Network Decay: Unique Situations
The channel’s decay either is in a situation where it doesn’t fit any of the other categories, or is constantly fluctuating between decaying and recovering.
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Cartoon Network's Situation
- If a channel can be given the title of "the MTV of the Internet Generation", that dubious honor would very likely belong to Cartoon Network, originally used as a showcase for classic Hanna-Barbera and Warner Brothers cartoons, but these were eventually replaced by an increasing number of original productions and anime; the Boomerang network was created to serve the original purpose of its parent network. The decision to run original programming created an era that is largely perceived as the network's Golden Age as well as becoming a major contributor to the The Renaissance Age of Animation, as it generated popular shows that broke out of the Animation Age Ghetto (like The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter's Laboratory) and helped fuel the anime boom at the turn of the century (thanks to Toonami and [adult swim]).
The good times were not to last, sadly. Although complaints of decay begun as early as 2004, when Cartoon Network changed its logo to the abbreviated "CN", it didn’t became much of an issue until they started airing live-action programming at the end of 2005 and throughout 2006. Then in late 2007, a major executive change in the network occurred when then-current president Jim Samples resigned over the controversy of the Boston Bomb Scare. Shortly thereafter, then-Vice President Jennifer Davidson passed away due to a sudden illness. This resulted in Cartoon Network’s two head honchos both being replaced by Stuart Snyder and Robert Sorchernote . It was clear that the once famed network was never going to be the same.
The network eventually (and randomly) phased out original series that were very popular; this was somewhat justified, however, as many of those series were out of first run. The problem is that they replaced these popular series, as well as older claasics such as the Looney Tunes and the prominent Hanna-Barbera shows (The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, etc) with mediocre shows and fewer original series; they even began running a small amount of live-action movies (though at the time, they were mercifully rare). The network fell deeper and deeper into Network Hell as its executives tried to turn it into a generic kids' network to compete with Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel — they killed Toonami (and its replacement, Miguzi) in complete defiance of what the viewers wanted, then replaced those blocks by starting to show live-action films on a more frequent basis. The decay also forced Adult Swim and Boomerang to decay as well, to heavy disdain by their fanbases, while also causing tension within the network, with many veteran animators either quitting or being handed their walking papers. This attempt to rebrand the network came to a head when CN Real, a block of live-action reality shows and scripted series, was created. To the surprise of nobody except the network higher-ups, CN Real tanked harder than anything the network had ever done before.
Realizing where they went wrong, the network has made a strong effort to return to their roots with reruns of Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, and the like as part of their regular weekday morning lineup, and they've been pitching high-quality new animated series to cater to a variety of interests, like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Adventure Time, and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated among others. The revivals of Cartoon Planet and Toonami also brings a silver lining in the clouds that Cartoon Network can return to its former glory in the fans' eyes. On the other hand, Executive Meddling is still very prevalent, as evidenced by the network's constant timeslot-shifting shenanigans and swift cancellations of highly acclaimed action shows such as Sym-Bionic Titan and ThunderCats (2011) as well as DC Nation's Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice. In addition, live-action shows still exist on the network, as evidenced by Level Up, Hall of Game, and Incredible Crew, but at least they are mercifully low in amount and not advertised as heavily as the newer animation projects. So, at this point, it's not completely out of its Dork Age yet, but it's getting there. With the cancellations of Level Up and Incredible Crew, the only real live action left that's still being made is Hall of Game (which is now nothing more an an annual Kids Choice Awards-esque Sports awards event.) The channel also routinely shows G-rated live action movies like Diary of a Wimpy Kid every Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon (this is mostly just for filler though). All in all, the channel is now just a small step away from going back to pure animation once again, but even if it never does, many fans are content with the channel being where it is now. It was announced the Stuart Snyder will be stepping down as CEO at the end of March 2014. There may be hope for this channel yet.
In the end, Cartoon Network is one of the most intriguing examples of Network Decay, if only because of how much of a rollercoaster ride the network's ridden in regards to the trope. CN could spend as much as eighteen months showcasing live-action shows, only to go back to animation the next day as if nothing happened — and just when you get comfortable with that, it'll return to live-action. This is likely due to the network's top executives being firm believers of the Animation Age Ghetto, which leaves one to wonder why they want to be in charge of a network devoted to animation in the first place.
