The Game Plan: Reconstructing the Cartoon Networks
On either of the 2 animation message boards that I’m currently on (The Big Cartoon Database and Toon Zone, respectively), it seems that invariably the subject of “Fill-in-the-blank network sucks now!” turns up, which leads to discussion about how to improve said network. And Cartoon Network is the channel most frequently placed on the chopping block. Seriously, just go to BCDB’s Cartoon Network, Nick and Boomerang forum; all they do there is complain about how bad they think CN has gotten. (I personally think that the Nickelodeon and Disney Channels are in far worse shape than Cartoon Network is, but that’s for another entry.) Having had to endure these nonstop debates for so long, I’ve come up with a way to improve Cartoon Network and it’s knockoffs, Boomerang and [adult swim]. I’m not saying that my way is the best way or even the only way to go, but it’s a way. It’s what I would do anyway.
And no, by improving the network, I DON’T mean just bringing all of the 90’s shows back and regressing CN back to the way it was 20 years ago. Just stepping back into the WABAC machine and regressing CN back its’ 1990’s form wouldn’t be improving the channel at all. Sure, that would please the fanboys, but it wouldn’t bring the channel the desired ratings and ultimately would do more harm than good, for the simple fact that nostalgia has a limited shelf-life. There are only so many times one can loop an old schedule of reruns before viewers start reaching for the remote because they’ve seen these shows 100 times already. TV is a business, and in order for a business to succeed, it must keep moving forward, not constantly be in a state of looking back. If you look back for too long, your neck starts to hurt.
Now, on to business.
For starters, I would give all 3 “networks” (I’m counting Adult Swim as a separate network here, even though I know that it’s really just a programming block on Cartoon Network. We all know that AS is just a mask that CN wears at night in order to protect its’ family-friendly image, but for ratings and demographics purposes, it’s considered a separate network, so let’s just call it that for the sake of this discussion) a unified branding. Cartoon Network, as the main default network and the one that started it all, will retain its’ present name and logo, viz:
But the others would get new names and logos, all based on the above design, similar to those of Nick’s current logos:
Under my regime, Adult Swim would be rechristened CNPM. Its’ logo would be the familiar CN tile logo with an additional tile next to it, white on blue, with letters P and M on it. Boomerang would likewise under go a name change, to CN2. Its’ logo would again be the familiar CN tiles, but with a 3rd tile, colored white on red (dang, I wish I had Photoshop!) with a number 2 on it.
Now on to the channels themselves:
Despite what haters and nostalgia buffs will tell you, Cartoon Network doesn’t need a complete overhaul. The changes I propose making to CN are really only tweaks. There is, however, room for improvement in some areas. Let’s break them down:
- CN would go back to being a general animation lovers’ channel. It wouldn’t entirely lose its’ kid-centric focus, but no more trying to compete head-on with Disney and Nick. CN would be marketing itself as the alternative to those networks rather than trying to follow in their footsteps. CN’s revised schedule would be more reminiscent of early Teletoon. There would be several segments of programming devoted to certain content and it would show more mature fare as the day progressed, with a strong commitment to air diverse and international programming, as well as the ability to air a great majority of material uncut. Basically, it would be little kids’ time in the mornings, big kids’ time in the afternoons, general audience/family time in the evenings and adults’ time at night.
- There would be no more skewing the network primarily towards boys. CN’s shows, while some of them are quite good, are starting to look a lot alike. Nearly all of them have predominantly (if not exclusively) male casts. That would end immediately under my rule. This “anti-girl” stance that CN is on right now is ridiculous, especially when you consider that the network’s biggest commercial success to date is The Powerpuff Girls. The current boy-centric shows wouldn’t have to leave, but there would definitely be some girl-centric shows (both action and comedy) added to CN’s lineup.
- There would be corporate synergy between CN’s parents, Turner and Warner Bros. I don’t know how to do it, but even if it meant locking suits from each company into 1 room and beating them all about the heads until they all agreed to play nice with each other, but it would happen under my fantasy regime. This would mean that shows like Legion of Super Heroes, Tom & Jerry Tales and Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get A Clue! would start airing on CN, but this newfound synergy would be more noticeable on CN2/Boomerang (which I’ll elaborate on later).
