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  • Writer's pictureGarrett Brodey

Courage the Cowardly Dog: My Favorite TV Show Of All Time

Updated: May 3, 2023

Courage the Cowardly Dog is my favorite TV show of all time. I loved it as a child, which is strange to say since the show is famous for scaring the hell out of the children who watched it. I grew up loving horror films, so for me, the show was my cup of tea. I will write a piece in the future of why I love the genre of horror. I love the show even now as an adult. It’s the perfect blend of comedy and horror, or so otherwise called “black comedy”. It’s perfect in every way and I think it deserves to be titled one of the greatest TV shows of all time.

The show has a famous introduction of an old TV narrating the synopsis of the show. The Nowhere News Anchor states, “ We interrupt this program to bring you...Courage the Cowardly Dog Show, starring Courage, the Cowardly Dog! Abandoned as a pup, he was found by Muriel, who lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband, Eustace Bagge. But creepy stuff happens in Nowhere. It's up to Courage to save his new home!” The TV then shuts off, and Eustace angrily tells Courage “Stupid dog! You made me look bad.” He reaches for the large, green tiki mask that scares Courage, which causes him to freak out and jump into the camera. I love it! It perfectly sets up the show's tone and style.

John R Dilworth is the madman who created the show. I don’t mean madman in a bad way, in fact, I’d say it’s a complement. His imagination is unlike no other. I’ve listened to a few interviews with him and he sounds like he has passion for his art. He really cares for animation and it shows in Courage. Not only that, his other films are well made and fantastic. He also gives credit to his team that worked on Courage, and they deserve just as much praise. David Steven Cohen was the head writer and he’s also responsible for the phenomenal and creative quality for the show. Everybody who worked on the show are masters of their craft. Cartoon Network also deserves some credit for allowing the creative geniuses to have full creative control and allowing them to air whatever they wanted.

The Chicken From Outer Space is a 1996 animated short made by John R Dilworth that became the pilot of the show. It’s similar to what the show would soon become. Courage faces off against a chicken from space and he must protect himself and the farm. It’s slightly different stylistically, but I love it. It’s cool to see Courage before what he becomes in the show. It’s frightening and hilarious. What’s even more awesome is that the short was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 1996. So basically, Courage the Cowardly Dog is an Oscar nominated animation.

Like I said before, I loved this show when I was growing up. I looked forward to watching it every Friday night back in the early 2000s. I remember my friends were either too scared to watch it or their parents didn’t allow them to watch it. Luckily, my parents let me watch that and other Cartoon Network classics. Courage was one of my first exposures to horror and it helped grow my love for the genre. Don’t get me wrong, the show did scare me, but I loved that about it. It was also funny, which helped relieve some of the tension. People always point to how scary the show was, but not how it was funny. Whenever I watch the show now, I feel nostalgia because it brings me back to when I was younger.

The show is beautifully made. The animation is very unique, because it blends different types together, such as traditional 2D, CGI, Claymation, realistic backgrounds, & more. I think it has aged quite well. The show works great as an animation, & the creative team uses the format to its advantage.

“Courage the Cowardly Dog'' is a phenomenal title for a show. It falls off the tongue quite well, and it’s meaningful in so many ways. Courage is a brilliant protagonist. Not only is he brilliant by design, but also as a character. Courage is scared of almost everything he encounters, but he always manages to put aside his fears to save Muriel and the day. It’s a great lesson for kids, and the show does a fantastic and hilarious job showcasing that throughout each episode. While he saves the day in the end, his reactions to all the scary things are what make it comedic. Reactions are huge for comedy and comedic timing, and every time Courage screams in fear, I die laughing. The episode Remembrance of Courage Past, gives the backstory of Courage, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. His parents being taken away from him by an evil veterinarian is really sad. It makes him more sympathetic. That episode is tough to watch, but it’s well made. Marty Grabstein voices Courage, and he deserves more recognition. His voice and screams are so unique. I’ve watched some interviews of him, and he seems like an awesome guy.

The show’s dark comedy is pitch perfect. The show will portray something horrifying, and then Courage reactions make the scene comedic. One of my favorite examples is in the episode Courage in the Big Stinkin City, where he needs to retrieve an item for the antagonist. He has to go through a creepy building, and as he’s opening every door, he’s exposed to more and more frightening things. Eventually, he reaches one room and when he opens the door, we see a little girl facing away from the camera, playing a violin. Courage finally relaxes, since there’s nothing scary….. Until the girl turns around exposing a freaky Claymation-styled monster. Courage then freaks out and slams the door. This scene was an excellent way of scaring Courage and the audience while releasing the tension with Courage’s hilarious reaction.