- [adult swim], Cartoon Network's late night block, originally consisted of adult-oriented animation including seinen anime and animated comedy, as well as unedited versions of titles from the original Toonami block. While the block received some concerns about having an adult-oriented block on Cartoon Network, not to mention the weirdness of some of its programming, Adult Swim was well received and helped contribute to the "Golden Age" of Cartoon Network, as it generated popular and well acclaimed shows that broke out of the Animation Age Ghetto which includes strange but often hilarious original programming such as Robot Chicken, The Venture Bros., and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, helped fuel the anime boom at the turn of the century with titles such as Cowboy Bebop, FLCL, The Big O and InuYasha, as well as being a haven for shows that were previously Screwed by the Network such as Family Guy, Futurama, Home Movies, and Mission Hill and even helped boost their popularities to the point that they are now beloved by their parent companies again.
Unfortunately, these days were not to last. When Cartoon Network began to decay and sister block Toonami was canceled as a result, it was inevitable that Adult Swim was going to decay with it. Heck, the Boston Bomb Scare started out as an Adult Swim ad campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force so in an Unwitting Instigator of Doom, Adult Swim started this whole mess. One of the earliest instances of the decay was when Adult Swim ran Saved by the Bell for a week as a joke, inspired by complaints about their cheesier retro programming at the time as well as about live-action movies on the regular Cartoon Network. Fans were not happy about this and hoped it was just another one of Adult Swim's jokes, as Adult Swim has been a notorious Trolling Creator. But unfortunately, their fears were realized. The block's emphasis began to increasingly move into both original and imported live-action shows such as Childrens Hospital, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Delocated, and the UK version of The Office. While the live action Adult Swim shows have better critical reception than their Cartoon Network counterparts because they aren't just Discovery Channel ripoffs, these works and the decision to air live action has (not surprisingly) divided or enraged much of the fandom.
It didn't help that these live action shows were pushing out a number of animated shows, with (much like the main Cartoon Network) less animated originals being presented, along with an increasing over-reliance on FOX Acquisitions for viewership and filling timeslots. And that's not even the worst of it: mirroring Cartoon Network's decision of ending Toonami, the most glaring example of the decay has been the block's move away from anime. Once one of the main reasons to watch the block—if not the main reason why Cartoon Network had the guts to make Adult Swim in the first place—it's since been relegated exclusively to the Saturday Night-Sunday Morning timeslotsnote and has been considered to be an almost legendary example of not just the decay of Adult Swim, but Cartoon Network as a whole. Suddenly, the block that saved shows from being Screwed by the Network were now screwing its own shows over.
The "live-action instead of animation" slope, combined with their increasingly vocal disdain towards anime as well as their insults to their fans about the decay in their ad bumpers, have been enough to push many of its fans away. In fairness though, it's nowhere near as bad as a lot of the networks listed on Network Decay, as the presence of strong anime and animated comedy shows have managed to keep the block out of Total Abandonment and their fans clamoring for more. Adult Swim might have it worse than the rest of Cartoon Network when it comes to the "rollercoaster ride" the block rides in regards to this trope, due to the same constant schedule switching that has screwed over many of its titles, what's decaying one week can be on the upswing the next. They have also called Cartoon Network's decay out in the past, and even lampshade their own strange programming choices at times, so they're at the very least aware of their own "decay". We’d all love to know if Adult Swim is more on their way to Total Abandonment or Recovery, or if their executives are becoming advocates of the Animation Age Ghetto for that matter, but in the end, it’s really hard to make a call.
