This is a nice article. I agree with just about everything in it except that I don’t see Spongebob as in the same league. Also, apparently the author and I are about the same age as we were watching the reruns during an early 1970s drought of cartoon talent. I agree that pickins was slim, but there were some very thoughtful children’s shows at the time which did not talk down to the intelligence of children. Aside from Electric Company (which also generated sophisticated satire), there was the much underestimated Star Trek animated series, HR Puffinstuff (which may have been in reruns by the time I watched), and a slew of very thoughtful dubbed Japanese imports including Kimba, Speed Racer, and Marine Boy. And there was Scooby Doo which like the Star Trek animated series promoted Enlightenment and curiosity over the fear of the unknown. Even the corny Superfriends had some thoughtful elements. Not everything was Hong Kong Fuey, Grape Ape, and mindless Hannah Barbara reruns.

Anyway, I remember watching the Bullwinkle and Rocky show on mornings at the baby-sitter’s waiting to walk to school. If their daughter woke up early, I would have to watch Gomer Pyle. Otherwise, it was Bullwinkle, Fractured Fairy Tales, Mr. Peabody, etc. Was Mr. Wizard on the show? I don’t remember.

From the article:

“It wasn’t that Bullwinkle the character was especially compelling. He was an affable doofus with a loyal heart, if limited brainpower. Rocky was the more intelligent straight man: a less hostile Abbott to Bullwinkle’s more secure Costello. They were earnest do-gooders who took every obviously shady setup at face value. Their enemies were far cleverer, better resourced, and infinitely more cunning, but Rocky and Bullwinkle always prevailed. Always. For absolutely no good reason. It was a sendup of every Horatio Alger, Tom Swift, plucky-American-hero-wins-against-all-odds story ever made.

What we didn’t know in the ‘70s, when we were watching, that this was pretty subversive stuff for a children’s program made at the height of the Cold War. Watching this dumb moose and his rodent pal continually prevail against well-funded human saboteurs gave me pause to consider, even as a kid, that perhaps it is a silly idea to believe that just because we’re the good guys we should always expect to win.

The animation was stiff but sweet, the puns plentiful and painful. The show poked fun at radio, television, and movie tropes, and took playful aim at Cold War spycraft. Part of the fun was that Bullwinkle wasn’t a regular cartoon, but an animated half-hour variety show. And “variety shows” used to be so much of a Thing that I am stunned there is no niche cable network devoted to them today.”