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like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain
put down the peyote, adult swim is on
by russ carr (@DocOrlando70)

Remember "Family Guy"?

You know, cartoon about this fat guy, kinda resembled Michael Moore. Talking dog, megalomaniacal infant, basically made "The Simpsons" look about as threatening as "Davey and Goliath."

When FOX (motto: "Schedule? Season? What?") dumped Seth MacFarlane's anarchic little toon to save money for more script-free goodness, a lot of fans were pretty miffed. Or as little Stewie might say...

[one hour later]

Oh. Sorry. Got distracted looking for Stewie quotes on IMDb. My cheeks are sore from laughing. No, the cheeks of my face.

Or as little Stewie might say, "They're getting nude! I mustn't watch, it's not the proper thing to... Wow! I say, nice ones, Janine! And look at Lisa in all of her curvaceous glory! Heavens, it appears that my weewee has been stricken with rigor mortis!"


But better days now, as smarter people than FOX execs snagged "Family Guy" from the trash and found a new home for it as warm and cozy as Bill Clinton's humidor.

A simple black screen with plain white text welcomes you, six nights a week. This is Adult Swim, on Cartoon Network.

Now I'm a fan of Cartoon Network in general. They show old Tex Avery toons and "Dexter's Lab." "Justice League" isn't quite as good as the first run of Batman and Superman cartoons from the '90s, but to a guy who grew up with "Super Friends" and...

Hey, remember "Super Friends"? Wow, didn't they take like the coolest, strongest heroes and turn them into complete pussies? And politically correct. Used to be all the superheroes were white guys (except for Wonder Woman). But then one Saturday, there was the black guy, and the Indian guy, and the Japanese guy. And they all had really sucky powers.

"I left the Super Friends because they were always pairin' me up with a white superhero, like I was gonna start super-lootin' the minute their backs were turned. And do you think I wanted to call myself 'Black Vulcan'? Hell, no. Black Vulcan was Aquaman's idea, and I'm thinking... Well, why don't we just call you 'White Fish'."


So Cartoon Network grabbed "Family Guy" and "Futurama" from FOX, and plugged them into their Adult Swim lineup. So named because the cartoons aren't exactly what you want the kiddies watching, unless you're an extremely cool parent or drunk uncle. They say "penis" an awful lot. Mostly it's a lot of satire that just goes way over the head of anyone without that special satire gene, of which I have three.

I got turned on to Adult Swim when a buddy hooked me up with tapes of an old Japanese anime (that's a Japanese word that means, loosely, "cartoons with nudity, guns, breasts, robots, cigarettes, guns and spaceships..and guns") called "Cowboy Bebop." Incredible stuff. Not so much the funny. Mostly tragic, actually. An animated drama. They've got a couple of 'em on the schedule, all of which were made in Japan and most of which feature lots of guns, maybe some giant robots, and, again, perky tits and skimpy clothes for all the ladies.

But Adult Swim's true strength lies in making sausage.

Like "Sealab 2021." They took the touchy-feely hug-the-whales "Sealab 2020" show (orig. 1972), chopped all the episodes to bits, did new voice overs, and turned it into a chaotic headtrip. Last night's episode, they destroyed Earth just to spite those chumps up in Spacelab. Token blonde Debbie DuPree greets visitor Famous Hollywood Actor Beck Bristol with a perfunctory "I am soaking wet." (Funny. Her clothes were dry. What's up with that?) And hey, one of the characters is voiced by Erik Estrada. Too cool!

Next, with pretty much the whole Hanna-Barbera universe to abuse, the degenerate hosts of Adult Swim have taken the wholesome innocent characters of our youth and sold 'em out as displaced naifs in a world of wholesale mental sodomy.

Take, for example, "Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law." Harv (then known only as Birdman) led his own cartoon superteam back in '67. But that fell apart when those freaking hippies dosed the animators' Tang with LSD. So Harvey got a law degree, and now he defends other toons in court. Shaggy and Scooby busted for controlled substances? Call Harvey Birdman! Grape Ape accused of using steroids in the Laff-A-Lympics? Call Harvey Birdman! Race Bannon suing life partner Dr. Benton Quest for custody of Jonny Quest and Haji? Call Harv...ah, you get the idea.

But what's best about all these cartoons, from "Family Guy" to "Sealab" is their complete lack of mercy.

Debbie DuPree: Are you the dying kid?
Griff: I, uh... I, um...
Debbie DuPree: You stutter too? Could you have worse luck?

Gold! You can't get dialogue like that on "King of the Hill." Plot is secondary. It's like porn; there's just enough plot to move the snark along. Stream of consciousness, baby.

Adult Swim has other shows, but they don't matter. Like "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," about a superhero team made of a box of fries, a lump of meat and a frosty shake. Or "The Big O," which, despite the implication of the name and being anime, has scarcely any nudity at all, but does feature really big robots as phallic compensation.

