Dexter’s Laboratory Is 20 Years Old – Relive Some Of Its Best Moments

Dexters Lab

Cartoon Network’s first original animated series turns 20 years old today, and it’s possibly overlooked as one of the best kids cartoons of the ’90s…

After a couple pilot episodes aired in 1995, Dexter’s Laboratory got the go ahead to be Cartoon Network’s first ever animated series on April 28, 1996. Today it seems commonplace for CN to air only original programming, like Adventure Time or Steven Universe, but two decades ago the cable channel was more known for Scooby Doo and Yogi Bear reruns. Genndy Tartakovsky’s creation changed all that and opened the door for countless hours of original toons to come. But what makes this show worth revisiting?

I watched damn near every episode of the show, at least its original ’90s run – I was less a fan of the 2001 revival. The simple premise of a brilliant inventor boy bedeviled by his oblivious sister has the same kind of cartoon magic of Tom & Jerry, meaning dozens of great stories can come out of it, let alone when Dexter is dealing with his clueless parents. And it’s all there from the first episode…

The show was full of so many funny ideas. Years before Pixar’s Up, Dexter explored the reality of what a dog would say could he talk…

And there was Dexter’s rival, Mandark, played by ’80s comedy stable Eddie Deezen. I dare say it’s the best role Deezen ever played, even in episodes that only featured his laughter.

I also loved that Dexter’s Laboratory was clearly made by lovers of animation history, out to mock (and celebrate) the most obscure of cartoons. Their Speed Racer episode is pitch fucking perfect…

The show still speaks to me through its supporting cartoons as well. Dial M For Monkey was a terrific parody of the Silver Age of comics, particularly Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. It was even better when the show added Macho Man Randy Savage’s voice to the mix in a wrestling-centric episode.

And while Justice Friends’ might’ve been a little high concept of “Super Friends Meets Threes Company” I really enjoyed it, and I’d say it’s like an Adult Swim show of today. It was way ahead of its time.

There’s even a banned episode of Dexter that only recently saw the light of day. We wrote about it before, but the short version is that Cartoon Network wasn’t a fan of all the swearing, even if it was censored.

If you want to hear us talk more about Dexter’s Lab, you can hear us discuss it on this week’s awesome episode of Thirty Twenty Ten. Do you have any favorite Dexter moments? Shout ’em out in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Dexter’s Laboratory Is 20 Years Old – Relive Some Of Its Best Moments

  1. Van Damme has had many female love interests in his movies including Bloodsport. JCVD sleeps with the blonde reporter in that movie, whom Van Damme “honorably” doesn’t allow her into the kumite. She sneaks in anyway. Off the top of my head I can say he’s had love interests in Lionheart, Time Cop, and Nowhere to Run, his rip off of “Shane.” I think most people don’t remember his love interests just like no one remembers most of Arnold’s. They’re forgettable roles.

    I know way too much about Van Damme movies. I loved him as a kid in the 90s, but that love sorely waned the more I found out about him as a person.

  2. Thank you for justifying my childhood for me. I loved all of the Cartoon Network originals but I think at this point Courage the Cowardly Dog has to be my favorite from that era. It’s like every episode was some high concept, creepy, or peculiar event with some great slapstick humor thrown in. If someone sat me down in front of that right now I wouldn’t be able to leave the room.

  3. My name IRL is Dexter and I’m a white kid with glasses. I was 10 years old when the show came out so, it goes without saying, my nickname (even from people who don’t know me) has been Dexter’s Lab. And honestly, that doesn’t bother me because the show is that damn good.

  4. I almost forgot how great Cartoon Network was in the nineties and I loved the hell out of Dexter. I recall it had an amazing finale that brought in Monkey and the Justice Friends into a kaiju/mecha tokusatsu epic that was just so fun all around. And then… yeah, the revival happened and we don’t speak of that. It was perhaps the biggest role Christine Cavanaugh had before she retired from voice acting, and may she rest in peace too knowing that her irate vaguely European kid genius influenced animation for many years to come.

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