Going Full Circle With Cartoon Network


Brandon is the Editor-in-Chief and President of Maglomaniac. He is the author of the Eat Your Serial title Ten Years Gone: Pomp and Circumstance, as well as the columns Child's Play, Nerd's Eye View, Letters to Jeremy, Irate Educator, The Audio Files, and The Dao of Ninjape, among others.

I remember how excited I was over 20 years ago when Cartoon Network was first starting to make the rounds on cable television. As a nerdy kid, a 24-hour channel of cartoons was absolutely perfect for me. I remember the TV guide ads taunting me to “call my cable provider”. This, of course, was long before the death of Saturday morning cartoons; sometimes the only way to watch a good cartoon was to wait until Saturday.


The Original Cartoon Network is more like what Boomerang became.


Sure, we still had the Disney Afternoon, early morning syndication cartoons, and things like that but the idea that there would be a channel of cartoons all the time…that was great. Like a daily Saturday–what kid wouldn’t want that? As it turned out, much of the original programming were series that I was not entirely familiar with. Shows like the Perils of Penelope Pitstop, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, and the Smurfs were franchises I had been familiar with but were not my normal cartoon fare. In fact, they were more likely the fare of my parents.


The Disney Afternoon gave us new series in syndication during the week. While the memories are great, they weren’t quite Saturday Morning quality.


It didn’t take long for CN to catch up and offer increasingly modern titles culminating around 1997 or 1996 with the first wave of “What A Cartoon” titles like Dexter’s Lab, Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo. These series brought new blood to a Hanna-Barbera line that seem to have stagnated at some point after the Jetsons.


The What A Cartoon Show spawned such notable series as Dexter’s Lab and Powderpuff Girl and has a pilot by Seth MacFarlane which was clearly a porto-Family Guy


That said it’s been some years since Cartoon Network’s daytime line up has been aimed at me. The obvious exception being the Adult Swim line up that brought a Renaissance to the after midnight crowd of animation loving stoners. Shows like Camp Lazlo and My Partner Is a Gym Monkey held no particular appeal to me except for maybe some reminiscent reminder of Camp Candy or something like that.


Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast kicked off a generation of Adult themed late night cartoons.


Day time Cartoon Network programming, however, remains targeted at kids and specifically seems to be targeted at my kids. It seems that in the intermittent time that I was not watching their daytime programming, CN got a little zany…and maybe some of the success of the Adult Swim shows trickled into daytime programming.


I’ve started to notice that these newer Cartoon Network series  are completely absurd in ways that make both me and my children laugh. I’ve found myself laughing especially hard at Regular Show which seems to be a transitional step between shows Dexter’s Lab and midnight skewed Adult Swim programming.
Series such as Adventure Time and The Amazing World of Gumball bank on the absurd as they enter into a wonderful world of fantasy that is at once completely slapstick and immature, but ccan only stem from intelligence. It makes me think of brilliant people like Mel Brooks in that they are coming from that same school of being intelligent enough to write something absolutely silly and stupid.

These new shows offer absurd fantasy and comedy for children of all ages.

These new shows offer absurd fantasy and comedy for children of all ages.

Shows Teen Titans Go appeal to the comic book nerd in me with reverence to the Jorge Perez 1980s era Teen Titans. Teen Titans Go is especially zany providing episodes that often have no ending or continuity while still remaining remarkably consistent and offering many easter eggs for comics fans.

With the classic 1980s line up Teen Titans Go both is reverent to the comics and its early 2000s anime style counterpart...except totally insane.

With the classic 1980s line up Teen Titans Go both is reverent to the comics and its early 2000s anime style counterpart…except totally insane.

Some might argue that my three and four-year-old really aren’t in the market for some of these cartoons… however I wasn’t in the market for a lot of the shows that I watched as a kid either. The Muppets (and Sesame Street for that matter) always had in jokes that were aimed at the at the adults to facilitate simultaneous entertainment opportunities for adults and children. While I wouldn’t go so far as to compare the programming on Cartoon Network to the Muppets or Sesame Street, they certainly have that cross generational appeal and the brand appeal that has been passed from parent to child.

Just when I thought I had gone through my cycle from child to adult with Cartoon Network, I’ve found myself back at the start again, with zany new characters to enjoy and many worlds of laughter and wonder to share with my own kids.

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