When Cartoon Network first came onto the scene it was owned by the Turner Network and had access to the entire Turner library of animation. This included a large chunk of Warner Brothers cartoons (Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies up to 1948) and (I believe) the entire Hanna-Barbera library (Scooby-Doo, Flintstones, etc). Naturally Cartoon Network became to be known as just a network that reran old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Frustrated with this image, Mike Lazzo (a producer at CN) asked Turner if they could create their own shows.

Turner did not want to spend any more money on the network so told them they had to use what they already had. Thus was born "Space Ghost Coast to Coast", a show that reused bits of animation from an old H-B cartoon ("Space Ghost" naturally) but set the hero as a late-night talk-show host, added an alien sidekick (from the original show), spliced in bits of interviews with celebrities and laced the show with a surreal strain of humour. Thus was born the late night "Adult Swim" block of programming within the Cartoon Network schedule.

The Adult Swim block became popular with teens and young adults such that more shows were created over the years (Sealab 2021, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law).

Two Fox cartoon shows that didn't fair as well as The Simpsons were added to the Adult Swim block: Futurama and The Family Guy. In particular, reruns of The Family Guy on Cartoon Network experienced an intense surge of popularity with college students, showing ratings that were beating Letterman and Leno. This surge in popularity was proven when The Family Guy DVDs were released and demand far exceeded Fox's initial hopes. Thanks to this turn of events, NEW episodes of The Family Guy are actually in production and will be airing this year on Fox and Cartoon Network (in a unique arrangement). This marks the first time that home video sales and rerun ratings have actually caused a cancelled television show to be resurrected.

"Adult Swim" has also added some mature-themed anime shows and that brought the total block up to 5 hours of programming as of a few weeks ago. The ratings on the [as] block were so high that the powers-that-be decided to split "Adult Swim" as its own network separate from the regular "Cartoon Network" for ratings purposes (though the two would still co-exist on the same cable channel). It sounds like at least one more hour of programming was needed to fulfill the requirement that Adult Swim be classified as its own network, and that brings us to why I'm even writing about this in the first place. Sorry for the long and boring history lesson on a network I'm sure you never watch.

The extra hour of programming that [as] producers decided to run from 4 AM to 5 AM CST consist of "The Popeye Show" and "The Bob Clampett Show". What's that sound? That's the sound of a tiny corner of the internet cheering. See, when Cartoon Network took "The Looney Tunes Show" off their schedule last October, it was assumed among classic animation fans that unless you could get a "premiere" network like Boomerang from your cable/satellite provider, that we would never again see classic animation like Looney Tunes, Popeye, etc on television again.

Well lucky for us, Adult Swim needed one extra hour of "filler" programming to bump itself into "network" status and it seems that Mike Lazzo decided to throw us a bone. And on top of that, they revived The Bob Clampett Show. One of the more unique compilation shows that feature some uncut, rare cartoons from the great animation director Bob Clampett (one of the fathers of Bugs Bunny).

Thus, for the last couple weeks, I've been running my VCR in SLP mode to capture these shows and scan through them during the evening when I get a chance. Taping these was not really an option for me. I've set out to collect every Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoon ever produced and there are quite a few Bob Clampett cartoons that I have yet to get (to date, I still need about 250 out of the 1000 total).

But I'm really surprised how much I'm enjoying the old-school Popeye (the 1930s black & white Fleischers). While Black & White may not seem very stylish in today's High-Definition vibrant colour world, there is something about the grainy, earthy quality of these cartoons that makes them shine. There's a good thread discussing these cartoons here.

While I know this one hour of classic cartoons is a temp filler until new shows arrive, I still have to tip my hat to Mike Lazzo because I guess he could have just put a rerun of Futurama/Family Guy in there to fill it up...

§82 · April 14, 2005 · Cartoons, Entertainment · · [Print]

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