Friday, February 22, 2013

Does Cartoon Network need a change at the top? Yes!

I was reading the Star brothers' shared blog, Twinsanity!, the other day, and one of the twins was discussing the usual whining from some uninformed soul on one of the message boards, in this case ToonZone, where the Stars used to frequent. An Australian poster using the name of American actress Miranda Cosgrove (ex-iCarly) was complaining about Cartoon Network's latest bone-brained decision, in this case cancelling Young Justice & Green Lantern to make room for Beware the Batman & Teen Titans Go! in the DC Nation package, rather than expand the block for 2 hours and let all four shows air together for a time as a sort of transitional phase.

As the Stars are quick to point out, CN, like all networks, is in the business of making money. If a show isn't performing in the ratings, it's not going to hang around very long. That's been the nature of the television business for as long as I can remember. CN, however, also is keeping a close eye on the sales of tie-in action figures and other toys, and if anything related to these DC-centric shows ain't moving, well......!

It hasn't been too long since Green Lantern & Young Justice had been reinstated to the schedule after a questionable hiatus at the end of 2012, a decision CN suits are still refusing to explain four months later. The ratings stagnated, but don't ya think CN's mishandling of the two series had something to do with that downturn? Of course. Instead of being honest with their viewing audience, CN has been, to paraphrase Nick Lowe here, too cruel to be kind. Translated, they don't care about their target audience or the comics fans of different demographics that are also tuning in. All they care about is the almighty dollar, and that's the way it's always going to be.

The problem is, for every original idea that comes along, like Adventure Time or Regular Show, which think outside the box and draw boffo ratings, older franchises, a category that the DC characters fit into, are not drawing. That's because CN, a sister company to DC, doesn't know how to properly market the toons based on their corporate sibling's properties any more than Warner Bros. does. As noted in the review for Adventure Time, that series' comics counterpart isn't being published by DC, but another publisher. Gee, ya wonder why, don't ya?

The main problem is at the top with Stuart Snyder & Rob Sorcher, two executives who don't know anything about marketing animated programming. They desperately want CN to compete with and be more like Nickelodeon and Disney Channel and their sister networks. They treat Boomerang as a recycling bin for more recent CN fare that didn't pass muster and have tons of classic cartoons sitting in the vaults with no place to go. They don't care what we older viewers think. They don't care they're burning out Adventure Time & Regular Show by airing it on an almost daily basis. All they want is the bottom line. Apparently, they're not hearing the footsteps from the 2+ year old The Hub, which has overtaken CN, in this writer's opinion. Worse, they're letting some quality programming go elsewhere.

WB has deals in place with The Hub for older shows like Batman: The Animated Series and Animaniacs. CN lost The Marvel Super Hero Squad Show to The Hub last year, and will soon see Star Wars: The Clone Wars shuffle off to DisneyXD thanks to Disney acquiring the Star Wars franchise. The Man of Action studio, largely responsible for Ben 10 & Generator Rex, was hired by DisneyXD to develop Ultimate Spider-Man, which has been largely a bomb, but renewed for a 2nd year anyway, thanks largely to how Marvel & Disney have successfully marketed their product. While the loss of Clone Wars couldn't be helped, much of CN's failings when it comes to their action programming falls at the feet of Snyder & Sorcher, who'd rather try to force live-action programming onto the schedule, even though the viewers don't want it. Time Warner seems to like what they've done, so they're in no hurry to replace them, but, in truth, they have to, in order to save CN & Boomerang from falling into total irrelevancy.

Adventure Time, Regular Show, The Amazing World of Gumball (as bad as that really is), and other current shows aren't going to last forever. However, while CN has opened a doorway for innovation, as demonstrated with the three shows I just mentioned, it is shutting the door on established properties by showing them a total lack of respect. The 2011 remake of Thundercats, while well received, is out of production, and reruns are being burned off on the revived Toonami block, airing overnight Saturdays on [adult swim]. Same for Sym-Bionic Titan, which came from the pen of Genndy Tartatovsky (Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, "Hotel Transylvania"). Why did Thundercats fail this time? CN won't admit it, but they may have sabotaged things with their crazy quilt scheduling practices. That's all I'll say.

For CN & Boomerang to survive, Snyder & Sorcher have to go. There was someone on one of the message boards who was suggesting that someone like Jean MacCurdy or Margaret Loesch, the latter of whom worked for Marvel Productions & Hanna-Barbera in the 80's, could be brought in to right the ship, provided, of course, they don't get scooped up by The Hub first. CN needs someone with enough experience and understanding of children's programming, and once they do, they can send Sorcher & Snyder on their way, or at least reassign them to one of the other TW networks, like TruTV, which in fact is where those two clowns belong.


magicdog said...

I agree that Sorcher and Snyder have to go, but one can't help but ask, why would Time Warner allow CN to bleed money by their programming decisions?

In many ways this reminds me of what happened to umbrella network, MTV as it began trading in it's format of music videos for reality programming and other fare. Most MTV viewers didn't weant that either but they shoved it down their collective throats anyway. MTV is still here, even if it is a shadow of its former self.

It's almost a bait and switch situation. MTV had a campaign pushing potential customers to demand from their providers, "I want my MTV!" , They got it and then MTV did what they wanted because they got what they wanted (number of enough households to warrant a profit on basic cable programming).

CN seemed like a godsend all those years ago - bringing back old HB cartoons, etc. and pushing nostalgia for those original toon viewers. Then they claimed those older toons needed to go elsewhere (cue Boomerang). Then new programming began,to the point that those who came of age in the 90s and early 00s now go to Boomerang for their stuff, while live action programming seeps into CN's schedule. It's still here.

Sound familiar?

Trouble is, it's not just kids watching CN - many teens and adults watch it too - the DC Nation block alone makes this clear.

Bringing Toonami back was a step in the right direction.

FTR, I think Thundercats failed because of too many filler episodes which meandered before getting to the meat of the series' main storyline. It started off strong, but too many viewers were getting bored and tuned out.

hobbyfan said...

Bringing Toonami would've actually worked if they put it on Boomerang in primetime, and kept it away from the [adult swim] nimrods, who actually come off as Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, since they also programmed Toonami & Miguzi.

I think what turned people away from Thundercats 2.0 was the fact they de-aged Lion-O in the same way Prince Adam (He-Man) was de-aged into a teenager a decade ago. Ultimately, the same result ensued (cancellation).