Suspect Moustache. No, I’m not having a stroke, that’s the name of an upcoming Australian animated comedy series aimed at adults. And no, I’m not drunk – I actually meant to type the words ‘Australian animated comedy series aimed at adults’.
Apart from the animated shows aimed squarely at tiny humans, we Aussies haven’t really thrown an adult hat into the cartoon ring. Our last notable animated memory was the gimmicky Beached Az, which didn’t exactly qualify as a comedy series, and although it amused audiences, was more of a series of brief web sketches.
So it’s definitely cause for celebration that the bizarre creation that is Suspect Moustache is coming to SBS 2. With that in mind, let’s give props to the some of the most influential animated comedies of our time.
The Simpsons (1989- )
Let’s get the mother of all animated television shows out of the way. We all know nothing is yet to come close to The Simpsons at its peak – and its influence on not only animated, but live-action comedy, reins supreme.
Without Matt Groening’s ambition and imagination, we wouldn’t have Arrested Development or Modern Family or 30 Rock or Community. Subsequent ‘toon hits such as Family Guy, King of the Hill – and even Archer and Adventure Time are all, to some degree, descendants of Springfieldian comedy.
And while we can trace the Simpson family dynamic back to The Flintstones, Groening expertly blew a trope into smithereens and proved to the world that animated TV can provoke, inform, and capsulate modern society as much as it can entertain. In other words, The Simpsons changed animated television forever more.
The Ren & Stimpy Show (1991-1996)
For two years, John Kricfalusi emptied the contents of his sick mind into an absurd animation about an unhinged Chihuahua and a simpleton cat. The show opted for the odd and obscure (Rubber Nipples, anyone?) over of The Simpsons style of commentary, reference and irony.
While Ren & Stimpy only lasted a millisecond in comparison to The Simpsons, it’s easy to forget that in the early ‘90s, this crazy show was hugely popular amongst critics and viewers, and influential to such shows as Beavis and Butthead and South Park.
Unfortunately, the last three years of the show’s five-year run dipped in quality, as Kricfalusi’s contract was terminated due to an escalating rift with Nickelodeon’s management.
The Critic (1994-1995)
Only running for two seasons, The Critic was the brainchild of two The Simpsons writers (including eventual veteran Al Jean), and despite its premature cancellation, over time it’s gained at least some of the recognition it deserves.
Jon Lovitz voices memorable critic Jay Sherman, the entertainment world’s most proficient jerk. His abrasive personality and scathing, cold-hearted commentary is as hilarious as the content he’s reviewing – usually film parodies or mash-ups such as Honey I Ate The Kids, a creative weaving of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Silence of the Lambs.
The Critic was cancelled just as it was gathering steam, which explains why it’s since attracted a loyal cult following, boasted a successful after-the-fact DVD release, and has been re-run to one of Comedy Central’s largest audiences.
Jason Alexander took to the horny, neurotic private duck-tective with as much distinct dysfunction as his iconic Seinfeld character George Costanza. The casting aside, the show was far darker and more cynical than The Simpsons – writing in regular characters with mental disabilities, embracing the sordid and disturbing, and launching punches at American culture with a harder fist, in a way South Park eventually would.
The show jumped around from network to network, and could never find the right groove. This incongruence is understandable, considering the boldness of the episodes – whether modeled on complex Russian literature, or suddenly cutting to long-stretches of live-action, as well as a slew of other form experiments that have often been used (and lauded) since.
I’m looking at you, Seth McFarlane.
Originally popping up in Beavis and Butthead (a show that most critics would include in this list over Daria), the character of Daria was essentially donated to creators Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis, though by the time they were done with her she became something markedly different, and far more interesting.
Juxtaposing an intelligent and misanthropic high-school student against boxed-in small town thinking proved reliably riotous, and the character’s strength and wit has grown from cult to almost legendary status, especially amongst young women.
A ‘Daria-style’ character is now an acceptable describer, which is proof of the show’s pioneering representation/satirisation of youthful female angst. One could say there’s a sliver of Daria’s spirit in Liz Lemon, Leslie Knope and Hannah Horvath.
After the show ended, respected TV critic Emily Nussbaum of Slate wrote, "The show is biting the dust without ever getting the credit it deserved: for social satire, witty writing, and most of all, for a truly original main character."
"But what about this show and that other show?"
From where I’m sitting, modern marvels such as South Park, Futurama, Archer, Bob’s Burgers, Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Family Guy, Gravity Falls and many more, have all been influenced to some degree by one of the above shows.
To get in on Australia’s first animated comedy series in yonks, watch the premiere of Suspect Moustache on Monday, 30 May at 9:25pm (AEST). After they air, episodes will be available on SBS On Demand.