Saturday, December 17, 2011

One of the best?

I think it's possible that The X-Men animated series from the 90s is one of the best serialized shows of all time. Certainly the best animated serialized show. Here's a show that ran for five seasons, with a single, continuous narrative that built on what happened the previous week. That may not sound like anything special as most television shows and film franchises do that, but this wasn't a series that ran on ABC during prime time. This was a children's animated series that ran on Saturday mornings. I can't think of another animated children's show that runs in a serialized format.
More than just fight sequences like the Power Rangers or silly situations like Tiny Toons, X-Men had drama, love, action, new characters introduced and other characters actually died. In the second half of the first episode, one of the principle X-Men characters dies. That's a heavy concept for a kid's show. Actually, that first episode is a great standard to judge from. It begins with a young girl, Jubilee, questioning why she is the way she is, how she was born a mutant and why won't the world accept her. It doesn't begin with costumes or explosions. It begins with story.
The characters are intricate too. There's Jubilee, the girl who doesn't know her place. There's Rogue, the Blance Devereaux of the X-Men world, who says things like, "You look at nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs," but because of her powers, she can't actually have human contact with other people. There's Storm who has extreme claustrophobia and deep-seeded issues from her past. And those are just three of them. If you've seen the movies, you know the issues the characters have. Those weren't added for the films. They existed in this kid's television show first.
For five seasons, my brother and I watched this show every single Saturday, too young to even know how to properly pronounce Rogue (for the record, we pronounced her name "Rah-gue" until we heard them pronounce it on the show. A sad moment in Brinson English history but a true one nonetheless) and for five seasons were watched everything that happened with the X-Men and followed along, buying action figures, creating their world out of LEGOs and pretending to be them as we climbed in our tree in the backyard. Not even Batman:The Animated Series was able to pull off the serialized story-telling and that was a stellar show in itself.  But X-Men pulled it off, especially during The Pheonix Saga, perhaps the pinnacle of the series, with complex storytelling, emotional investment and action that spanned the galaxy. It should be known that the animated X-Men told this story light-years better than the multi-million dollar costing films did.
For all these reasons, I believe that The X-Men animated series is one of the best.

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