It's Show Time! The Fall TV Preview

by Amid Amidi

It's time to wash those pajamas and stock up on sugar-coated cereals because the fall cartoon season is arriving, and it promises to be a dandy. But it's not just Saturday mornings anymore. From new afternoon cartoon blocks to primetime and late night television, TV cartoons are everywhere you look. This selective rundown will take a look at some of the new shows and highlights of the fall TV animation season. But before we get started, here are a few interesting trends worth pointing out that might help put the current state of TV animation into a clearer perspective.

* Branding: Networks are starting to realize that to get ratings, you have to do more than create a bunch of unrelated shows. Channels need to have their own identities, and people need to know why they're watching a particular network. By creating themed packages out of their shows, a network's cartoon lineup becomes a destination rather than just an assorted group of cartoons.

* Syndication: With the proliferation of niche cable networks popping up, syndication has gone the way of the dinosaurs. It doesn't really affect the amount of cartoons available, but rather the cartoons are being aired through different distribution channels than before. While there is still the odd syndicated cartoon floating around, expect to see them completely disappear within the next few years.

* Reality-based Cartoons: Kids can't use their imaginations at school; now they can't use them at home either. Suffering from the Doug-syndrome, cartoons don't transport kids to fantasy places anymore; they're about normal kids who do normal things and eat normal foods and have normal friends and...well, you get the idea.

* Primetime Animation: Cable networks first realized the potential of what a good primetime cartoon can do for their ratings. Now, broadcast networks are jumping onto the bandwagon, and within the next few years, cartoons are poised to become a regular staple of primetime television. However, the biggest common factor, and potential hazard, among primetime cartoons is the fact that nearly all of them rely too heavily on the writing, without giving nearly the same regard to the visual aspects. While no one doubts that the writing is what has made The Simpsons a success for over a decade, it is only a matter of time before audiences tire of the visually uninvolving animation and art that plagues so many primetime animated efforts.

Meme, portrayed by Valerie Rae Miller, will continue to host "One Saturday Morning," but expect to see expanded roles from her co-hosts -- Jelly Roll, the 5,000-pound talking elephant, and Derby, a geriatric, wise-cracking mouse. © The Walt Disney Company.


Why fix it, if it's not broke? No dramatic changes are in the works for the Disney-owned network, just some fine-tuning. The returning shows - Disney's Hercules, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Mickey's MouseWorks, the "One Saturday Morning" block (Disney's Doug, Recess, Pepper Ann), Schoolhouse Rock and Squigglevision - form nearly the exact same Saturday morning lineup from last season. The only new arrival is DIC's Sabrina, the Animated Series, which fills the empty slot caused by the shortening of The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show from one-hour to half-an-hour (for more on Sabrina see the UPN section).

One of the most consistently enjoyable and creative aspects of ABC's lineup is the series of interstitial shorts that accompany the two-hour "One Saturday Morning" block. Meme, portrayed by Valerie Rae Miller, will continue to host "One Saturday Morning," but expect to see expanded roles from her co-hosts - Jelly Roll, the 5,000-pound talking elephant, and Derby, a geriatric, wise-cracking mouse. Another very promising freshman interstitial series is Manny's America, a series of 3-minute segments where Manny the Uncanny (actor/comedian/writer Paul Rugg) sets off in his 30-foot motor home to discover the off-beat sights around America. From the Bayou Swamp Tour in Louisiana to the Ventriloquist Museum in Kentucky to the Glass Blowing Factory in West Virginia, this mini-series promises to be very amusing and enlightening.

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