More live-action programs on Cartoon Network?
Ever since Adult Swim decided to air reruns of Saved by the Bell, albeit only for a couple weeks, it's been a battle between fans who loathe the idea and a network that continues to taunt them. A couple days ago the network announced on the site that it had managed to do for Saved by the Bell what it had done for Family Guy, and that the series was going back into production with the original cast. This dubious announcement was just one example of the network having fun with what turned out to be an unpopular decision.
But there may be more to it than that. The guys over at Cartoon Brew, who have worked in the animation industry and know people on the inside, have been following what could possibly be a major change in the way Cartoon Network approaches its programming. First, there was this piece in Variety earlier this month which stated the network was opening its doors to ideas for live-action series, and even had one series close to a development deal. Then, a couple days ago Amid at Cartoon Brew posted some e-mails he had received from people close to Cartoon Network. The first e-mail, from a former employee of the network who claims to still be in touch with artists and executives, stated that the decision may be a financial one: "When everyone seems to be completely flummoxed at these changes at the network, I feel compelled to impart what I am quite sure is the real inspiration behind this programming boondoggle: Cartoon Network is simply not bringing in any real money at their channel. There is no merchandise on the market for their shows, there are no fast food toy promos, and there is not any national advertising."
This was followed by an e-mail from an artist who still works at Cartoon Network, who wrote that the decision is based on the network's desire to compete with the likes of Nickelodeon and Disney, networks whose live-action shows often pummel Cartoon Network in the ratings. Check out the post here for more details.
The purist in me would like to see Cartoon Network remain just that, a network of CARTOONS. Hypothetically, however, what if Adult Swim began to produce live-action shows that were just as weird, irreverent, trippy, and hysterical as their animated product? When I spoke to Adam de la Pena of Minoriteam, one of the things we talked about (which didn't make it into the final interview) was that Adult Swim has become one of the last remaining places where a person could create something unique and not have it pulled from the airwaves if it didn't find an audience right away (Aqua Teen Hunger Force being just one example). Its decision to air Saved by the Bell notwithstanding, Adult Swim's "let's try a lot of different styles" approach has actually been a good thing, as it exposes the audience to different ideas. I guess my question is: are we upset by the idea of live-action on Cartoon Network/Adult Swim in general, or just reruns of crappy Saturday morning sitcoms? At the risk of arguing over semantics, the late night block of cartoons is called "Adult Swim," not "Animated Adult Swim." My point is, if they did decide to start having original live-action programs that are on par with their best animated offerings, providing us with a small oasis of truly original programming on the television landscape, would that be such a horrible thing? I'm still pondering that one myself, but what do you guys think?