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An animated sitcom is a subgenre of the sitcom that is animated rather than live action. This subgenre has subgenres of its own, such as adult animation. Examples of adult animation shows include The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, American Dad!, Drawn Together, and Futurama.
Adult animated sitcoms, especially the ones from the 1990s onwards, have been criticized for their often explicit and extreme violent content that would not be permissible on a live-action show. In the United States, The Simpsons in the early 1990s and South Park in the late 1990s were said to have caused something of a moral panic.
Early history (1960–1986)
The Flintstones, which debuted in 1960, is considered the first example of the animated sitcom genre. The similar cartoon The Jetsons, which took place in the future rather than the past, followed in 1962.
Animated sitcoms have been adult-oriented and more controversial than traditional cartoons from the onset. The Flintstones was originally oriented at adults, as an animated version of The Honeymooners, though it was primarily popular with teenagers.
Rise of The Simpsons (1987–1992)
In 1987, The Simpsons shorts debuted on Fox's The Tracey Ullman Show. The first full-length episode, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", debuted on December 17, 1989. By the later part of 1990, The Simpsons were already iconic.
Expansion of the genre beyond The Simpsons (1993–1999)
The success of The Simpsons led to a boom in the animated sitcom genre. The Simpsons, already controversial in itself for its sometimes crude humor and animated violence, inspired the creation of the much more adult-oriented and controversial Beavis and Butt-head, in 1993 on MTV.
South Park, which debuted in August 1997, pushed the envelope even further than Beavis and Butt-head. South Park features controversial religious and racial humor, black comedy, extreme violence, and profanity, almost unseen in any other cable television show prior to or since South Park's debut.
Continued success (2000–present)
Though many animated sitcoms have only lasted several years or as little as several episodes, the three most popular, The Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park, all debuted before the year 2000 and are still making new episodes as of 2013. In that order, as of June 2013, these are the three most popular of all television shows worldwide today and are among the longest-lasting non-soap opera fictional TV shows in history.
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