Airing for 10 seasons and 193 episode, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon is an incredibly strong reminder, for those who watched, of how good Saturday morning cartoons—and afterschool cartoons—could be. With the advent of Cartoon Network and Boomerang and Disney Jr. and Nick Jr. and who knows how many other cable networks (plus, perhaps, a law or two about educational programming), the Saturday morning cartoon has—if you'll forgive my borrowing the phrase—gone the way of the dodo. Now, I'm not going to suggest that every moment in this cartoon is sheer brilliance, but they certainly seemed it at the time (the cartoon began in 1987), and anyone looking for nostalgia and buying the new complete series DVD set from Lionsgate will have a lot to like (and to hate, but we'll get there).
What makes the show so spectacular?
Well, let's start with the theme song. Perhaps never before, nor again, has a television theme song told you everything you need to know heading into an episode and sounded great doing it Let's examine the song, shall we?
What is the show about? The song tells us repeatedly right up front – "teenage mutant ninja turtles." What are these guys? "They're the world's most fearsome fighting team/They're heroes in a half-shell and they're green" (factually inaccurate as the turtles have shells on their front as well as their back, be we forgive that). What do these guys do? "When the evil Shredder attacks/These turtle boys don't cut him no slack." Look, those lines gave us two items, not only did it answer our question, but it also told us who the bad guy is (Shredder). By this point, you're probably wondering all about how these guys became ninjas. "Splinter taught them to be ninja teens." Who is Splinter? "He's a radical rat." Want to know a little bit about each of these individual turtles? "Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines/Raphael is cool, but crude/Michelangelo is a party dude." And, let us not forget this about the theme song, as stated above, it sounds great too.
Yes, fine, they changed the theme song as the show waned, but they changed the tone of the series more than once as it continued as well. This presumably was done searching for an expanded audience as the original audience grew up (it's cool if you're in your 30s and don't live in your parents' basement to watch the show, but it isn't at 18 even if you were 8 when you started watching). Do not let the theme song alteration affect your love of the series, the original song is the one everyone knows and the one everyone sings.