This show is so popular that it aired for nine seasons, had three theatrical released movies, and two spin-off shows. All Grown Up lasted five seasons with 56 episodes, including the TV special All Growed Up. The second spin-off show, Rugrats Pre-School Daze, only lasted four episodes. But the biggest insult to me is they were awarded a Hollywood Walk of Fame star. That’s right. A F***ING HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME STAR! And not even far better shows like Animaniacs has gotten that kind of achievement.
Where do I start? The show’s writing is subpar and always relies on plot conveniences and contrivances. And it also recycles the same plot and comedy routines, mostly in the later seasons. Here are some common tired and forced plot elements:
*The babies will always take figurative speeches, metaphors, and words with second meanings literally, to their knowledge.
*The babies will always mishear words. The misheard words can come across as forced and way off. Like, what infant or toddler mishears and says "Statue of Liberty" as in "Statue of Library" and "George Washington" as in "George Washingmachine?"
*The baby talk always feels too forced and obnoxious rather than charming, funny, and cute.
*The babies will cause trouble in public places.
*The babies will always go out for an adventure in their imagination and sometimes rip off popular culture. Also, why does that sound so familiar (i.e. The Muppet Babies)?
*Angelina Pickles will always trick the babies into doing something wrong or stupid, and tell them false stories.
*A couple of episodes will always have the “It was all a dream” cliché.
*An episode would occasionally end with a scream or shout.
Additionally, the show does a have reliance on pop culture references. There’s a big difference between paying homage or satirizing and ripping off. The former is making it funny or adding a twist to it. While the latter is playing it straight, which what the show does most of the time. Children might not even get the references from most retro Hollywood films and films that are rated R. What I hate about pop culture references even more is that when you watch the original movie, the viewing experience and awe will be spoiled. One movie in particular I saw where my childhood has been cheated and lied to is Apocalypse Now, which later became one of my all-time favorite movies. It was Chuckie’s “The horror. The horror,” line that damaged my childhood when I watched the film for the first time. Companies like Disney and Pixar have done shout-outs, too. But at least they do it in a more subtle manner.
One character that I really hate with a fiery passion is Angelica Pickles (ironically not so angelic). You would have no idea on how much I loathe her. She is an annoying and appalling spoiled brat who is too mean and rotten that has an obsession with cookies and toys. I should also mention that her voice, including her singing and screaming are just so grating. Oh, and her sinister laughter. She’s a character that always gives me negative feelings every time I see her or think about her. She is frightening and creepy for all of the wrong reasons. Sometimes she talks more like an adult and can be smarter than the actual adults do. When I look back at episodes where she does do that, I ask myself, “What three year old talks like that?” The adults would even believe anything that she says. Really, how can they not know or tell whether she’s lying or not? Some episodes that greatly shows how very foolish they are to believe her are "Angelica Breaks a Leg" and "Angelica Nose Best". She’s not one of those love-to-hate villains like Darth Vader from Star Wars, the Joker from The Dark Knight, and Nurse Ratchet from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She's also not a likable bully, either, such as Scut Farkus from A Christmas Story, Regina George from Mean Girls, and Biff Tannen from Back to the Future. And lastly, she's not one of those intentionally hated characters like Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and even the sadistic Lola Stone from the criminally underrated horror movie, The Loved Ones. Even though Angelica sometimes does receive comeuppance for her bad behavior, but that doesn't make me want to detest her less. What makes her more unintentionally scary is she's partly one of the reasons why bullying was on the rise in the 90's.
One of the three creators of the show, Arlene Klasky, was once against the idea of Angelica Pickles for similar reasons that I have. I definitely don't blame her. That idea was purely Paul Germain's, which was based on a childhood bully of his. When you have three people that created a show and if they don't all agree on certain things, that's a sure sign of too many chefs in the kitchen. Although Klashy changed on her mind on Angelica after the first theatrical movie was released. My opinion on that absolutely despicable toddler has always been the same right from the start.
