When news about “reviving” the Teen Titans TV series came about in 2012, we were all hit with a wave of nostalgia for our favorite crime fighting, teenaged superheroes. The thought of having Robin, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy grace our television screens again, was a DC dream come true.
When Teen Titans Go! finally aired the next year, it’s safe to say that most fans of the original 2003 show were not expecting the quirky animation style or the comedic tone of the new Titans. Complaints about the show not being serious enough and a mockery of the original were being thrown left and right around the Internet. Fans felt burned especially after “Young Justice” and “Green Lantern: The Animated Series” were canceled with this revival left in its place.
Despite the mixed reception from viewers, Teen Titans Go! has been quite successful, especially amongst the younger generation. The show is already in its fourth season and has been green-lighted for a feature film to be released, Summer 2018.
To say the least, I was surprised the show managed to last more than two seasons. It seemed to be popular amongst younger kids and my younger brother, but I wasn’t buying it. Every time the show would land on my TV screen, I would quickly change the channel and complain about how stupid it all looked.
But I had to admit, I was curious. Was Teen Titans Go! truly as awful as I thought? After much brooding and yearning for the “good ol’ days” of Teen Titans, I finally sat down and gave the show a try. Each individual episode was less than 15 minutes, so what did I have to lose?
Turned out, it was exactly what I expected.
Fart jokes, unnecessary screaming, random songs, and plotlines that didn’t seem to matter by the next episode. It really was a huge step away from the Teen Titans episodes I was used to. These campy Titans had nothing on the heroic coming of age series that told compelling stories and explored moving character development.
But somehow, as time went on, and I watched more episodes, something clicked. I finally was able to separate the two shows from each other and really appreciate what Teen Titans Go! brought to the table.
The pop culture references, parody episodes, and playful art style had me hooked.
Because of the show’s comedic and outrageous tone, the writers have more wiggle room to play around and explore much more of the DC Universe that we didn’t get to see in the original show. The amount of Easter eggs alone makes you do a double take and stare at the screen for a second. The show’s artists are constantly leaving hidden gems in the background for DC superfans. You should be able to identify them if you squint hard enough!
Is that really a Darkseid stuffed plushie in the Titans Tower? Does Raven have a poster of Etrigan the Demon and Zatanna in her room? Is that an urn with Jason Todd’s ashes sitting next to the Joker’s crowbar? (Which, by the way, is straight savage.)
The cameos featured in the episodes are also noteworthy to mention. You still get your classic Teen Titans characters like The H.I.V.E., Titans East, and Terra. But so many other DC characters drop by in the series. The Justice League, Vixen, The Wonder Twins, the Titans’ Bizarro World counterparts, and the occasional Batman and Commissioner Gordon duo. This list doesn’t even cover half of the characters that make an appearance.
If the Easter eggs and cameos don’t pull you in, then the self-awareness of the show might. Teen Titans Go! is super meta. In many of the jokes, references, and storylines, the characters realize they are cartoons in a show. In the 200th episode special, “The Self-Indulgent 200th Episode Spectacular!,” the Titans kick down the fourth wall and meet the entire Teen Titans Go! production team, show writers, and even their voice actors, all in one episode.
The writers also know that some fans weren’t exactly happy with the outcome of the Titans revival. The show acknowledges that by taking jabs at itself, often criticizing its art style and “shortcomings” to the original series. They even go as far as using the villain, Control Freak, to voice these grievances in “The Fourth Wall” episode.
“This show was supposed to be my greatest achievement. It was supposed to bring me awards and respect in the entertainment industry.” Control Freak yells. “Instead, everyone thinks it’s garbage… Dookie jokes… Your sense of humor is so lowbrow… And then there’s your acting… And finally, the audience hates how you look.”
Any show that’s willing to address the complaints of viewers and throw it back in their face, in a playful way, deserves a pat on the back.
Ultimately, I’m here to say relax. Take a deep breath. I know it’s not the show fans expected from the franchise. It’s silly, over the top, and very random at times. But once you suck it up and take the series for what it is, the cleverness of the show really shines through.
And listen. At the end of the day, it could be worse. The show could have been revived with a less catchy theme song and a completely different voice cast… I’m looking at you Powerpuff Girls.
Still not convinced? Here’s a list of episodes to get your feet wet in the Teen Titans Go! world before you decide to take the plunge:
1.“Employee of the Month: Redux”
This episode pays homage to the “Employee of the Month” episode from the original Teen Titans series. Beast Boy needs cash for a moped, the Titans have a cow situation, and No-Fu is trying to take over the world.
2.“Colors of Raven”
Remember that episode of Teen Titans where Beast Boy and Cyborg get sucked into Raven’s mirror and they meet different sides of her personality? Yeah, you meet some of those personalities again in this episode.
The Titans are encouraged to share their origin stories with the team. But instead, you get a mix of fabricated stories featuring your classic DC superheroes.
4. “The Fourth Wall”
Control Freak tells the Titans that they are in a TV show and threatens to reboot them (again) if they don’t improve the overall quality of their show. Control Freak motivates the Titans by playing a clip of their former selves in Teen Titans.
5. “The Best Robin”
Robin is tired of his team being lazy and unreliable when it comes to crime fighting. In comes the team of Robins, featuring Carrie Kelly and Tim Drake.
6. “Classic Titans”
Control Freak is feeling nostalgic for the old days when cartoons were better. So he turns them into 1960’s versions of themselves. The rest of the episode is in the 60’s animation style of DC Filmation.
7. “40%, 40%, 20%”
Cyborg can’t stop singing “The Night Begins to Shine”. Cue the epic 80’s punk rock artwork and a song that will never leave your head. This is one of highest rated episodes in the series and later inspired a four-part special called “The Day the Night Stopped Beginning to Shine and Became Dark Even Though it Was the Day”
Catch the marathon of every Teen Titans Go! episode this Christmas Eve on Cartoon Network.