A Cartoon Network Renaissance?

Over the last few years Cartoon Network has slowly been increasing its original cartoon count up, they still sadly have some live shows, but the focus seems to once again be on their name sake, cartoons. Not only has the network gained new cartoons, but they are actually really good! Let us take a look at some of the shows that have helped spark this possible new renaissance.

Ben 10 is probably Cartoon Network’s biggest franchise, created by Man of Action, a group of comic book writers who have branched out to other media products. The show follows a kid (now grown into a teenager) who can transform into various aliens and fights evil. This show has become the building block the Friday night action block was founded on. Joining Ben 10 is Star Wars the Clone Wars (a cartoon filling in more holes between Episode 2 and Episode 3 of the movies), Young Justice (teen super heroes in the DC comic universe), Batman Brave and the Bold (Batman teaming up with various heroes in a campy but well done silver age universe), and Generator Rex (another series created by Man of Action this time featuring a teen who is part machine who again fights evil).

Most of these shows are very well done, especially Generator Rex and Batman Brave and the Bold. Rex is set to have a crossover with Ben 10 which will further boost its ratings and is a nice companion piece to Ben 10. Batman on the other hand is just pure fun, losing the grim and grittiness that Batman has been stuck with for the last thirty years. Alternatively Young Justice takes all that grim and grittiness and puts it where it never belonged, with Robin, Superboy, and Aqualad. Once Superman started acting like a jerk I was completely done with the show. As for Star Wars, well I just can’t get myself to care about the franchise anymore, though I am told it is very well done and it gets great ratings, so that is very good.

The other huge night for new shows is Monday nights where Cartoon Network pumps out the funny. The night starts with Johnny Test, a show about a stereotypical boy who just wants to have fun, who also has a talking dog as a pet and two super genius sisters. Johnny’s sisters are always testing their newest scientific advancement on him which leads to wild antics. It is actually very well done and quite funny, especially earlier episodes, over time it seems to have fallen into a bit of a formula which makes it the weakest of the comedy block shows.

After Johnny Test comes the Amazing World of Gumball, which is probably the freshest and most wacky cartoon show since Chowder left the airwaves. The star of the show is Gumball, a blue cat whose mom is a blue cat, father and sister are pink bunnies, and his best friend and brother is a walking fish! They probably represent the most sensible of designs really, as other characters featured in the show include a giant t-rex, a robot, a talking balloon, and a person’s chin upside down with a face drawn on it. The show mixes animation with claymation and live action making for a very unique effect. If that weren’t enough, the plots are just pure madcap fun! They are the definition of what great cartoons are all about, wacky adventures, huge laughs, and random things happening. They work over every demographic too, big flashy things along with cute designs and simple but funny plots for kids along with humor and references for adults.

Adventure Time follows Gumball, and it is probably the best show on Cartoon Network right now. It follows Jake the Dog, and Finn the Human in a fantasy world filled with only the best parts of fantasy worlds, meaning there is always evil to fight, and princess to rescue! Each episode is full of random fantasy and D&D references alongside well done humor and action. The fights are well done, and the characters are rich and well rounded. Like Gumball it has material for all audiences and meshes them altogether perfectly, like I said it is the best show on the channel right now, with only Gumball giving it a good run for its money.

Following Adventure Time is Regular Show which is a deceptively simple show that pulls off a random madcap thing and produces some great quotable lines. It stars two slackers, Rigby (a raccoon) and Mordecai (a blue jay) who work as ground keepers at a park. Each episode starts with something simple and a bit mundane, like them wanting concert tickets, or just trying to set up chairs, and then about midway through each episode it takes a severe turn for the surreal. In one episode they end up teleporting to the moon, in another a giant monster appears to destroy them, and so on and so on, no one ever acts like these actions are out of the ordinary, everyone seems to accept that time travel is possible and so on, yet it is a huge change from the first half of the show.

Finally there is Mad which is best summed up as Robot Chicken without any references to sex or other raunchier topics. It is a fast paced anthology show where random skits happen about pop culture. It is a bit hit or miss, but that is normal with the format.

Those are the two big nights of entertainment, they also have the Looney Tunes Show which is a revival of the old Warner Bros characters in a sitcom esque life style. While it can have some very funny moments, sticking to one setting and archetype is kind of missing the point of the characters, Bugs Bunny can work in ANY setting and be excellent. There just needs to be more variety in the show to be worth while. Another show that seems worthwhile is Sidekicks, featuring kids who are training to become sidekicks. It is frequently funny and again well worth the time, though it seems to air at random times during the day so can be a bit hard to track down.

While I am sure I am missing more shows, just this list alone makes me hopeful for the future of Cartoon Network. They seem to really be pushing the Monday and Friday night blocks and putting a lot of time and money into both. Each has strengths and weaknesses, but no matter what if you like cartoons, at least one of the shows I have listed will be right up your alley.

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