Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 25: Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network 2010 logo

I never had the chance to watch Cartoon Network at its inception, but I was somewhat intrigued by the original series it offered. When I got to finally view the network, shows like Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Powerpuff Girls. I think I liked the third show most of all. The story was simple but there was solid humor. The other two shows lost something in their later seasons.

There was more to see on Cartoon network beyond its initial offerings. Classic shows like The Flintstones and The Jetsons were occasionally shown. However, some of these would be moved to Boomerang (which would ultimately suffer from network decay itself). Despite that, the network would also feature more original shows that would come to be beloved. I still love Operation: Kids Next Door to this day and I respect much of the writing behind Teen Titans.

I also grew to love Adult Swim. I will talk about that later in this post.


What’s Wrong with Cartoon Network Proper Today

The lineup would suffer a sharp change in 2010. As I mentioned in Episode 1, Cartoon Network was sharply showing signs of network decay as its top executive wanted to move away from showing cartoons (!) and show original, live action programming. Former President and Chief Operating Officer of Turner Animation Stuart Snyder spearheaded this shift in 2009. There was a huge backlash from viewers and Snyder had to quickly change course. He finally left the company in March 2014 and would ultimately be replaced by Christina Miller.

The network now features more animated programming with some clearly good offerings such as Regular Show, Adventure Time, Gumball, Steven Universe, and Clarence. (The first two shows on this list were integral to showing how much of a failure the CN Real movement was.) Uncle Grandpa is meh to all right. I think some more good shows are needed to make the lineup complete, but that was a better recovery than I was expecting.

Some of the shows on the network really suck and one of them is forced down viewers’ throats. Teen Titans Go! was first shown on the network in 2013 and is the most heavily promoted. This is despite the fact that the chibi-style cartoon is pretty horribly written. It’s supposed to be humorous but many of the jokes fall flat. For example, there was an episode in which Cyborg and Beast Boy said nothing by “waffles.” That got old pretty quickly. It is a far cry from the Teen Titans and the writers even had the nerve to taunt viewers because of it.

Also, CN is bringing back the Powerpuff Girls. However, from the previews I saw, it will be disappointing. The plot is all over the place and the animators don’t really care about the art.


The Adult Swim Lineup in General

When Adult Swim premiered on September 2, 2001, it began in earnest. It aired a burned off episode of Home Movies. Cowboy BeBop would be the first anime program aired on the network. Adult Swim was limited to one block on Sunday nights which would be rerun on Thursday nights.

Over the years, the block would expand. At one point Adult Swim would be on six nights a week, from Saturdays to Thursdays, starting at 11:00 PM and ending at 5:30 AM. There might have been an extra hour on Sundays, for a 10:00 PM start. Finally, in 2007, nighttime block eventually added a seventh night so that it could be enjoyed all week long, with a 6:00 AM ending time. (I personally welcomed that last change, as it was pretty boring on Friday nights, particularly given what had been left off the regular Cartoon Network programming.)

Before then and shortly afterward, I had largely enjoyed what Adult Swim had to offer. It got me interested in Family Guy, I appreciated the reruns of Futurama, I watched some of the original nighttime programming, and I especially dug the episodes of anime offered on the network.

Currently, I have to say that my favorite parts of Adult Swim are “Rick and Morty,” Robot Chicken, and the Toonami block on Saturdays. My least favorite shows include Squidbillies (part of a trend to copy Aqua Teen Hunger Force) and Super Jail. Other than that, I have to complain about the variety and continued expansion of the nighttime block.

First of all, Adult Swim lacks variety. This is really a complaint that includes Cartoon Network proper, as which can still use some work to improve. Older shows are hardly featured on Adult Swim with any regularity and a few shows are given far more exposure than others. This is particularly true with Seth MacFarlane comedies (especially Family Guy) and King of the Hill, which has been featured for an hour pretty much every night since it debuted on the network in 2009. Both CN and Adult Swim have marginalized anime. (It should be noted that Toonami originated on CN proper, formally a huge draw for the network.) Since Adult Swim has limited its airing of anime shows to one night, viewers have a smaller window to view some excellent imports from Japan and the network has a smaller chance to grow viewership.

Second, too much time has ultimately been given to Adult Swim and there is no point to it. In 2014, the nighttime block was extended to begin at 8:00 PM. Not only did this allow for less time for regular CN shows to be aired, but it also magnified the flaws in the programming and opened up the network to competition issues. The extra hours have been given to the Seth MacFarlane comedies, and between the hours of 8-9PM, Adult Swim was being consistently beaten by a show I will discuss in the next episode. The hours were finally rolled back, but I feel that the network has no respect for different programming or the viewers.

Up next, I will talk about Nickelodeon.


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