The adults in this show are so insultingly stupid and naïve. And they have gotten more even dumb and oblivious in the later seasons. Whenever the babies are in public places and far away from their parents, the other adults don’t take notice of them or even notify security. It’s so baffling that in episodes like "Vacation", when they were in Las Vegas, not one person aside from their parents is aware that there are unattended babies in the casino. They just let them be like it's a normal thing. There’s even one episode called "Angelica's Twin", where Angelica lied to Didi that she has a sister. That is so she can use that trick to get more toys. If she had a sister, then her parents would have told everyone by now. Again, just how in God’s name can an adult trust a three year old? You have to be extremely ignorant to believe such thing. In "Baking Dil", when Stu and the babies go to a bakery, he puts Dil on a belt, as he mistaken it as a counter. "Where's Grandpa?" has scene where Didi thought and used a track switch as a brake for the park train that leads to an unfinished track. The train does stop before the end of it. Then it comes back down the hill. Stu, who chasing the train to get Tommy and Chuckie, rather than running off the tracks, he stays on it and goes to the Prometheus School of Running Away from Things. Oh my God! How stupid are these adults?! What's even worse is that they don't learn from their mistakes. Rugrats is one of those shows where logic and common sense take a backseat that it's so hard to suspend disbelief.
The show even jumped the shark long before the first theatrical movie came out and when they started adding new characters like Dil and Kimi. What really doesn’t make any sense is how come Dil doesn’t talk and yet the other babies do? I know he was just born, but he’s pretty much there as a new comic relief. He's just a one-dimensional infant that drools, sucks on things, cries, and annoy others. Kimi is cute, but unnecessary, as the show was already past its shark jumping point. The episodes after Rugrats in Paris have gotten much worse. And the writers just recycle the same plots from the earlier episodes, but with Kimi added to the mix.
Although to be fair, I probably wouldn’t make a big deal about this show if it actually lasted for three seasons. But thanks to its successful reruns and Nickelodeon’s greed, desperation, and being too passive on originality and risks, it lasted for six more seasons and made it into a cash cow franchise. This is one of the things why I despise Nickelodeon in general and when it comes to business practices; whenever one of their shows becomes wildly popular, they oversaturate it with quantity over quality until the popularity declines dramatically. Now, they're doing that with SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly Oddparents, and they've overstayed their welcome for far too long since 2005.
So, do I have anything positive to say about the Rugrats? Well, it does have a good voice cast for the most part. That includes people like Elizabeth “E.G.” Daily, Christine Cavanaugh, Kath Soucie, Tress MacNeille, Cree Summer, and even Tony Jay, who appears occasionally. It’s good and refreshing to see something from a baby’s perspective. But it doesn’t help that the show is plagued by contrived writing and logic, incompetent adults, overused pop culture references, toilet humor, and a very annoying three year old character that is mostly just an excuse to serve as a bully.
Still, Rugrats is not only one of the most overrated shows I’ve watched, but one of the most overrated things I’ve encountered. Even as a kid, I've always found that show to be too artificial. It has aged horribly and is pretty much a product of its time, even though it still has fans for the nostalgia factor. I am pretty sure that I'm going to get comments like “How could you hate this show?”, “How could you hate this and yet you like that?”, "You're taking things too seriously.", and even very subjective responses such as “You have no childhood!” There will be some people say I did this review because I lost control of my life. If you have a child, my personal recommendation is to make them watch far better shows that both entertains and challenges them like the first three seasons of SpongeBob SquarePants, Hey Arnold!, Courage the Cowardly Dog, The Animaniacs, Invader Zim (a show that was canceled too early), and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
12/30/14 UPDATE: Rest in peace, Christine Cavanaugh (1963-2014), who voiced Chuckie Finster. She also played Dexter from Dexter's Laboratory and the pig from Babe. I may not be too fond of Rugrats, but it is so sad to see a talented voice actress die at an age that is still young.