The early 'eighties were arguably an all-time low for cartoons. Then in 1983, four stars appeared to light the way. Alvin and the Chipmunks marked the recording rodents' return to TV, (absent since The Alvin Show in the 'sixties). Mickey Mouse, last seen in 1953's "The Simple Things," re-entered the spotlight in Mickey's Christmas Carol. The Peanuts Gang got their own weekly slot on "The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show." And Jim Davis' fat cat made his first TV appearance in Here Comes Garfield. These four classic characters were in the vanguard of an animation revolution.
The undebated high point came five years later when Fox syndicated the wonderful weekly series, Garfield and Friends. It was everything other cartoon fare wasn't. Like Peanuts, it was paced to the comic. Long before Animaniacs, there were subtle send-ups of the state of the tube: the Buddy Bears parodying early attempts at "educational" cartoons, prompting Joe Barbara to proclaim he was in favor of cartoons that were "mindlessly funny" instead of "mindlessly preachy." It stands up now as a cartoon with high production values, and the series compares favorably with Film Roman's Garfield specials. Disney would bring the same high standard with its re-entry into weekday cartoons, beginning with Ducktales.
Then there was Lorenzo Music's inimitable voicing of Garfield. Characters frequently broke into song and dance numbers, but always stopping to wink at the audience, "hey, you know it's a cartoon." Running through the endlessly repeating set of a haunted house, Garfield would note that either monsters were afoot or the producers had been buying old Scooby Doo scripts. Orson Pig would read books, not to be educational, but always with pratfalls, slapstick and pure imagination. As other reviewers have noted, the early theme song is annoying. The better-known and far wittier "We're ready to party, we're ready" with "surprises and pies of all sizes" takes over two thirds of the way into the second season. It's almost too great to watch an episode a day instead of once a week, as they originally aired, but as any fan of the lasagna-loving feline knows, too much Garfield is never enough.