No, really, they're good. All the shows are Emmy material. I'm only kertwanging.

Adult Swim is television at its cleverest, most irreverent, and least meaningful. It's what you watch when you've got a bottle of tequila, a case of Hostess Cupcakes and no potential sex partners. Lucky for you, that's why it's on almost every night.

Because they care.

[adult swim]


If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.

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erik myers
6.25.04 @ 7:54a

Goddamnit, now I want my cable back. I didn't know they were picking up 'Family Guy' that makes Adult Swim even BETTER, now.

Hear, hear to this column. I think that the people who write SeaLab 2021 and Aqua Teen Hunger Force have got to be some of the absolute best comedic writers on television. Sure, sometimes they're a little random, but they are non-sequiter GENIUSES.

adam kraemer
6.25.04 @ 8:00a

Adult Swim rules. "Family Guy" rules Adult Swim.

russ carr
6.25.04 @ 8:06a

Not only are they picking up Family Guy, they're making NEW episodes.

mike julianelle
6.25.04 @ 9:04a

I like Family Guy, but I think it gets a bit...repetitive after a while. And it doesn't hole a candle to The Simpsons. Come on now.

mike julianelle
6.25.04 @ 9:06a

Agua Teen is hilarious. And while it took me a while to warm up to Futurama, it's pretty damn funny as well. Calculon, the robot actor, and the Robot Devil, are AWESOME!

tracey kelley
6.25.04 @ 9:34a

Good gravy, much of this went right over my head.

adam kraemer
6.25.04 @ 10:17a

Actually, Family Guy has consistently been funnier than the lion's share of the Simpsons episodes the last couple of seasons. In my opinion, anyway.

Peter: "Superman! What are you doing in Hell?"
Superman: "Oh, I killed a hooker. She said something about my being faster than a speeding bullet, so I ripped her in half like a phonebook."

mike julianelle
6.25.04 @ 10:24a

No doubt that the Simpsons is like a different, much worse show over the past few seasons, but I just think Family Guy is one note in its non-sequiter offensiveness and pop culture name-dropping. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the show, but it enjoys a perception of sophistication that is really quite superficial.

joe procopio
6.25.04 @ 10:32a

You had me until you said that Aqua Teen Hunger Force didn't matter.

Sweet Lord, that show is funny.

"Wait! Where you goin'? You haven't even urinated all over my house yet!"

Carl is a god.

heather millen
6.25.04 @ 10:40a

I love Stewie.

mike julianelle
6.25.04 @ 10:47a

Carl is a god. And I think Russ was being facetious with that "don't matter" line.

jael mchenry
6.25.04 @ 10:52a

Family Guy is completely hit or miss. When it misses, I hate it, it's meaninglessly offensive. When it's gold:

(sing to the tune of the Oompa Loompa song) --

What do you think when you're stuck in a chair/
Finding it hard to go up and down stairs/
What do you think of the one you call God/
Isn't his absence slight-ly odd?/
(Maybe he's forgotten you).

mike julianelle
6.25.04 @ 10:55a

Perfectly put, Jael. And great song to boot!

brian anderson
6.25.04 @ 11:32a

Yeah, I have to agree with Jael on that point. And Mike, too -- while Family Guy is funny, it tends to milk the same sort of humor.

It's also Cartoon Network's second shot at MacFarlane. Their What a Cartoon show (which aired the first pilot shorts of what became the series "Dexter's Laboratory" and "The Powerpuff Girls") also included a MacFarlane short, "Larry and Steve," which were essentially the Peter and Brian characters.

Sealab 2021, though, is the bomb yo. The robot bodies episode is one of my total favorites for hanging together with complete logic but total irrelevance.

russ carr
6.25.04 @ 11:43a

I wasn't being facetious. They all SUCK! Sealab 24/7! And big chainsaw hands!

matt morin
6.25.04 @ 12:11p

When do you people find time to watch this much TV?

mike julianelle
6.25.04 @ 12:14p

When we're not watching reality shows, snob.

matt morin
6.25.04 @ 12:18p

Seriously, I can't think of a single show on TV that's good enough to make a point to watch.

Except Giants baseball and Sportscenter.

joe procopio
6.25.04 @ 12:44p

Alvis Day!

Russ, watch Super Spore or the Broodwich episodes again. Or the Jiggle-Belly one with David Cross. Or the Mooninites with what I believe is an unbilled Will Ferrell.

russ carr
6.25.04 @ 12:47p

"Hello. My name is Matt Morin and I'm addicted to reality TV." M. Morin, 2/27/02

Just sayin'.

mike julianelle
6.25.04 @ 12:50p

The Mooninites were HILARIOUS! What's this David Cross one you mention?

matt morin
6.25.04 @ 1:14p

"Hello. My name is Matt Morin and I'm addicted to reality TV." M. Morin, 2/27/02

Russ, maybe you don't change any in two and a half years, but some people actually do.

