hollywood sci-fi giant (somehow), they may not get the jokes or references. Each of the three Star Wars specials is hilarious and equally as amazing as this one, and if you have the time I recommend watching all three — it makes for a super fun marathon.
What do you think? Are there any other shows that were essential in getting you to love adult animation? Maybe there's a show you think is super underrated by fans of the genre. Let us know in the comments below and stick with Movie Pilot for more on adult animation!