That said, Adult Swim has made one significant contribution to the recovery of CN as a whole. On April Fools' Day 2012, Adult Swim briefly replaced their normal Saturday night block with Toonami to rave reception, and after a huge fan campaign, brought back Toonami on a regular basis on May 26, 2012. Adult Swim was subsequently re-purposed as CN’s brand for adult animated comedy, while Toonami took over the duties of anime and mature action-animation once again, coincidentally bringing back the Midnight Run, the predecessor of Adult Swim in general in the process. While segregating anime and comedy into different blocks could be considered as Network Decay to some, note considering that the transition was already happening during the channel’s Dork Age, alongside that Toonami’s formula is more suited for showcasing anime, many have considered this only to be a good thing.
- Boomerang, Cartoon Network's classic animation channel, isn't running live-action programs (unless you count The Banana Splits) but it has apparently begun dumping its rules on how old a cartoon has to be in order for them to show itnote , and has also become rather hypocritical about which ones it shows. They're willing to run Baby Looney Tunes and Duck Dodgers (2002-05), but not the 1990s Looney Tunes spin-offs Taz-Mania or The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries the same unfortunately also goes for other 1990s Warner Bros. Animation fare like Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Histeria!!, despite this network having previously shown Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. This could be justified for some when you consider that many shows CN axed in the last decade were extremely popular, and Boomerang is a channel with a tendency to show popular cartoons that CN doesn't (Although this doesn't excuse why they won't show stuff like Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, which are still extremely popular to this day and have tons of fans wanting them back on air - in fact, those two shows in particular ended up getting licensed to The Hub, a rival network). Not to mention this will only become fairer over time, since Boomerang is meant to show Cartoon Network’s classics and Time Marches On along with the cut-off date.
To add insult to injury, there started to be an influx of commercials on the channel. There's only two types of commercials that they do show about their own programming: "Boomer-Royalty" and a random commercial about a show they air; all of the network's promotions are never updated, meaning a Powerpuff Girls promo from 2012 strangely has to coexist with a Huckleberry Hound ad which has been part of their promo loop since 2001. Everything else is promoting (mostly) live-action shows on Cartoon Network, which isn't helping. They never promote the airtime for shows if they AREN'T on CN. And if there's a special event coming up on CN, expect the parts between and after the show air the commerical at least once or twice.
- Latin America got it worse. It totally abandoned the classic shows format and became an equivalent of India's POGO, now showing programs aimed at teenage girls, including CN Real shows and many MTV shows like Parental Control and Date My Mom. Fortunately, they created Tooncast, which fulfills Boomerang's purpose.
- Compared to Cartoon Network’s other divisions, Toonami (and by extension, its former sister blocks such as Miguzi, Saturday Video Entertainment System, the action part of Adult Swim, etc.) has been very dependable in terms of sticking to its mission of showcasing anime and action cartoons. While there have been a few oddballs in rare occasions such as Hamtaro and Wulin Warriors (mainly due to Executive Meddling), such "experiments" were never really successfulnote . But after the Boston Bomb Scare and the infamous "CN Real" era came to prominence, unlike going down the Network Decay path like its sister entity Adult Swim had, CN would eventually can Toonami entirely due to flagging ratings—a direct result of moving the block to Saturdays only and reduced it to reruns and Naruto, which was at the time working through the now-infamous pre-Shippuden Filler Arc. Not surprisingly, folks have cited the downfall of Toonami as one of the lowest points of CN’s Dork Age (perhaps only rivaled by the rise of CN Real) and had a knock-on effect on anime’s popularity as a whole, as the loss of Toonami, considered to be one of the biggest Gateway Series to anime in general in the west, is considered to be a big contribution to the infamous ending of the 90’s-2000’s Anime Boom. Prior to 2012, the only legacy that was left of Toonami was Adult Swim’s anime block, which was reduced to Saturday nights and flooded with endless reruns.
Fortunately, as Cartoon Network started refocusing it's efforts on showcasing animation, on April Fools' Day 2012, Adult Swim briefly replaced their normal Saturday night block with Toonami to rave reception, and after a huge fan campaign, brought back Toonami on a regular basis on May 26, 2012, which is a very good sign that the channel overall could be returning to its roots. Presently, the revived Toonami is building off on the "remnants" of Adult Swim’s action block, but out of the gate, it's done its part to help revive anime in the west, as it has cemented such hits as Bleach, and Naruto, among others and even turned Deadman Wonderland - a program that tanked badly in Japan into a hit with a bonafide fanbase. And perhaps because of this success, they've even gotten the privilege of showing Space Dandy just before it is being broadcasted in Japan. Only time will tell how the next golden age for Toonami, and for that matter, the anime industry in general will take shape.
