♪Intro Music♪ ♪Starkey – Eris♪ ♪[beatmasta.oknd] – [top.down] Beatmasta x Altitude♪ It’s incredibly rare when a television network can hone on the sensibility of an entire generation, and immediately click with its audience. For my parent’s generation, that was MTV, but for my generation, it was, and continues to be, Adult Swim. Adult Swim may have evolved into the animation empire we know it as now, but didn’t start out that way. Now let me take you back to 1992. Ted Turner had just launched the Cartoon Network. A channel with absolutely no original programming that was built on the back of the MGM cartoon libraries Turner had acquired. So it was essentially the Hannah Barbera re-run channel. But Turner wants to make the foray into original programming. And that first original program was Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. It was the brain child of Mike Lazzo: Cartoon Network’s original head programmer that would later go on to head up Adult Swim. Lazzo was a huge fan of the short-lived Space Ghost cartoon from 1966, and since he had access to those cartoons through the Hanna-Barbera libraries, he had the idea to re-contextualize those original animation cels and splice them in with interviews of actors and musicians, giving the washed-up superhero his own talk show. Space Ghost: “Hello, I am Space Ghost. Welcome to my show.” So, why the need for re-purposing animations from the 60s? Well, for the first four years of the show, there was basically no money allocated to the production budget. Space Ghost was an all volunteer gig since the network was hemorrhaging money at that point. There was no safety net, it was a trial by fire effort. But the lack of funding and the indie garage feel gave Space Ghost a unique aesthetic that was different than anything else on late night at the time. Space Ghost: “Okay, so explain this now: your human dad, put his human penis in your shark mother’s vagina, and you sat by and let this happen? Pathetic.” It was experimental and bizarre. A sort of ‘anti-comedy’ that help popularize ‘cringe humor’,
♪[beatmasta.oknd] – [top.down] Beatmasta x Altitude♪ a genre we see today in things like Nathan For You and Adult Swim’s own Eric André Show, André even stating that Space Ghost was his main influence with coming up with the concept. In December of 2000, after the success of Space Ghost, several new shows had stealth releases, under the guise of a “Special Programming” tag
♪[beatmasta.oknd] – [top.down] Beatmasta x Altitude♪ to test the water of the viewing public. Those shows were: Sealab 2021, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, The Brak Show, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. All of which, were direct spin-offs of Space Ghost. Master Shake: “Master is my name, and thirst is what I tame.” Aqua Teen Hunger Force, assemble!”
♪Aqua Teen Hunger Force Theme Music♪ Frylock: “Frylock, the hunger, hater, tater!” Meatwad: “Meatwad, ball of compressed meat!” All the shows utilize that same lo-fi animation re-purposing technique
♪Harvey Birdman Theme Music♪ Lazzo and his team pioneered. And less then a year later on September 2nd, 2001, those five shows, along with Home Movies, formed the initial line-up for Cartoon Network’s
♪Dust Devil – D-Code♪ official late-night animation block: Adult Swim. Branded as alternative programming for when Cartoon Network’s primary demographic would normally be at sleep. But we weren’t asleep. We were up every night, watching intently as this odd ball block of experimental animation deconstructed and redefined the format. It changed the conception of what television could be, because Adult Swim wasn’t just a channel. Over the years as it evolved, it become its own personality, its own voice, speaking directly to the audience. Watching Adult Swim wasn’t about viewing each individual program. It was about experiencing the entire night’s content: the shows, the bumps, sketches, music, promos, and of course the signature fourth-wall breaking inter-title cards. Adult Swim was for fans, and it was the first network that felt truly interactive; they’d respond to emails, open a dialogue with the audience, you can submit artworks or music and have it seen by the programmers, and maybe even get featured. People grew whole careers out of being featured on Adult Swim. ♪Flying Lotus – GNG BNG♪
Flying Lotus: “I was living at my mom’s house and the only TV I would watch is Adult Swim, I would get high real quick, watch some cartoons, and, uhm they’d have a little blip on saying that ‘yeah, you think you got some beats, huh?, send them over.’ And then they put the address on there, and uh, the first, the first thing they played, they made a promo for The Boondocks around one of my tracks.
♪Flying Lotus – Massage Situation♪ And it just, yeah, it blew me away, man. The only TV that you watch, you know, you hear my music on it.” Adult Swim had a hand in launching the career of dozens of artists, even boosting the popularity of the Odd Future collective, with their show, Loiter Squad. “I was sucking my daddy d***, when I was seven years old-” Space Ghost: We can get away with “dick”, can’t w- We can’t say “dick”? I though we were Adult Swim. Who’s in charge of these rules? How about “penis”, can we say “penis”? MF Doom, Danger Mouse, Killer Mike, Killer Mike: “I’m Killer Mike, you’re been watching Adult Swim.” All these artists use Adult Swim as a conduit to grow their audience. It broke grounds in offering creators different formats for their art. Even taking show like Children’s Hospital, which had started as a web series, and importing it into their nightly line-up. They were the first network to really embrace the digital world. ♪Rick and Morty Theme Music♪
Walter Newman: “We’re always, especially Adult Swim, are trying to stay ahead of the curve and bring people, something they can’t see anywhere else, and that includes online, so we’ve hired writers off of Twitter accounts we’re taking pictures, we’re looking online, and you know, we’re looking on Instagram, we’re looking on Facebook, we’re looking on Vine, you know, for me it just inhaling as much content as possible and trying to figure out what works for us.” Adult Swim also became the go-to network for cancelled or soon to be cancelled programming. It had a direct role in the revival of one of FOX’s most popular cartoons: Family Guy. Peter Griffin: “Hi there, I’m Peter Griffin. Next Sunday, Adult Swim is airing an episode of Family Guy that FOX refused to show. But my good pals at Cartoon Network are showing it. Although, I think making couple of changes, because I’m so controversial.” After Family Guy’s cancellation in 2003, it premiered in re-runs on Adult Swim and exploded, in the ratings, boosting viewership to over two hundred percent, and less then a year later, it was renewed by FOX for another season. The show even added this bumper to one of its later episodes, taking a jab at FOX for its unjust termination. ♪Futurama Theme Music♪
And in 2007, an almost identical renewal deal happened with Futurama, after an increased in viewership when the show started airing on Adult Swim. But probably Adult Swim’s biggest contribution to television, was its introduction to mature anime to an American audience. and it started with Cowboy Bebop in 2001.
♪The Seatbelts – Tank♪ Adult-oriented anime became the backbone of the network. Sort of an extension of Toonami, which ironically, later became incorporated into Adult Swim after its own revival campaign. Steve Blum: “Thank you to Cartoon Network, thank you to William Street, and everybody at Adult Swim for actually paying attention to the voice of the people. You have spoken loudly and you spoken clearly. #BringBackToonami.”
♪Richie Branson – Bring Back Toonami♪ But Adult Swim wasn’t just about giving content a second chance. It was about giving it that first chance.
♪[beatmasta.oknd] – [top.down] Beatmasta x Altitude♪ It’s a hub where creators can create. Where the art is experimental and trangressive; it’s surreal, it’s sloppy, it’s a place that welcomes risk-taking, that wouldn’t immediately dismiss a show where the main character is literally a pair of ass cheeks. Adult Swim cancelled your favorite show? Good. The important part is it gave you a favorite show. Most of which weren’t even designed for longevity, they’re supposed to be fleeting, that what makes them so special. It’s about spontaneity, it’s about the community, it’s about the experience, and that one thing you can’t get from Netflix. ♪Williams Street Theme Music♪ ♪Tyler The Creator – Hey You (Prod. Toro Y Moi)♪