Jun 16, 2009

CN Real . . . ly Stupid.

adj. 1. not artificial, fraudulent, or illusory: GENUINE. 2. of or relating to practical or everyday activities 3. occurring or existing in actuality.

We're hours away from Cartoon Network's umpteenth pandering of Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel's usual audience while ignoring the successes of the past year with the exception of Total Drama Island and Clone Wars. Cartoon Network is still showing animation, but lately, it seems that animation is being pushed aside as are the small yet loyal fans of the network in favor of identity-changing programming and a persona that sheds everything that is genuinely Cartoon Network. In short, while Cartoon Network is getting Real, Cartoon Network isn't keeping it real.

Let me explain.

On Wednesday, Cartoon Network is launching a new live-action block of programming they're calling CN Real. They're airing a teen version of Sci Fi's Ghost Hunters called The Othersiders and a teen version of Discovery's Survivorman called Survive This. On Saturday, they're airing a teen version of Discovery's Cash Cab called BrainRush and a teen version of The Science Channel's Junkyard Wars called Destroy Build Destroy. Coming soon is a teen version of Discovery's Mythbusters called Dude, What Would Happen and a teen version of the various viral clips shows called Bobb'e Says. Six live-action shows will be coming down the pike in the forthcoming months, and it seems to be taking over the landscape of the network, which is disappointing because, well, they're not cartoons.

For some odd reason since 2005, Cartoon Network has been hellbent on adding more live-action to their lineup. In 2006, they premiered their first original live-action film, Re-Animated which spun off their first original 30-minute live-action series, Out of Jimmy's Head, a terrible show who's fate was determined by the Writers Guild Strike of '07. The strike caused the series to be delayed since it came under WGA jurisdiction, and that delay led to its cancellation. It wasn't missed especially since many critics and viewers saw it as a disappointment, and it's cancellation didn't cause anyone to shed many tears. 2008 was a rebuilding year of sorts for Cartoon Network, learning from their mistakes of the past year and rekindle their love affair with animation.

They learned to make strike-proof shows, and 2009 will be the first year these non-scripted projects commence. One of the shows, Survive This, is Canadian-made. The Othersiders, Dude What Would Happen, and Destroy Build Destroy aren't scripted while Brain Rush and Bobb'e Says barely qualify under the WGA because of the format of the series. The actual scripted live-action projects had been in the works for over a year, but I'll talk about them later.

What I'm talking about is the whole format of CN Real. I understand the live-action connotations the word "Real" has, but the use kind of baffles me. See, if the live-action block is called CN Real, does that mean the animated programs qualify as CN Fake? Seriously, when was the last time Cartoon Network promoted the hell out of their properties that they have an ownership stake in (i.e. shows owned by the network and sibling companies, NOT third-party shows like Clone Wars or Total Drama Island) the way they're doing with the CN Real shows? I think the last time Cartoon Network advertised the way they did for CN Real was for The Powerpuff Girls, a series that celebrated its 10th anniversary last year (while the anniversary was last year, they actually celebrated it this year), and it wasn't even as vast and far-reaching as what Cartoon Network are doing with CN Real.

The whole sense of the the word Real in CN Real just confounds me because the whole concept is anything BUT real. It's an artificial attempt to get the eyeballs of the diehard Nickelodeon and Disney Channel fans. And here's the thing. Despite everything Cartoon Network does, they're STILL going to be diehard Nickelodeon and Disney Channel fans, though for some odd reason, Nickelodeon's throwing Cartoon Network a bone by giving up primetime in July. So, in essence, it'll be largely the match Cartoon Network feared . . . CN vs. Disney. And Disney will probably embarrass Cartoon Network largely because many of the Nick viewers will migrate to Disney Channel because they will target that market more than Cartoon Network.

The biggest fear that the small yet loyal fanbase of Cartoon Network has is that the CN Real shows will be a success. But what constitutes as a success in Cartoon Network's eyes? Will it to beat Disney and/or Nickelodeon? Will it be to do better than they did a year ago while failing to acknowledge what aired in the slot (more often than not, it was a repeat on Wednesday and Saturday nights [quick note before the first press release comes out: the 8 PM E/P hour wasn't Toonami last year, so if folks tell you CN Real beat Toonami, it's a lie because Toonami wasn't in CN Real's slot]). They'll probably use the latter to justify and qualify the shows as successes which is a shame.

In the end, CN Real isn't the end of Cartoon Network nor the beginning of the end, but it is a move in a very idiotic direction. What's more moronic is that people are laying down and accepting the live-action direction of Cartoon Network as an obvious direction they should have taken a long time ago. No. Cartoon Network is not Nickelodeon, and they will never get Nickelodeon's audience, no matter how hard they try. Cartoon Network is not The Disney Channel, and they will never get The Disney Channel's audience no matter how hard they try. Cartoon Network is Cartoon Network. Not CN. They don't have to go the MTV route and ignore their roots.

Now, they have learned that advertising is key in promoting something, as if it was a new invention. It'd be nice if they do it with their animated fare, particularly the ones not made by Lucasfilms and Fresh TV.

In the meantime, CN Real will still air. Cartoon Network will still continue to lose their identity and add more live-action mess and fewer cartoons. And life goes on. Hopefully they'll learn the error of their ways, but somehow, I doubt it. Learning from mistakes isn't one of the lessons learned from the shows on CN Real.


E.A. said...

They are being rightly mocked from just about everyone connected with animation.

I was just on Animation Nation, mocking them. The, on Cartoon Brew, doing the same. Still, when praise is due praise must be given, and I praise them for having just as many potential blockbuster animated properties either in development or in the can & waiting to be aired.

Still, that's almost like saying that you avenged your father's death by putting his murderer in the hospital. If the objective was to kill him, the mission hasn't been accomplished.

E.A. said...

Looking forward to your article about next year's interesting Oscar race, with Ten films that can now vie for Best Picture.