And you know what’s even more impressive? Perhaps as a response to the many animation related networks being some of the biggest examples of Network Decay, Toonami has been pretty adamant on avoiding a shift in their purpose, in a similar fashion to sister network TCM. While you can still see a live action show lingering around on regular CN and Adult Swim here and there perhaps due to executive persistence, Toonami has stated that they would like to avoid airing live action altogether on the block , which fortunately the parent network has obliged so far. Then again, it probably wouldn’t be feasible for CN to go through all the trouble of bringing back Toonami only to have it go down the Network Decay route, anyway. On that same topic, contrary to semi-popular belief, mostly by the more elitist anime fans that say that Toonami airing western action cartoons on the new block would count as Network Decay, fans and even the creators themselves have long said otherwise, with its long history of showcasing action toons cited as the reason. In fact, if Toonami were to air slice of life, non-action romantic comedies, or anime of the "Otaku Pandering" varieties unless said show can be consumed by general audiences, that actually would count as Network Decay (which Toonami doesn't plan on showing anyway).
- Asia has contributed to the Toonami revival efforts by launching a Toonami channel of its own in late 2012. However, Toonami Asia’s conception was through the decay and re-branding of its region’s Boomerang, which was the end result of CN Asia relegating all of their programming save for old classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons and Ben 10 to Boomerang and losing the purpose of both networks in the process. Eventually Boomerang Asia was canned, and CN Asia started working on an action cartoon channel. Do note that Toonami Asia was being conceived at a time when the conception of the revival of the US equivalent was still unknown, even to them, so their decision of using the Toonami brand was mainly because Asia has also had a Toonami block of its own, and also achieved success with an established fanbase to go with it, along with the fact that some of the channel’s heads have mentioned that they were/are also fans of the US equivalent.
Currently, the channel airs CN produced action cartoons and a couple anime titles, though their crew has stated that there are plans to air more anime and action cartoons in the future. It does help that the Asian crew are fans of the American crew’s work and would love to replicate their success, albeit in their own fashion (for example, to prevent messing with the continuity of the US equivalent, Toonami Asia has its own host, Nami, with her own story). Like the US equivalent, time will tell how their efforts will go.
- In the UK, Toonami previously had a channel of its own back during the channel’s "golden age", however, its fate wasn’t as fortunate. It started out as CNX as a channel devoted to shows that appealed to the American equivalent of shonen in the mornings and afternoons, with uncensored anime and kung fu movies later at night. However, its Toonami block, which was placed at CNX at the time, would quickly expand to take over the entire channel, which still fit the channel's original mission until they started showing live action. Since then, it eventually mutated into CN Too, which is actually marketed as a second Cartoon Network. Unfortunately at of 2014, there is presently no plans to revive Toonami in the UK at it's current venture.
- Asia’s Cartoon Network and Boomerang in the late 2000’s really had a problem in regards to where their programming was supposed to be placed, going to the point where all new shows premier on Boomerang Asia while Cartoon Network Asia restricted itself to airing mostly old classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons and Ben 10, with an occasional mix-up every now and then. Eventually Boomerang Asia was canned and eventually replaced with an Asian equivalent of Toonami and focused its mission on action shows while Asia’s regular CN shifted towards animated comedy, though the shenanigans of Ben 10 and old HB cartoons still remain.
- Meanwhile Cartoon Network has been stabilizing in the States in the last few years, sadly in Latin America this is not like this and it is making its way more properly into the Slipped and even in the Abandonment categories. During their earlier years, the channel was a reflection of its parent channel in the USA, until middle and late 90s when it started to became a little more different on their programming choices and acquiring other rights of what to air. Even around earlier 2000s they started to adquire many other fresh series of other interests such anime series as Pokémon, Card Captor Sakura or Rurouni Kenshin (it is a common say in Mexico that these series with those that were on the free networks, Fox Kids and even Nickelodeon went to aired, were what started a second rise of anime in Mexico), and some others to add in the progamming blocks before they went forward to add its own Toonami block in the programming.