- There would be a greater commitment to animation on the channel. The live-action shows like Dude, What Would Happen?, Destroy Build Destroy and Hole in the Wall have been putting butts in seats, so I wouldn’t ax them, but they would be relegated to 1 night a week. Wednesday has been working as CNReal day, so i’d keep that, but the live-action would air on that night and only on that night. Also, the CNReal shows as well as the movies on The Flicks would have to adhere to a new rule: they can be game shows, comedies, action or what-have-you, as long as they in some way embody or are reminiscent of or at the very least are inspired by or based on, animation. The scripted shows and movies can feature animation, CGI or puppety oddballs and costume characters, but anything that doesn’t won’t be seen there. Movies like Shrek and Over the Hedge are acceptable, the Spider-Man, Batman and Transformers movies also pass since they’re based on cartoons, The Mask, Ace Ventura and Angels in the Outfield also get a marginal pass since they either feature animation or are cartoonish in nature, but movies which have zilch to do with animation and contain no animation like Snow Day or School of Rock are out.
- CNPM (formerly Adult Swim) would be pushed back to 11 PM and reduced to just 2 airings a week. Adult Swim is doing too well on CN to just dump it, but I think it’s past the point where it needs to air every night. It’s only 4 hours of programming and it doesn’t have nearly enough programming to justify a 7 night a week airing. I’ve seen every episode of Metalocalypse several times. I’ve seen every episode of Robot Chicken several times. I’ve seen every episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force several times. And I’ve seen every episode of Family Guy so many times that I can recite the dialogue to each one backwards and forwards. CNPM would go back to only airing twice a week: with a premiere on Sunday nights and an encore on Thursday nights. What would air on those extra nights and hours, you say? Glad you asked. I would initiate an action cartoon block which would air from 10 PM to 11 PM; this block would consist of some Western action cartoons as well as some anime (yes, even non-toy based action anime) as well as action cartoons from other countries. (Keep in mind, the new CN has an international flavor.) There would also be an expanded Night of Action on Saturday nights from, say, 8 PM to say, 2 AM, similar to the late Saturday Video Entertainment System (SVES). On all other weeknights from 11 PM to 6 AM, I would offer old-school CN lovers a retro block of Boomerang, spotlighting Turner owned cartoons from the 40’s through the early ’00’s. This would be for the benefit of those who don’t receive the CN2 channel.
Now, onto Cartoon Network’s sister channel.
CN2 (formerly Boomerang)
As with Cartoon Network, the changes I would make to CN2 wouldn’t need to be that elaborate. Between Turner and Warner Bros.’ collective vaults, there’s enough programming to sustain a 24/7 channel, I think. No need to acquire a bunch of 3rd party shows, which would require money and CN2 would have to become a commercial network in order to pay for them. Here’s what I’d do to CN2:
- MAKE SOME NEW BUMPERS. Boomerang has been using the exact same smegging toy bumps since its’ inception. They would be the first things to go. Something else, anything else, I don’t care. Just no more toy bumpers, and update the brand motif every year or so, for crying out loud.
- Bring back the Shorties and Groovies inserts between shows, and possibly make new inserts as well.
- Air more shows from the Turner vaults, and air every episode of said shows. The shows with low episode counts would air weekly, not daily.
- Add more latter-day defunct Cartoon Network shows to the lineup. Boom already airs some 90’s to 00’s CN shows like Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, the Powerpuff Girls, Cow & Chicken, Courage the Cowardly Dog and Mike, Lu & Og, so why stop there? I’d add Sheep in the Big City, Time Squad, Whatever Happened to Robot Jones?, Codename: Kids Next Door, My Gym Partner’s A Monkey and Camp Lazlo to the lineup, and there’s no reason whatsoever why Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy, Megas XLR and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends don’t air on Boom now, so they’d definitely air on CN2.
- Start airing more WB-owned shows. Since under my rule Turner and WB would play sharsies with one another, shows like Super Friends, Teen Titans, The Batman and Justice League/Unlimited would air on CN2, as well as Looney Tunes and several of the so-called Silver Age WB shows like Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, Taz-Mania, The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, etc.
- Add blocks such as The Tex Avery Show, The Chuck Jones Show, The Bob Clampett Show and Down with Droopy D to the lineup.
- Initiate a late-night block to the channel (sort of a retro Adult Swim lite) which would include art-house shows like O Canada, Sunday Pants, early (pre-AS) episodes of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Popeye and Late Night Black and White.
- Add compilation shows spotlighting trivia and info on our favorite cartoons and the folks behind them, like Toon Heads.
- Re-initiate former CN blocks such as Toon-A-Palooza and 70’s Super Explosion.
Again, I’m not saying that the above strategy is the best way (or even the only way) to improve these networks, but it’s a way. It’s certainly a better solution than just regressing them back to the way they were decades ago.
- Posted in: Big Ideas