The Network That Wasn’t There

Posted: June 1, 2010 by chdr in Animation, Animation Editorials, chdr

Ted Turner was a millionaire who sure loved his cartoons. His multimillion-dollar entertainment corporation bought the rights to Hanna-Barbera’s vast library of animation, MGM’s theatrical shorts, and even some of the older Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts. Ted had the content, but where was the venue? For a time, it was on other Turner networks such as TBS. Eventually, Turner decided to make a groundbreaking decision: the first all-cartoon network (imaginatively titled Cartoon Network), in the vein of the nation’s first all-news network, CNN (also by Turner), which had changed the television landscape over a decade ago. While CN wasn’t as successful and influential as CNN, it still continues to have a decent audience and has branched out into other ventures, such as original programming. Ted had left his namesake company shortly after conglomerate Time Warner purchased it. To his dismay, the classic cartoons that were his network’s original bread and butter were phased out more and more for newer material, eventually shoving the classics (what few that remained) to graveyard slots, with the exception of perennial favorites Scooby-Doo and Tom & Jerry, which continue to air on the network to this day. By this point, the tired, overplayed classics were seen as anchors holding the network back from its ambitions, and the executives needed a way to cut them loose. Enter Boomerang.

Boomerang is as old as the network itself, and had gone through a slow, eight-year metamorphosis prior to its current form. Boomerang started at the network’s 1992 launch as a retro-themed block of programming for baby boomers dedicated to showing classic cartoons. Unfortunately for Boomerang, the entire network had nothing but classic cartoons, making it just another unremarkable stretch of programming. The block’s apparent uselessness made it constantly moved around the schedule over the years, but it never died. Over the years, as CN gained more content outside the initial Turner library, Boomerang’s programming became more unique to the block. Eventually, Boomerang became one of the only places on the network to find classics. They even decided to change the block’s format to a year-by-year themed showcase (for example, if one weekend’s theme was 1974, only shows from 1974 would play). This history of being CN’s enduring go-to block for classics made it the perfect candidate f0r a spin-off network. It was a brilliant idea on paper. The execs could finally remove classics off their network, and fans of classics could watch a network dedicated to classics, tailor-made for them. It was a win-win situation.  While Boomerang the block slowly faded away by 2004 (thus beating Toonami by one year as CN’s longest-running block), it seemed that Boomerang the network would be going strong for years to come.

But things on paper don’t work as planned, and Boomerang began to stagnate. Variety eventually began to lessen. Schedule changes became sparse and new additions non-existent. The classics began to cycle tiredly without end. Eventually, the network began to move from its “all classics, all the time” mantra by adding newer shows such as Pokémon and Justice League to the lineup. Nowadays, the channel is on auto-pilot, with the same line-ups, packaging, and shows cycling all the time, for years on end.

Something has got to change at Boomerang, sooner or later. Here are a few ideas on how.

1. Original programming

While originals were the death knell for CN’s classic cartoons, Boomerang might need it to stay afloat. While Boomerang should be dedicated towards the classics, that doesn’t necessarily mean that a network should be based around a stagnating lineup. Originals based on classics such as ToonHeads-esque shows chronicling the stories behind the cartoons or modern-day revivals of classic franchises would be right at home on the network without straying from its original purpose. The latter doesn’t seem all too farfetched, now that Cartoon Network has greenlighted revivals of Looney Tunes and the stable of MAD cartoons.

2. Acquisitions

On the note of new programming, CN wouldn’t even have to produce any new material. There are dozens of classic series not owned by Turner that haven’t been on television in years (such as Looney Tunes, hint hint). While Boomerang prides itself on being the home for classic cartoons, there are plenty of memorable classics that aren’t owned by Turner, or even from America. Acquiring other classics is another way to provide “new” content while keeping Boomerang as an oldies station.

3. More variety

Boomerang wouldn’t even have to pay for more content: they’ve got plenty in the vaults already. Of the hundreds of series Turner owns, most of them have hardly aired on both Cartoon Network and Boomerang. While a lot of them are admittedly not the best of quality, it’s better than cycling through the same 12 series year after year.

4. Go digital

If Boomerang isn’t going to produce, buy, or even show new programming, what’s the point of wasting expensive channel space? Instead of maintaining a channel on autopilot, Turner could easily convert the Boomerang brand into an ad-supported online streaming website. Due to the non-linear format of the website, Turner could easily put up their entire archives online and turn a quick profit without spending much cash.

5. Scrap it

Nothing is worse than a channel on auto-pilot. Cartoon Network could be doing something better with that channel space. If they don’t care enough about Boomerang to do anything with it, either use the space for something new or give it back to Turner for some other concept. Maybe CN could use the space for their live-action projects, like all the other Boomerangs in the world, or possibly an Adult Swim spin-off station. The sky’s the limit.

What are your thoughts on how to make Boomerang better?

  1. I think they should make it ad-supported but keep it as a network. I think it would be cool if they could set up something like the old Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner shows they used to have where they have blocks showing classic cartoons but featuring new in-between introduction segments featuring the characters.

  2. Jeff Harris says:

    All that sounds good, but I’d rather Boomerang revert to its block status on Cartoon Network, preferably as a daily mid-morning/early afternoon block. I’d use Boomerang’s existing space as a Cartoon Network Too-like format or a new kids network format that does combine live-action with animation. Or, you know, create a channel that’s all animation. That’d be nice. Funimation’s the only guys doing an all-animation format in this country.

  3. Jeff Harris says:

    Oh, forgot. I did have a plan for Boomerang. It’s an old plan, and one I hope to update in the weeks ahead:

  4. Kitty Bobo says:

    Moving it online is a great idea. But if they want it on TV at least rotate once in awhile. They air the same old junk all the time. Plus put some of the old CN Originals on the network.

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