Sure it is quite debatable when exactly it started to become into a Network Decay: for the animation fans, it was right away when anime entered into the schedule; for the otaku, when anime started to dissapear from the programming; or when all the attention of the channel went directly into their Cash Cow Franchise, Ben10.
First, it needs to be noted that the Latin American subsidiary has four different signals: one for Mexico, one for Argentina, another for Brazil, and one for the rest of the Latin American countries. Around late 2003, in Mexico, the anime programming in Toonami moved into late hours at night with some of the then new episodes of series like InuYasha because of complaints from parents that the channel was showing violence at the time it was airing the block (because it was the time that kids were just getting at home from school and/or doing homework), but not only that, the Mexican sponsors of the commercial breaks had a good regulation and patrol of this block, so rumors say that they were the ones who mandated to move the block until 12 AM. In late 2004, the rest of the Latin American signals followed its example and moved the block late at night.
In 2005, it was obvious that their licenses of anime started to decrease more and more, especially when Creator/Animax started to air. Around late 2005, CNLA announced that they were going to add [adult swim] into their weekend's late programming to fill the "dead" hours of Saturday and Sunday, however it also started some debates in internet sites and forums when people started it to compare with its original parent block that at the time they were still showing anime regularly. Of course, the guys behind the Latin American AS went into their way to laugh about this and people didn't like it. However, the destiny of the block went into the sewer when in some Latin American countries like Argentina, the block was censored by some cable operators and even separated from its own channel. One of the reasons was that kids were staying up so late to see AS when the programming was obviously not directed at them, but parents permitted them to see it. Eventually the block dissapeared completely from programming in 2007, and it was moved into their sister channel Isat (and eventually the block was ended for good in January 2011).
When Ben10 started being aired, it was obvious that the reception the cartoon had was enormous, even bigger than The Powerpuff Girls, so the channel decided to focus their attention to it and practically they went into airing it the most times they wanted. But the attention to only one series like Ben 10 affected others of their original shows as well, even when the schedule wasn't so full of it: the finals of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Codename: Kids Next Door and EVEN the 10th anniversary of The Powerpuff Girls were passed almost without a rerun that wasn't in their morning's Cartoon Cartoons block. And adding salt into the wound, the leftovers of Toonami went to be programmed even more further into the morning with even shows that were clearly not for 3 AM in the morning (4Kids' One Piece, and Ashita no Nadja to mention some examples), until the moment that only Pokémon and Naruto were left in the programming.
By 2008, the channel was reflecting its parent's Network Decay in the States. The schedules were made a mess, and though it had CN's original series and even showing Looney Tunes at late hours at night, no one left the note that Ben10 was in the whole schedule, at almost 10 times by day (and even it still has a whole hour dedicated for it some times in the same day, in the present). The programming then started showing live-action movies in their own spaces of movies and the reception was bad because it was completely abandoning its original concept. However, the presence of live-action was mostly limited to the movies and even then with the premiere of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, Unnatural History and even El Chavo del ocho (former CN Real shows like Destroy Build Destroy or Dude, What Would Happen? were released FOUR years after their premiere in the original channel). And let's not even start with the commercial breaks. For some reason or another, the commercial breaks started to become more longer than usual, airing in blocks of 15 minutes each, and even showing shorts in the middle of them.
At the time the channel passed into their own Noods era (Toonix era, whose characters conveniently are being used in merchanising and even in some other places as CN Japan) and a little bit before the Check It one (the Latin America signals were the LAST ones to get into it), the programming schedules were at least somewhat stabilized until the airings of Adventure Time and Regular Show... and all went into the drain again, when the channel started to be beaten up in ratings by kids channels like Disney Channel or Creator/Nickelodeon. CNLA, especially in 2012, to compete against them introduced other live action series (such as Level Up and even an original Latinamerican co-production with Televisa, called La CQ...) in the roots of the rise of tween sitcoms being more popular with kids these days.
