A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this animated comedy offers both extreme cartoon slapstick violence (none of which has any lasting consequences) and absurd, sophisticated humor. A familiarity with -- and understanding of -- some fairly adult cultural and literary references, a healthy dose of cynicism, and a firm grasp of irony are necessary to redeem what would otherwise be just another ugly little cartoon.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
COW AND CHICKEN is one of the original Cartoon Network series. Cow and a chicken (both voiced by Charles Adler) are sister and brother who have human parents, and are constantly tormented by a devilish looking creature called Red Guy (also voice by Adler). Red Guy invariably fools their parents, leaving him free to torment them in a number of ways, such as operate on them or force them to star in his circus.
Is it any good?
Like Dexter's Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls, Cow and Chicken is really meant for teenage and young adult viewing. The show draws on a long line of earlier humor for its references, including Monty Python, Looney Tunes, and Charlie Brown. Much of it won't be funny if you don't have a reasonably long history of TV viewing -- and since the show as a whole doesn't make any sense, if it's not funny, there's not much point.
Of course, there are always the physical gags, which tend to take the usual cartoon tropes -- like eating fire or jumping into a glass of water from a diving platform -- one step further (missing the glass and saying "I hurt myself" or swallowing the flame and screaming, only to complain of a bitten tongue). Cow and Chicken was created in the same spirit that led to The Onion and eventually South Park. It's a meta-mockery: smart humor for people who also like to see cartoon characters drawn with a huge emphasis placed on their butts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the show's humor, which stands up to dissection pretty well. Why is it funny that the Red Guy tries to dive into a glass of water and misses? (Because every other cartoon character ends up squashed in the water.) We never see the parents except from the waist down, and occasionally it becomes clear that they actually have no top halves -- what cartoon tradition is this mocking? Speaking of mocking, would you really want everyone to mock everything this thoroughly all the time? The show is very much a product of the late '90s, when this kind of humor was new and rapidly becoming the norm. Are kids today quite this cynical in their humor?
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