Muriel is the heart of the show. She’s the one who found Courage and took him in when he had no one. She plays the damsel in distress for Courage to save. She’s kind hearted, but she never understands when Courage is trying to warn her of what’s going on and that’s her downfall. She’s played by Thea White, and her voice fits the character quite well.

Eustace is also an interesting character for the show. For one, he’s a major asshole, and he treats Courage terribly. At the same time, he’s hilarious. He’s such a grouch that his reactions to the scary things that go on are really funny. Eustace is even the antagonist in some episodes. The show does give Eustace some backstory into why he’s such a bad person, and it makes him a tad more sympathetic. The Curse of Shirley, Farmer-Hunter, Farmer-Hunted, and Mother’s Day are the episodes that give some background for Eustace. He was first played by Lionel Wilson for season 1, 2, and half of 3, until he quit the show. His performance is one of the highlights of the show. When he left, Arthur Anderson took over and he did a fair job continuing what Lionel Wilson had started.

One of the most important aspects when it comes to film or TV shows is music. Music can make or break it, and in this case, Courage has some of the best music I’ve ever heard. It amazes me how a children’s cartoon can have such a fantastic score. Andy Ezrin and Jody Gray deserve all the credit. They were the composers on the show, and not just for the theme song. Every episode has its own musical score. The Hunchback of Nowhere and The Tower of Dr. Zalost are two episodes that have some memorable music. There are also recurring themes that play throughout the show. One of those is a sad theme that just consists of a piano and accordion. Whenever I hear that theme, I instantly feel like I want to cry. It’s really effective. Another theme is Muriel’s theme song and it’s a simple piano tune. It’s very sweet and nostalgic. Whenever Courage is off to the rescue, the show plays a mission impossible like theme. The ending theme is also memorable. The show uses different types of instruments that don’t usually go together, and it really works. I can go on and on about the music but I’ll end with this- When will Warner Brothers release a soundtrack? The fans deserve it.

The show has so many fascinating characters. Those characters include; the Hunchback, Shirley the medium, the computer, banana suit dealer, Nowhere News Anchor, Dr. Vindaloo, Di Lung, and the various town’s folk. They aren’t in every episode, but they definitely stand out.

The villains in Courage are very memorable. What I love about the villains is how the show gives them human-like flaws. We can understand why they are bad and we understand why they think what they are doing is the right thing to do. Most of them are pretty horrifying too. Some of my favorites include; Katz, Eustace, Schwick, Doc Gerbil, Conway, the Snowman, Black Puddle Queen, Spirit of the Harvest Moon, King Ramses, the Weremole, Mad Dog, the Space Chicken, Jeeves Weevil, and plenty of others. They all have their own unique design and personality. They really are great villains all around.

One of my favorite aspects of the show is how it manages to throw in deep messages in some episodes. Watching the show as an adult is interesting, because I catch all the deep subtext that the show was secretly teaching kids. I’ll write some examples below:

  • My favorite episode is The Hunchback of Nowhere; I plan on writing a piece on this episode in the future, but the synopsis is on a rainy night in Nowhere, a small and heavily deformed Hunchback travels through town looking for shelter, but he's repeatedly rejected by some bigoted residents, including Eustace. Courage befriends the Hunchback in a sweet scene involving them bonding through performing songs with bells, acrobatics, and joking around with hand shadows. Courage helps the Hunchback stand up to Eustace and he does in the climactic battle. In the end, the episode teaches the viewer to stand up for yourself and to be kind to people, because you don’t know what they’re going through. The Hunchback’s last line is “Thank you for your kindness.”

  • Another example is in the episode The Mask, my second favorite episode. It’s about a masked woman with a mysterious past who comes to the farm and starts attacking Courage. Fearing the safety of his owners, Courage must repair the root of her problems so she can leave. This one is very dark and it’s basically a neo-noir film. There are themes of domestic abuse, prostitution, and sexism. It sounds crazy, but the episode teaches some real life lessons that most children won’t pick up. Talking about it would take up too much time, so I’ll save it for later this year when I write a piece about it. I think it’s one of the best episodes of the show.

  • My last example is in the very last episode called Perfect. It’s about Courage dealing with his imperfections with an old Victorian schoolteacher who carries a large wooden ruler and speaks in a commanding tone. The Perfectionist begins showing Courage how to be perfect, but he fails at all the assignments. Courage must find a way to be "perfect" or get rid of The Perfectionist. In the end, the episode teaches the audience that it’s okay not to chase perfection, in fact, the best quote of the whole show is when a fish in a bathtub tells Courage “There is no such thing as perfect. You're beautiful as you are, Courage. With all of your imperfections, you can do anything.” What a beautiful message to teach kids.

