There’s no doubt that The Simpsons and Family Guy are classics, but adult animation shows have come a long way since the days of dysfunctional middle class families who get up to some silly hijinks in the space of 20 minutes, only for their entire universe to reset at the end of every episode. The past decade has seen an explosion of incredible animated shows for adults which delve into all sorts of profound and existential topics – from mental health and addiction to generational conflict and shame – while still being utterly hilarious! So, since we’re all still stuck in lockdown, here are five binge-worthy animated shows, all available on Netflix, to get you through these difficult times.
Rick and Morty
This wacky comedy from creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland follows alcoholic genius Rick Sanchez and his anxious, high-strung grandson Morty (both voiced by Roiland) as they embark upon epic, often life-threatening, misadventures through time and space, encountering all sorts of outlandish and zany characters along the way. Reminiscent of the much-loved movie series Back to the Future, though much. much more cynical, the absurd humour and quirky takes on sci-fi concepts are fascinating and hysterical in and of themselves, but it is the irreverent existentialism of the show which makes it stand out from the crowd. Sarah Chalke (Scrubs) is also incredible as Rick’s daughter Beth, a neurotic heart surgeon desperate for her father’s love while simultaneously terrified of turning out just like him. For viewers looking for a show which is hilarious, intelligent and ridiculous, this one’s for you.
Whoever said cartoons are just for laughs has clearly never seen Bojack Horseman. Despite some cracking moments of levity, this show about an anthropomorphic horse living in Hollywood is gut-wrenchingly difficult to watch at times, but definitely worth it. Bojack, voiced by Will Arnett (Arrested Development), is a washed-up celebrity struggling to cope with his childhood trauma by navigating life through a drug and alcohol fueled haze. Don’t let the quirky characters and colourful animation fool you – Bojack Horseman is a searing portrayal of loneliness, depression and addiction which, necessarily, does not reset at the end of every episode. Rather, the audience watches as Bojack continuously destroys any and all chances at happiness by alienating and manipulating the people around him.
It’s not all gloom and doom, though. Bojack boasts a stellar cast, including Alison Brie (Community), Todd Paul (Breaking Bad) and Amy Sedaris (The Mandalorian) whose characters, though all connected to Bojack, have their own intricate and well-developed story lines which provide some respite when the show inevitably gets too bleak. Keep an eye out for some hilarious animal puns too!
Paradise PD is probably not for everyone but my husband and I get some serious laughs from it so it goes on the list! Fans of Family Guy’s often gross and audacious humour will enjoy this show about a dysfunctional and incompetent police force, replete with a corrupt, literal drug-sniffing K9 officer and Sarah Chalke as a butt-kicking cop in desperate need of some anger management classes. The humour is crass, the jokes infantile and sometimes so cringey you can’t help but turn away, but if you’re looking for a show which doesn’t take itself too seriously and which will make you laugh out loud multiple times, this is the one for you.
F is for Family
Fans of Bill Burr will love his show about disgruntled father Frank Murphy and his family attempting to live out the American Dream in 1970’s suburbia. Based loosely on his own experiences growing up, F is for Family is full of foul language, outrageously non-PC jokes and, perhaps surprisingly, some very nuanced handling of complex issues like the trauma we hold onto from childhood, or the never-ending pressure to live up to societal expectations. Similar to Bojack Horseman, F is for Family is serialised rather than episodic, that is, it doesn’t reset at the end of each episode – what the characters experience is carried with them into each new episode, making for some pretty sombre storylines at times, thankfully lightened by Burr’s fiercely unapologetic humour.
Big Mouth is probably the most wholesome of all the shows considered here, though no less entertaining. Created by Nick Kroll, and filled with an outstanding cast, Big Mouth follows a group of young friends as they attempt to navigate puberty, love, sex and friendship. Accompanied by their madcap hormone monsters, there ostensibly to guide them through this harsh and frightening phase, the group regularly finds themselves in some pretty outrageous situations. Aimed at both adults and teens, the show touches upon all manner of embarrassing and taboo subjects, from porn addiction to periods and female masturbation, and does so in a way which is both refreshingly honest and direct, while also being hilarious and somewhat whimsical. The musical numbers, in particular, are something to watch out for!
Let me know what you think of these suggestions in the comments below!