Kids, Stay Out of the Water:
It’s Time for Adult Swim
By: Marcial Robiou
Talking fast food items. A Perry Mason-type lawyer who is half-man and half-bird. Bumbling sea explorers. This doesn’t sound like a mega-hit lineup for a network, but then again, Cartoon Network isn’t your ordinary, um, network. For years they were only known as “the place to watch old Yogi Bear and Magilla Gorilla cartoons,” but now it is something much more: a rival with enough ratings power to scare NBC and the other big-time networks into a frenzy.
Why are NBC, FOX and the others in awe of Cartoon Network? Largely because of a block of late-night programming called “Adult Swim.” The brainchild of Mike Lazzo, Adult Swim continuously ranks number one in its time slot among viewers age 18-34 (the target audience advertisers crave), beating Leno by 36% and Letterman by an astonishing 87%.
Who is Lazzo, some MBA marketing whiz from Harvard? Not quite. A high-school dropout, he created Adult Swim in 1994 with Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, a campy parody of a late night talk show that starred the washed-up cartoon figure Space Ghost as a, well, washed-up cartoon figure who got into the late night game. Sitting behind his desk in white tights and mask, his celebrity interviews were merely old footage spliced with new footage while he and his late night show crew (Moltar, Brak and other characters from his 1960’s cartoon) poked fun at them. It got good word of mouth, and Cartoon Network liked that it cost peanuts to produce, so Lazzo expanded Adult Swim to have more shows. It all came to fruition when Turner Broadcasting bought Cartoon Network in 1996.
In 2003, Adult Swim kicked it into high gear when they bought the rights to the defunct Fox cartoons Futurama and Family Guy. Whereas on Fox they shifted time slots like musical chairs, Lazzo kept them on Mondays-Thursdays starting at 11pm, and instant cult following began. They then released DVDs of both shows, which went on to place in the Top 20 of best selling DVDs for that year, and prompted Fox to order new episodes of Family Guy which are supposed to air in January of 2005.
Although both shows are mainstays of Adult Swim, new shows are thriving, with their current cash cows being Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, a Perry Mason-type show that features 1960’s cartoon hero Harvey Birdman as a lawyer defending famous cartoon figures in a court of law. Airing Saturday through Thursday from 11pm to 5am Eastern Time, Adult Swim continues to be one of the funniest and smartest lineups on cable and looks like it will be around for a long while.
AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE
No teens or water involved. In fact, don’t ask what this is about, you have to watch.
The crew of the 1972 Sealab 2020 has been replaced with a band of lowlifes who don’t even know that they’re doing. Hilarity ensues.
A Parody in the vein of Johnny Quest, the Venture brothers are two sissies who, with their hateful father, the brilliant Dr. Venture and his bodyguard Brock Samson, face many adventures, if they can only keep themselves in one piece.