I went through each episode and ranked every single one. It was challenging but I enjoyed going through the entire series. It’s not the first time, because I’ve seen every episode numerous times. My top 40 was very hard to rank. I always gravitate to watching these episodes whenever I’m in the mood to watch the show. I plan on writing in-depth reviews for some episodes, especially the ones in my top 5 in a later time. I think my top 40 are some of the best episodes of the show, and some of the best TV show episodes of all time. 41-91 are also good episodes and they were hard to rank. 92-102 are the episodes I don't really like... I'm not saying they're bad because the show is perfect but I am not a fan of them. My ranking of every episode :

  1. The Hunchback of Nowhere

  2. The Mask

  3. King Ramses’ Curse

  4. Courage in the Big Stinkin City

  5. The Tower of Dr. Zalost

  6. Perfect

  7. House of Discontent

  8. Human Habitrail

  9. Last of the Star Makers

  10. The Curse of Shirley

  11. Heads of Beef

  12. Evil Weevil

  13. The Revenge of the Chicken from Outer Space

  14. The Quilt Club

  15. Night of the Weremole

  16. Hard Drive Courage

  17. Car Broke. Phone. Yes?

  18. Remembrance of Courage Past

  19. Windmill Vandals

  20. Beavers Tale

  21. 1000 Years of Courage

  22. The Duck Brothers

  23. The Nutcracker

  24. Queen of the Black Puddle

  25. Clutching Foot

  26. Dome of Doom

  27. The Demon in the Mattress

  28. Serpent of the Evil River

  29. King of Flan

  30. Cowboy Courage

  31. Wrath of the Librarian

  32. Conway the Contaninationist

  33. Squatting Tiger, Hidden Dog

  34. The Snowman Cometh

  35. McPhearson Phantom

  36. Courage Meets the Mummy

  37. Forbidden Hat of Gold

  38. Swindlin’ Wind

  39. Housecalls

  40. The Great Fusilli

  41. Katz Kandy

  42. Son of the Chicken from Outer Space

  43. Curtain of Cruelty

  44. The Uncommon Cold

  45. Night of the Scarecrow

  46. Freaky Fred

  47. Ball of Revenge

  48. So in Louvre Are We Two

  49. Hothead

  50. Klub Katz

  51. Shadow of Courage

  52. The Magic Tree of Nowhere

  53. Night at the Katz Motel

  54. Mega Muriel the Magnificent

  55. Muted Muriel

  56. Katz Under the Sea

  57. Invisible Muriel

  58. Courageous Cure

  59. Mission to the Sun

  60. Goat Pain

  61. The Transplant

  62. Everyone Wants to Direct

  63. Record Deal

  64. Shirley the Medium

  65. Robot Randy

  66. Cabaret Courage

  67. Mondo Magic

  68. Fishy Business

  69. Snowman’s Revenge

  70. Angry Nasty People

  71. Courage Meets Bigfoot

  72. Campsite of Terror

  73. Rumpledkiltskin

  74. Bad Hair Day

  75. Feasts of the Bullfrogs

  76. The Sandman Sleeps

  77. Nowhere TV

  78. Cajun Granny Stew

  79. Journey to the Center of Nowhere

  80. Bride of the Swamp Monster

  81. Muriel Blows Up

  82. Dr. Le Quack

  83. The Sand Whale Strikes

  84. Courage vs. Mecha-Courage

  85. Courage the Fly

  86. Mother’s Day

  87. Courage Under the Volcano

  88. Scuba-Scuba Doo

  89. Family Business

  90. Muriel Meets Her Match

  91. Tulip's Worm

  92. Farmer-Hunter, Farmer-Hunted

  93. Profiles in Courage

  94. Watch the Birdies

  95. Food of the Dragon

  96. Stormy Weather

  97. Le Quack Balloon

  98. The Gods Must Be Goosey

  99. The Ride of the Valkyries

  100. Little Muriel

  101. The Precious, Wonderful, Adorable, Lovable Duckling

  102. Aqua-Farmer

In 2014, Cartoon Network green lit a special called The Fog of Courage. It’s full CGI, and Eustace is voiced by Wallace Shawn instead of Arthur Anderson. I think it perfectly captures the spirit of the show, and it’s a beautiful love letter for the fans. There was hope that the show would be revived, but John R Dilworth confirmed Cartoon Network has no plans of doing that. I think that’s okay, because in my opinion, what we got is perfect and it should stay like that.

I can go on and on about this show, but I’ll end it here by saying once again, that I think it’s perfect. I’m glad I grew up watching it, and I would love to show it to my kids when they’re older. It’s my favorite TV show of all time, and I’ll always love it.

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