What If - Cartoon Network

What if the greatest TV channel never made it off the ground?
April 29, 2009

It's hard to overlook our daily TV viewing without taking a glance at the Cartoon Network. Whether it's for the newer cartoon blocks, the nightly Adult Swim, or a stroll down memory lane with their older shows, we all have some sort of connection to the channel. But what if Cartoon Network never started up? It seems almost blasphemy to think of such a thing, but it could have never happened. Now, my situations are not actual events that could or couldn't have happened, but I'd like to think I came up with some situations that could have been a reality. Anyways, here's my interpretation on how the world of television could have been without the glorious Cartoon Network.

The classic logo

Nickelodeon and Disney Take Over
The Cartoon Network started from the mind and wallet of Ted Turner. Yes that Ted Turner...

"Thank you, Ted. That was the joke."

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, Turner had purchased the pre August 1948 MGM cartoons (later, the rest) and the Hanna-Barbera Studios, respectively. This gave Ted a sizable amount of film to start a new channel, one that aired cartoons 24/7 "until the end of time". Cartoon nuts could enjoy shows like The Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, and The Jetsons as often as they liked. Well, if a channel such as this never had happen, CN fans would certainly find themselves in a world where the other two kid-oriented channels ruled, Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel.

Logos of days past.

One of many factors could have had a hand at this: Turner decides not to buy old cartoon rights, his television empire crumples beforehand, or many other instances. Whatever the instance, it spells bad news for a world we know now. Nick and The DC take advantage of the growing numbers of kids in the 90's who have access to a cable box and become the big dogs. Without a Cartoon Network type of channel to compete with, the remaining two do everything by their own rules. This leads to my next point.

The Days of 24 Hour Cartoons Takes a Backseat
Cartoon network was truly a God-send. I was totally floored to see a channel that played cartoons the whole day. True, most of the older shows were those that I wouldn't normally watch during the day, but they were still watchable. Such shows included The Gary Coleman Show, The Banana Splits, and Hong Kong Phooey.

Obviously shows that aren't on everyone's Top 5 lists, but still memorable. I felt lucky to watch these old shows that my mom watched when she was my age, which gave us something to connect with. Without an all day block of cartoons, I could have found myself just going to sleep like a good little boy. My friends and I would leave the channel on the entire night while we played with our toys and did the normal kid thing. Without Cartoon Network, our little late night escapades would have been quite dull and we would have to resort to The Disney Channel's original Mickey Mouse Club (which I did love watching) and Nick's Nick-at-Nite (which I had no interest in).

CN was just the right amount of stupid old stuff and the classics. I'm pretty sure that one of the two remaining kid networks would have converted to a 24 hour kid's channel, so this isn't a big deal, but Cartoon Network was the first and I completely respect them for that.

Original Cartoon Network Shows Never Happen
We've seen two stages of Cartoon Network original programming. We have the late 90's Cartoon Cartoons, and today's rubbish (that is, because I can't connect with it, today's shows lack what they used to have). Ironically, I'd still miss these shows if they were never to have happen. The original Cartoon Cartoons generally got their start on the mid 90's show The What A Cartoon Show.

Man, I miss this show more than I miss Pop Tarts Cereal. That says a lot.

This was a CN started show that wouldn't have existed if there was no CN. Therefore, most of the good shows we loved from Cartoon Cartoon Fridays would have not existed. That means no Dexter's Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, Ed, Edd, and Eddy, and all the way to Samurai Jack and Time Squad.

I loved these shows and feel that without them, my life would be different. To replace this void, the other channels would produce more of their stuff. Now, I loved the old Nick shows and I have a soft spot for Even Stevens, but it just wouldn't feel the same. Rugrats, Doug, Pete and Pete, and every other Nick show was pretty awesome,

but I often craved for the crisp art of Genndy Tartakovsky. To me, those shows define what was great and fun in life. To go along with the loss of great American episodes, we might have seen the loss of all of our favorite Japanese shows.

