As Cartoon Network’s [adult swim] block continues to deliver strong ratings and fans anxiously wait the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie to open in the fall, we caught up with Ron Russo, author of a new book titled Adult Swim and Comedy. Russo, who has been teaching about the block at Kent State University since 2004, compares the creators of this huge cultural phenom to the likes of surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp and French auteur Rene Clair.
‘A combination of popularity, which translates into longevity and quality should add [adult swim] to the lexicon of film and TV movements,’ says Russo. ‘The block’s success can be attributed to the following: an age 18 to 34 audience coveted by advertisers; noninvasive program length and packaging; consistent core personnel; TBS’s purchase of the world’s largest cartoon library, Hanna-Barbera; top comics and irreverent comedy; a diverse array of economical and innovative (which some might call crazy) shows, including anime, and a measured spread into different media.’ He also praises producers Mike Lazzo and Keith Crofford, who have stayed true to the original format and creative vision of the shows ever since they came up with the Space Ghost Coast to Coast series in 1994.
Russo offers an in-depth look at many of the block’s popular shows, from originals such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Brak Show and Squidbillies and pick-ups like Home Movies, Futurama and Family Guy to more recent indies such as Tom Goes to the Mayor and Robot Chicken. Divided under three separate banners (Reclamation, Williams Street and Adult Swim Indies), these chapters chronicle the development and airdate history of each show and offer interesting insights about episodic content. The author also includes information about the packaging, sponsors and licensing, and even provides three different glossaries (comedy, film comedy and animation) for newbies. ‘The original recipe for the single night launch [Sunday 9/2/01] was one part lead-in reclamation show, three parts Hanna-Barbera recycled shows and two parts anime,’ he notes.
The author says students, both undergraduate and graduate, are amazed that they can research and analyze something that they enjoy and that the class credits count toward their degree. ‘Several [adult swim] celebrities have been most kind and teleconferenced with the class in the past,’ says Russo. ‘Due to demand, I sometimes have to offer the course twice per semester!’
To purchase the 66-page paperback (which also features a very cool cover illustration by Angus Oblong), visit www.gairusso.com/ronsbook.