Los Angeles Times contributor Sean Fennessey takes a dip into Adult Swim…
A masked man in the witness protection program fights for the future of his family. A band of unorthodox physicians works tirelessly to save sick children. A cabal of forensic ninjas solves crimes while refusing to play by the rules. And, finally, a vengeful U.S. marshal exercises a predilection for hard justice and cowboy hats. This is not a list of pitches for pilot season. No, these are the premises of four live-action programs currently active or in production on the Cartoon Network’s nightly Adult Swim block.
They are all comedies — namely, “Delocated,” “Childrens Hospital,” the forthcoming “NTSF: SD SUV” and “Eagleheart,” the new Chris Elliott vehicle that premiered earlier this month, a not-so-subtle lampoon of “Walker, Texas Ranger“-style action dramas. Thanks to such offbeat, irreverent series, Adult Swim has begun to evolve from a cultish backroom curio to a ratings blockbuster. Adult Swim “is just a haven for the kind of bold, crazy, innovative comedy that we love,” says David Kissinger, president of Conaco, Conan O’Brien’s production company and the creative team behind “Eagleheart,” which airs on Thursdays at midnight. “It just seemed like a sensibility fit.”
With its brash, acutely observed take on Chuck Norris territory, “Eagleheart” arrives at a key moment for the network. This September marks the 10th anniversary of Adult Swim, which launched in 2001 as a single-night block: Sundays at 10 p.m. Armed with a minuscule budget and a reserve of Hannah-Barbera cartoons (owned by parent company Turner Broadcasting), the small Adult Swim team quietly launched a universe of its own, creating absurd fare such as “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” (in which an obscure cartoon superhero interviewed celebrities) and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” (featuring anthropomorphic fast food heroes). The shows often aired in 15-minute spurts.
In the nearly 91/2 years since, Adult Swim has become the proudly goofy gold standard for unconventional comedy on basic cable…
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– Sean Fennessey
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