Courage (Marty Grabstein), a high-strung and inexplicably pink canine, is the beloved pet of Eustace (Lionel G. Wilson) and Muriel Bagge (Thea White), an elderly couple who live together on a dusty old farm in the middle of nowhere (literally; they live in a town called Nowhere). Well, he's the beloved pet of the sweet-hearted Muriel, anyway - the mean and crotchety Eustace thinks he's just a "stupid dog", and torments Courage whenever he thinks he can get away with it (and even when he knows he can't).
Once an Episode, Courage and his family find themselves caught up in some form of supernatural weirdness, and Courage has to steel his frazzled nerves and save his owners from it. A refreshing change of pace from many cartoons of the day was that Courage seldom used force; more often, he relied on his wits (and a bit of kindness now and then) to deal with aliens, ghosts, monsters, criminals, the military, science gone wrong, or whatever sort of freaky happenings life threw at him.
Courage the Cowardly Dog stands to this day as one of Cartoon Network's most beloved and successful shows, with praise going towards its dark, surreal atmosphere, often emotional stories, skilled use of Medium Blending (its distinct visual style can be best summed up as Tex Avery meets David Lynch), willingness to tackle mature, dark subject matter (usually through metaphor, but occasionally just bluntly), and, perhaps most infamously, scaring the crap out of most people watching. It stands as perhaps one of the most popular and praised examples of the Defanged Horrors genre.
The 2001 online game Creep TV has its own page.
A 7 minute CGI short based on the series was released in 2014, titled "The Fog of Courage." A preview can be seen here.
The protagonist Courage himself is voiced by Marty Grabstein, who claimed that the reason why this show is so light on dialogue and that Courage screams or whimpers in gibberish more so than speaking genuine English is that the producers felt a talking dog wouldn't suit well with a horror-oriented cartoon. Er, okay then, if they say so.
In June 2021, the crossover film Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! meets Courage the Cowardly Dog was announced. Dilworth was not involved in its production. The trailer can be seen here.
Stupid tropes! You make me look bad!
- Iris out, but Courage holds it open.
"I said it twice, and I'll say it again, the stuff on those pages still shouldn't happen to a dog!"
Iris out (for real) that closes on Courage's nose