I'm just sayin'.

mike julianelle
6.25.04 @ 1:15p


russ carr
6.25.04 @ 1:18p

Only my undies, Matt.

jael mchenry
6.25.04 @ 3:59p

Seriously, I can't think of a single show on TV that's good enough to make a point to watch.

Do you have HBO? There's some thunderous awesomeness on HBO.

mike julianelle
6.25.04 @ 4:02p


russ carr
6.25.04 @ 4:35p

Someone on Craigslist made the same connection, Jael, albeit without needing the awkward segue provided by those who are above television.

His point was that HBO (and in this case, Cartoon Network) are finding that niche programming can work extremely well. In the case of HBO, they can present radical dramas that just wouldn't work as watered-down network chum. (Related aside: I predict that the expurgated version of "Sex in the City" will fail for TBS.) In the case of Cartoon Network, there's stuff you can do with animation you simply can't do with "real" production (plus there's the savings of not needing a flashy cast).

Cartoon Network took the risk, with so-bad-it's-good programming, shows that only run 15 minutes, and the cost-effectiveness of re-running the entire three hour block. It's insane -- but it works!

russ carr
6.25.04 @ 4:38p

Oh...and to add... when you get reactions like Erik's first comment above, that's even more evidence of the success of said niche programming. It's not just "I want cable," now it's "I want cable so I can watch 'Deadwood' or '6FU' or 'ATHF' or 'Family Guy'." That's a huge boost to the cable channels, that people are actually seeking out their programming.

jael mchenry
6.25.04 @ 4:59p

Actually I believe the expurgated S&tC premiered with the highest numbers ever for syndicated show on basic cable. But I could be wrong.

Hell, I'd watch it, if I could find TBS in and among all the other niche dreck. That's the downside of niche: 25 channels you don't care about, for one you do.

brian anderson
6.25.04 @ 5:04p

Back in the days when I had cable -- before I decided that I couldn't justify the cost with how little I watched -- I set it up by asking the phone rep "What's the cheapest package I can get that has Cartoon Network and the Sci-Fi Channel?" (Before too long, SFC would have been dropped from that question.) It's definitely a niche-oriented product, which makes me wonder how hard/easy it would be to offer a "choose your channels" package on cable, where you pay $3.99 a month (or whatever) per service. "I want HBO, ESPN2, and The Food Network." The cable companies wouldn't like the removal of the huge package deals, but they could pick up customers they didn't have, and they could learn what sells, so they could target their commercials and broadcasting rights better.

russ carr
6.25.04 @ 5:06p

I'd guess a lot of people who didn't have HBO were tuning in to see what all the hoopla was about. Let's look again in a month or so.

Stations like TBS or USA, which are pretty much just syndicated clearinghouses, all run together. Kinda like how I can't tell the difference between Bravo and Style and HGTV and half a dozen other channels that all seem to be doing interior decorating shows.

Fortunately, Cartoon Network is a relatively unique property. The only other full-time animation channel that I'm aware of is Disney's...and their toons are about as far from Adult Swim as Will & Grace is from Queer As Folk...

mike julianelle
6.25.04 @ 5:23p

Premium Cable channels are all about shows that drive subscriptions up, the rest is just filler. That's why Sopranos and Sex and the City were such a motherload for HBO. Without a doubt, Sopranos was THE TV SHOW in the post-Seinfeld era. It was the watercooler show that TV needed, and it DID drive up subscription numbers for HBO and has since driven the other premiums to create their own shows, and even basics like F/X, which has done well for itself with The Shield and Nip/Tuck. In the 80s, HBO was for movies, but now, who cares about movies on cable at at all? It's all about original programming.

And speaking to Brian's point, I think cable companies have already started breaking up those package buys, at least to the point where they stop packaging HBO/Showtime/Starz and started packaging HBO/HBO2/HBOKids/HBOComedy, etc.

joe procopio
6.25.04 @ 5:59p

makes me wonder how hard/easy it would be to offer a "choose your channels" package

Unfortunately Brian, as you might suspect, the big guns justify the little players. So the popularity of, say, ESPN, props up ESPN2.

It's easy to do a la carte subscription with digital, but then something like 100 cable channels would simply evaporate.

robert melos
6.25.04 @ 9:08p

I got into Adult Swim because it was mentioned several times on the boards here, and decided to check it out. Come to think of it, Russ was the one who mentioned it.

I defnintely get into Harvey Birdman and Sealab2021. Aqua Teens is very strange. Cowboy Bebop is another thing I discovered through Intrepid Media. I really got into that. The whole anime thing is fascinating. I've stumbled across several different anime creations on other cable networks as well. The artwork is amazing.

I don't really make a point of watching much television. Six Feet Under, Queer As Folk, Stargate SG-1 are the main programs I try not to miss. Other than those, there isn't much I like on TV. I hate, make that HATE, reality television. I watch TV to escape reality, back biting, back stabbing, in-fighting, and general nastiness of everyday existence.

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