As of 2013, the channel has been really in a rollercoaster since apparently it doesn't look like they know who is really their demography anymore... or The Powers To Be THINK they know who to appeal. Compared to CN in the States, it seems that they aren't going to come out of their own Dork Age yet.
Other "Unique Situations" examples:
- By their very nature, sports channels which consist of nothing but college and high school sports (such as ESPNU, the Fox and CBS college sports channels, and the Big Ten Network) must decay in the summer due to the lack of college and high school sports being played. This means that they either carry minor league summer sports or some programming which strays slightly from the format, or air rerun after rerun of football and basketball games played months ago and with all of the drama of a live event removed with a simple check of the team schedule or even looking at the event's guide listing, along with reruns of coach's shows which could be awkward if said coach has been terminated since the first airing of an event.
- Tennis Channel is in a similar situation. During major tournaments, particularly the four Grand Slams, it features nearly round-the-clock coverage, but at other times has to fill out its schedule with original programming — Tennisography, "classic" matches (sometimes cut down to half an hour), Best of 5, Destination Tennis (a travel show), but all tennis-related. The farthest the channel has drifted from its actual subject (except for the requisite late-night/early-morning filler of infomercials) is an occasional flirtation with badminton or ping pong, but as those are net sports they still easily count (since there will never be a market for The Badminton Channel in the States).
- CBS College Sports mutated into the CBS Sports Network, and still shows all their college programming (including NCAA events and analysis shows), joined mostly by Jim Rome's show (after he got Screwed by the Network by ESPN) and sports leagues too tiny to be taken by any other network like pro lacrosse, the Arena Football League (it too got screwed over by ESPN) and the NBA D-League. One night, they even aired college paintball; one begins to wonder if laser tag is on the horizon (of course, Neil Patrick Harris would have to host that).
- When Pittsburgh's local PBS note station WQED-13 first bought the former WENS-16 in 1959, it established a sister station, WQEX, in order to showcase educational programming it couldn't fit on the main channel. Then in the 1980's, after the original broadcast tower breaking necessitated a switch to colornote , WQED began running WQEX as its own station, showing imported British Sitcoms, reruns of old PBS shows such as Masterpiece Theatre, Movies, as well as Local oriented programming. The station became popular for this programming as well as its nightly sign-off, which featured "credits" that donors could have their name listed in. But during the 1990s, as the costs of writing original content, getting rights to broadcast the imports, and broadcasting increased, the station began to switch to a simulcast of WQED, save for some programming in the evening. As the new millennium dawned, WQED began having financial issues after the end of their old original show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, leasing out the station to the Home Shopping Network, then ShopNBC while looking for a permanent buyer. The station was finally sold to Ion Media Networks, looking to expand to the Pittsburgh market for the first time, and became WINP in 2010.
- GSN, originally called the Game Show Network, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with 1950s through 1980s classic game shows. At one time it wasn't unusual to find the likes of the black and white episodes of What's My Line? and To Tellthe Truth filling up a programming block known as "Black and White Overnight," and reruns of the CBS Password and the original ABC version of Family Feud with Richard Dawson as host. When GSN lost the rights to many of those shows, older games were banished, and classic game show fans refer to this as "The Dark Period." When the network got a new management team, GSN brought the older shows back and even added few, like reruns of the Peter Marshall version of The Hollywood Squares and the original version of Press Your Luck. In addition, the network began concentrating on its own first run shows like Lingo and Whammy, in an effort to pull in younger demographics. While it's still not unusual for the network to remake game shows, older fare like the original The Hollywood Squares has become rare again. Still, Match Game reruns from the series' 1973-81 run have managed to remain a staple of the network. (Note that it's not unusual for fledgling cable networks to fill up their schedules with old movies or reruns of old TV shows, as they build a network and find ways to attract younger, 18-34 demographics. Even Comedy Central once reran ancient 1950s series featuring the likes of Steve Allen and Spike Jones as they built a network with first run fare like Mystery Science Theater 3000.)