Anime Finds Another Way into America
Anime has been in and out of American society for most of our pop culture history. As early as the 1960's, Japanese based shows have crept on American soil. Just to let you know, I'm no expert in the subject and have only religiously watched a few. It was the late nineties and Cartoon Network is looking to replace their current action/animation block, Power Zone. They seek the help of the 80's hit TV shows Thundercats and Voltron, both with Japanese origins. As time passes, more original Japanese entertainment makes their way to the new afternoon block, Toonami.

left: Moltar as Toonami's first host... but WAIT! He's in 3D! right: Tom mixing Toonami's lineup.

Like I said before, we've seen many anime shows appear in the pop culture spotlight, but no television channel has been willing to broadcast this genre on a regular basis more than CN. We could easily thank many for this phenomenon, but when I look back on what Cartoon Network has done I am blown away with the amount of service they have done to the anime community. Shows like Dragonball Z, Gundam Wing, Sailor Moon, Robotech, Ronin Warriors, Tenchi Muyo, Outlaw Star, and The Big O made headway in America thanks to Toonami.

I'm sure there was already plenty who followed these shows prior to their release on CN, but I found a strong interest (as well as many kids my age) in these different shows. I was growing up, therefore my shows should as well. Out of those shows, I was a nut about DBZ and very interested in Ronin Warriors. I'm going to go as far to say that the Pokemon craze probably wouldn't have had such a great impact as it did without Toonami's anime lineup. From my experience, all of my friends who watched DBZ got into Pokemon. I can't explain it, but that's how it happened. Toonami was something special, but the block didn't just run during the day. Toonami's Midnight Run ran during the late hours of the week (starting at 12am ET). This gave way to a more mature audience with the advent of more violent viewings and adult content. We all know what this led to.
Adult Oriented Shows Find a Different Channel
More specifically, Adult Swim. Midnight Run started back in 1999 and captivated the older audience looking for more gore in their anime viewing. What would happen if CN reeled in this audience with mature comedy? They found out in 2001 with the first Adult Swim block.

left: The first Adult Swim logo. right: The new Adult Swim logo.

It was a success. Fans soon flocked to their TV sets every Sunday and Thursday nights (slowly bled into every night later on) to laugh their asses off with programs like Home Movies, The Brak Show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Sealab 2021.

Anime made its way onto the program with shows like Cowboy Bebop and Fullmetal Alchemist. Without CN, we would have to rely on Spike TV's The Strip (2003) cartoon block that had the likes of Stripperella, Gary the Rat, and Ren and Stimpy.

Unfortunately, this Thursday night spectacular only lasted one season with Adult Swim drawing in most of the audience with one particular show.

Family Guy Never Finds a Renewal
This program was the ex-Fox show, Family Guy. Adult Swim was reaping the benefits of failed major network shows like Family Guy, The Oblongs, and Mission Hill.

These shows gained an underground following, especially the first. Along with Family Guy's success on Adult Swim, its DVD sales were skyrocketing. Fans couldn't get enough of it. Fox eventually caved in to allow the show continue producing more episodes, becoming the only show to ever be cancelled then brought back to life. Who knows the outcome of this show's fate without CN, but there are numerous people who are thankful for this show's second chance.
Family Guy got picked up, again!

That's it, kiddies. I would absolutely fall apart if Cartoon Network ever made it off the air. Of course, most of the stuff they play today are shows that I have never even attempted to watch, but there's always that time when I will peer onto the channel and see something I recognize. A faint smile falls on my face as I reminisce about the good times. I get ensnared into my days in front of the TV, snacking on Cheetos, and cracking up about the stupid stuff. Just be happy we have such a splendiferous channel to wake us up from the drudges of everyday life. I know I am. Leave your comments on anything intriguing from the article or give some of your possibilities on a world without CN. Have fun with it. I'll leave you with the future of Cartoon Network.

The logo for a new era.

Until next time...

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