| [adult swim]: A (not so) Brief History

[adult swim]: A (not so) Brief History

By February 2, 2013
  0

Unless I’m staying somewhere without cable or a hotel that (inexplicably) doesn’t provide certain channels (and yes, both these things STILL exist), every night without fail I end the night by watching Cartoon Network’s late night programming known as the joy the world knows as [adult swim].

Originally born as a small block of programming, Adult Swim was created for teens and young adults who Cartoon Network thought (and were) watching their channel after 11pm and experimented with the late-night schedule by airing shows like ToonHeads and Late Night Black and White, both programs airing uncensored classic cartoon shorts. Remember the Looney Tunes short where the cat shot himself at the end when he saw a flea walk by carrying a serving platter with Porky Pig and his pet dog with tag that read “Blue Plate Special” but years later was edited out? Yeah, you could see that there.

Space Ghost Coast To Coast

Back in December of 2000, future Adult Swim producers and network programmers Williams Street (formerly known as Ghost Planet Industries) did what’s known as “stealth premieres”, meaning they premiered shows like Sealab 2021, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and The Brak Show without any notice while the schedule itself said “special programming” in order to test the waters of the viewing public.

Adult Swim’s OFFICIAL premiere actually occurred the following year on September 2, 2001 with the kickoff episode being Season 1 Episode 6 of Home Movies titled “Director’s Cut”. Fun fact: Home Movies was created and the lead character named after and voiced by Brendon Small, who went on to create the massive Adult Swim hit show, Metalocalypse!

AS became known as the “go-to” network for previously cancelled (or soon to be cancelled) cartoons from other networks to go so that seasons could “finish out” (like the first season and only season of Mission Hill) or weren’t allowed to be aired on their own network (Family Guy episode titled “When You Wish Upon A Weinstein”).

Taking their name from when children weren’t allowed in the pool for a couple of hours so that grown-ups could freely swim laps or whatever without distractions, Adult Swim’s programming block originally aired two nights a week; once on Sunday with the same block of shows re-airing again on Thursday and always began the same way…

Much like Nickelodeon’s nighttime programming known as Nick at Nite, Turner Broadcasting made the fine decision in 2005 to split Adult Swim from Cartoon Network altogether so it could be treated as a separate channel and therefore recognized by Nielsen Media Research, home of the Nielsen Ratings (which shows how many people are watching any given television programming at any given time).

Adult Swim is also known for breathing new life into shows that had been previously cancelled or in serious danger of being cancelled. When it was known that Family Guy was once again in danger of being cancelled in 2003, Adult Swim began airing reruns of previous episodes and OWNED the late night viewing numbers by boosting viewership by 239 percent and by March was saved by FOX when it was renewed for a fourth season. Even the Family Guy writers acknowledged the awesomeness that is AS with a fake bump of their own during an episode that aired on FOX.

This was also the case with previously cancelled sci-fi animated comedy Futurama, which AS began airing in January of 2002. In 2006, Twentieth Television produced four direct-to-video feature length movies and in 2009 was brought back from the dead once again and in 2010 found a new home in Comedy Central leaving show creator Matt Groening to remark “There’s a long, regal history of misunderstood TV shows, and to Fox’s credit, the studio looked at the ratings on the Cartoon Network and how the show does overseas, and saw that there was more money to be made.”

The best news I’ve heard (but am STILL waiting for it to come to fruition) is the return of The Oblongs (starring Will Ferrell and Jean Smart); show creator Angus Oblong says it’s coming back but as of 2010, we’ve still not seen anything!

Adult Swim has also set aside saturday nights for their block of anime programming and thanks to a well-placed April Fools’ Day joke last year in which they played bumps from former Cartoon Network programming block known as Toonami, one month later Toonami did indeed return to Saturday nights beginning May 26th with the rally cry “Toonami is BACK, bitches.”

AS has seen their fair share of hilarious yet costly trouble, too, most notably on January 2007 with the infamous Boston Bomb Scare (aka Boston Mooninite Scare), where two men, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens were arrested after several reports of “suspicious packages” were sighted throughout the city and the men found themselves facing the charge of “Placing a hoax device to incite panic” and “disorderly conduct”. In February of the same year, AS’s parent company and marketing firm Interference Inc paid $2 million ($1 million to the city, $1 million to charity) and four days later Cartoon Network general manager and executive VP Jim Samples resigned his post.

The “suspicious package”? A friggin MOONINITE billboards (pictured above) from the Adult Swim hit Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Unbelievably, Turner Broadcasting THEN had to release a statement to The Boston Globe stating “The ‘packages’ in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger. They are part of an outdoor marketing campaign in 10 cities in support of Adult Swim’s animated television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. They had been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards. We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger.

Troublemaking and AMAZING April Fools’ Day pranks aside, Adult Swim continues to push the outer limits by offering other outlets for fans including their official website, albums featuring music from artists used in their bumps, merchandise (now gone but will hopefully return someday) and their amazingly fun flash games and mobile apps like Robot Unicorn Attack, Amateur Surgeon, Floater Pro and Monsters Ate My Condo.

If you haven’t played this game yet, you NEEDS to.

Adult Swim’s success has gone global with versions of their channel and website available in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, India, Pakistan, Latin America, Poland, Russia, United Kingdom and Ireland. 

Not ever one to shy away from a challenge, most of Adult Swim’s original animated shows are 15 minutes in length and in the last few years began to add stop motion animation (Robot Chicken, Morel Orel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole) and live-action programs like Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, Childrens Hospital, Eagleheart, NTSF:SD:SUV (and most recently, Newsreaders) to their programming block and haven’t looked back.

Twelve years later, Adult Swim’s gone from just a couple hours two days a week to NINE hours every night and with no signs of stopping, are still offering new and edgy shows on the regular like The Boondocks, Black Dynamite, Off The Air and beyond.

As long as Adult Swim lives and breathes, it will forever be my ever changing roster of bedtime stories…hell, I even had a bump of my own appear on the channel many moons ago when I accused them of being “mac-o-phobes when they changed the format of their site, leaving it VERY mac unfriendly (trust me, I SEARCHED but couldn’t find an image anywhere) and signed it under the pen name “NeonOneRei”. You also can’t imagine how happy I am that Adult Swim shows will pop up in Netflix Instant Queue in a couple of months!! YAAAAY!

I could seriously talk about Adult Swim ALL DAY LONG (and have) but as I’ve said, this is a BRIEF (too late) history.

All you really need to remember about Adult Swim is this:

I love you, [adult swim]; you complete me. Eskimo kisses.

Cricket Lee
Star Wars fangirl. Named Best Kisser by Time Magazine. CEO/Host: Girl Gamer; host of Gecken: GeekNation; writer: Dread Central. You'll have a crush on me soon. Vote Quimby. Twitter: @crixlee http://www.imdb.me/crixlee