It is time for Adult Swim to grow up

Posted: May 26, 2010 by Sketch in Animation, Animation Editorials, Sketch
Tags: , , ,

Sketch here again with my thoughts on the true maturity of Adult Swim’s programming and marketing.

Adult Swim since it’s humble beginnings as a block two nights a week on Cartoon Network has always liked to push the envelope and their marketing has always been snarky and somewhat “in your face”. Originally they weren’t able to dodge the S&P due to their association with Cartoon Network so while they did air edgier fair they still had several limitations. Despite that, right from the get go they were trying to hook the college crowd with their “frat boy” comedy stylings.

It wasn’t too terribly long before they were granted the ability to produce and air TV-MA programming and at that point the kid gloves were off on content but all they did with that added leeway is make their cartoons raunchier, often needlessly and derivatively. Sometimes it worked such as with Aqua Teen Hunger Force in which the leeway allowed them to go balls to the wall with how bizarre things got which was exactly what ATHF was all about. The Boondocks really only gets a TV-MA for use of the “n-word” and occasional colorful language and could probably pass for TV-14 or even TV-PG without those things but I suppose then the show wouldn’t be what it is and there’s no question that it’s good at what it does.

However the majority of their TV-MA programming is really just frat-boy immature humor pushed about as far as standards will let them. Be it bloodbaths in Metacolypse, something as disturbing as the Se7en parody involving the Smurfs in Robot Chicken or something along the lines of a police drama parody with a walking talking anus as seen in a show I don’t care to name. What passes as “mature” content is just a raunchier take on their bizarre “frat boy” humor they’ve always done.

When they actually air a more thought-provoking comedy it’s usually rather tame in content in comparison and sadly most of those shows are short-lived and while King of the Hill may have seemed like a step in the wrong direction it did at least broaden their comedy offerings in a unique way of its own.

On the action side of things while they do still have Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell it’s been ages since they picked up anything like them. Their primary focus now is on the popular shounen that do decently enough in the ratings that probably ought to be on Cartoon Network’s hours rather than Adult Swim. I guess there were just too many flops among the more mature anime and they had to go with what was working better.

However where I feel Adult Swim is most lacking in maturity is the way they go about their business. On the air in their “card” bumpers they act rather pompous and self-important. Their scheduling is stagnant to a heavy degree but as long as they retain the rights to air Family Guy reruns their ratings will not be in jeopardy.

With the move into the 9PM hour of prime time I feel they are biting off more than they can chew. I hope rise to the occasion and really bring something great to the table with all that leeway they’ve earned but all I anticipate is more reruns from Fox. They have a party for their upfront presentation and try to act hip and cool but its all so hollow feeling now and the charm is lost. Adult Swim can’t just be that edgy new kid anymore they can become much greater than that if they really put some effort into it. That seems to be exactly what they’re lacking on just about every front at this point, effort.

There is a place for the kind of comedy Adult Swim focuses on now but a greater variety of programming and some more mature “in the right way” programming would be solid steps in the right direction. All that would require is more effort on their part. More effort looking for unique and bold content and more effort in pushing those programs. Adult Swim is often #1 with 18-34 males on cable. They are in that sense a leader in the industry. It is time they started acting like one rather than ride on the coat tails of their few moderate successes. Some of which were not even mostly their doing.

It is well passed time for the “Adult” in Adult Swim to mean something.

  1. Jeff Harris says:

    The thing about Adult Swim is that the name and the brand means nothing any more. The name was basically tacked on as a warning that, at least during that two-hour period, all kids out of the Cartoon Network pool. The adults are taking over. After their time in the pool was done, programming was back to normal Cartoon Network fare.

    The brand is populated by sophomoric fratboy humor across 9/10 shows, shonen titles that are largely kids shows amped up for an adult audience with more cursing, and King of the Hill and Cowboy Bebop repeats.

    Adult Swim needs more shows like Cowboy Bebop, one of the few programs that has been around as long as the block has and the longest-running series not produced by Williams Street. It doesn’t even have to be from Japan. Cartoon Network could get a domestic producer like Titmouse, Film Roman, or even sibling company Warner Bros. Animation to produce a serious dramatic series or a serious Bebop-esque comedic action series.

    I’d love WBA to dip into that DC Entertainment well they have by adapting darker comic titles like Sgt. Rock, Doctor Occult, The Outsiders, Doom Patrol, or The Spectre, Vertigo titles like 100 Bullets, Sandman, The Invisibles, Books of Magic (before there was Harry Potter, there was Tim Hunter), Swamp Thing, Hellblazer, Codename: Knockout, or Y: The Last Man, Wildstorm titles like Gen 13, The Authority, and Wildcats (seriously, I’d like a Wildcats title closer to the comics than the previous series ever was, or Zuda titles like High Moon, Bayou, LaMorté Sisters, Black Cherry Bombshells, or The Night Owls. Smarter, better, and definitely nothing you’d expect to see on Adult Swim.

    That’s probably why I want to see them.

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