The History Of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim
The history of Adult Swim is convoluted. The channel was able to rescue shows like Family Guy and Home Movies from the brink of death, and pushed the boundaries of humor with Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and The Eric Andre Show. Adult Swim has been around for over 15 years, producing innovative and odd programming, meaning there's a vast amount of Adult Swim trivia out there.
Adult Swim has continually beat the odds by staying on air for that long, while other similarly designed channels, like G4, buckled. They've done this by refusing to compromise their view of what makes good TV. Thanks to that line of thought we've received some incredible shows over the years, including some wonderful Adult Swim anime.
Early Adult Swim Programming Was Made On A Shoestring Budget, Often By Volunteers
Cartoon Network used their library of Hanna Barbara animation and created the first shows that appeared on Adult Swim. The network's parent company refused to allocate any money to original programming at first. In response, Cartoon Network creators repurposed animation from other shows to cut down on costs.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast is a prime example of a show produced with a limited budget. The writers for the show's original run were all executives at Cartoon Network, who volunteered their time to create original programming.
'Space Ghost Coast To Coast' Was The First Show Produced By Cartoon Network
Mike Lazzo created Space Ghost Coast to Coast as the first Cartoon Network original show. In 2001, when Adult Swim launched as its own programming block, the show was moved to a new time slot. Space Ghost Coast to Coast defined the experiment's tone and style and created a precedent for the channel's brand of risky, low-budget entertainment.
The network repurposed animation resources from a '60s superhero program, Space Ghost, to reinterpret the lead character as an irreverent talk show host. The series's surprising popularity carried it through 10 seasons and spawned three spin-offs that later became key pieces of Adult Swim's programming.
Cartoon Network Hosted "Stealth" Premieres For Adult Swim Programming In Case The Shows Were Flops
Most of Cartoon Network's original series were primarily released as one-time special programming. Even after the success of shows like The Simpsons and Daria, it was hard to tell if there was an adult-focused animation market on television. The network used these releases to test the waters, and see if the show had an audience, before sinking money into a wide broadcast.
Several of the shows released this way were Adult Swim staples like Sealab 2021, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Brak Show, and Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law - all spin-offs of Cartoon Network's first original program Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
Adult Swim's Original Lineup Included One Original Show, Three Spin-Offs, And A Rescued Program
Adult Swim's original lineup began with Cartoon Network's first original program Space Ghost Coast to Coast. The show's risky presence and low-budget animation style did surprisingly well with an adult demographic, and lead to the creation of three spin-offs: Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, The Brak Show, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. These shows were Cartoon Network's response to Space Ghost Coast to Coast's surprising success. The network then rescued a recently canceled Home Movies from UPN, and Adult Swim had their first full programming block.
'Cowboy Bebop' Helped Pave The Way For Anime In America
Adult Swim paved the way for mature anime in America with the broadcast of their first anime series, Cowboy Bebop. The show was aired uncensored with a few Japanese references changed, a revolutionary decision at the time. Before then, it was widely believed American audiences wouldn't feel comfortable with unfamiliar Japanese cultural markers on television, or mature cartoon entertainment in general.
Cartoon Network proved there was a demand for adult, animated entertainment with the popularity of Space Ghost Coast to Coast. It was only a matter of time before they silenced the anime naysayers by airing Cowboy Bebop unedited. Later, it became commonplace to see intense, violent shows like Witch Hunter Robin and Blood+ in primetime slots on the network.
Turner Broadcasting Had To Pay $2 Million To The City Of Boston Over An Episode Of 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force'Photo: Jimmy / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
It's rare that a guerilla advertising campaign creates enough excitement to get an entire city talking, but that's exactly what happened with Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the city of Boston. Unfortunately for Adult Swim it wasn't good buzz, as the glowing signs used to promote the show were mistaken for improvised explosive devices. There was a city-wide man hunt that lead to the arrest of two street artists hired by Adult Swim for the campaign.
Eventually, Turner Broadcasting (who owns Cartoon Network and therefore Adult Swim) was forced to pay out $2 million to the city and the Department of Defense to reimburse them for the search. Per the arrangement Turner was freed from liability, and five days later the head of Cartoon Network resigned from his position.