Four Thoughts on Seth MacFarlane Rebooting The Flintstones

Yoinked from Cartoon Brew

I admit I was disappointed when I read the news yesterday. Why someone felt the need to let Seth MacFarlane reboot one of the greatest TV shows of all time is beyond me. Since we haven’t even seen or heard anything yet, I cannot have an opinion on the show either way. What I can have, are some thoughts on the whole idea, which I present to you below.

1. Why bring it back?

The old saying “let a sleeping dog lie” is apt. There is no shortage of original concepts out there just waiting to be made. Instead, in this age of sequels and prequels, we get an existing property that just has to be brought into the modern age.

Don’t get me wrong, The Flintstones aren’t sacrosanct. Remember the kids version from the 80s? Hanna-Barbera themselves weren’t as nice to the characters as they perhaps should have been. The difference is that they knew the jig was up in the early 90s and began making original content.

Why now? The Flintstones is 50 years old and the only new content being created is the Fruity Pebbles commercials. That’s pretty bad, but also appropriate. The show itself is only shown on Boomerang and merchandise has been gradually retracted over the years. The show is losing its audience (as they regrettably die off) and there aren’t enough new ones discovering the show.

My beef with the whole idea? Can you imagine if, back in the 60s, some network decided to bring back some vaudeville act from 50 years before? They’d be laughed out of town. Sadly that is not the case today.

2. Why Seth MacFarlane?

He already has three ‘winners’ on the network that pull in hundreds of millions of dollars a year for FOX. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Besides, he did work on some of the H-B cartoons of the 90s like Johnny Bravo, which was very much in the retro style. He is (or should be) familiar with the characters and the style of the show.

3. Will the reboot return animation to the glory of prime time?

No. That era is well and truly dead. The proliferation of the audience among the vast number of cable channels and the internet has meant that the audience necessary to sustain a top quality animated prime time show is gone. The days of the The Simpsons and Family Guy itself are rapidly drawing to a close. Don’t expect any big surprises.

4. Will you and I watch it?

I don’t know, will you? I’ll probably watch¬† the premiere but to be honest, I haven’t watched FOX on Sunday night in months. The quality of the evening has sunk to the point that I would rather invest my time in a film or TV show on Netflix than get let down by The Simpsons and the MacFarlane shows. It’s sad but it’s the truth.

Five Reasons Why The End of The Simpsons Will Be The Deathknell For Animation on FOX

Via: Hulu

Over the last 20-odd years, The Simpsons has come to be the most successful TV show ever created. In an industry where plenty of shows don’t even make it to the end of their first season, and the numbers that make it beyond the single digits is extremely rare, the fact that one can make it into its third decade is exceedingly rare.

As a result, the longer the Simpsons remain on our TV screens, the more likely it’s ultimate demise will contribute to the collapse of the dominance of animation on FOX.

Below are the five reasons why this is so.

1. Brand Recognition:

Over the last 20 years, the Simpsons has become a brand in their own right. There are Simpsons toys, clothes, sweets, figurines, records, you name it, it has been Simpsonised at some point. What is sometimes overlooked is that it is the success of the TV show that has driven the demand for these products. Millions saw the show in TV and then bought the merchandise they saw in the shop.

Without the weekly reminder that market is sure to suffer a bit. Now keep in mind that I am referring to new episodes. Re-runs remind viewers of the show’s existence, but they tend not to remind them of good times, not encourage them to buy new products.

2. Brand loyalty

The Simpsons as a brand has phenomenal loyalty, so much so that it was able to transgress a brief period at the beginning where it reached proportions normally reserved for ‘fads’. Simpsons fans are famous for their devotion to their favourite show. Of course, it helped that the show was very well written, and more often than not outshone everything else being broadcast at the time.

Once the series ends, however, that loyalty will begin to (slowly) disappear. It will start off imperceptibly, but gradually, we’ll start to see less and less merchandise, more websites and fansites that are update less frequently. People will remain loyal and devoted, but the majority of fans will move on to other shows, or their tastes will change as they get older. Before you know it, all that will be left is a smattering of hardcore fans who hold on to the glory days and maintain that nothing will ever top their faith in a show from the 90s.

Convincing those many fans of the Simpsons that another show is of equal or better quality is a goal that is akin to convincing people that a tax raise really is a good thing. It can be done, but it’s an uphill struggle if ever there was one.Which leads us nicely into…..

3. Inability to replace it

FOX has known for quite a while that no show lives forever and eventually a replacement will have to be found. This is a perfectly reasonable assumption except for one thing: they haven’t found one yet.

It’s not for lack of trying though. Plenty of attempts have been made over the years to try and at least find something that can come close to attracting viewers of the Simpsons and slowly weaning them onto a different show. Pilots, season fillers, live-action, they’ve all been tried without success and still the problem remains.

Family Guy is perhaps the closest the network has come but since it returned from hiatus a few years ago, it is nowhere near what it used to be and currently attracts a far more narrow demographic than the Simpsons did at its height. The same goes for the other McFarlane children, they all share similar traits that prohibit them from ever reaching the largest audience possible.

4. It’s Still Good

Although I tend to agree with plenty of what the loyal Stonecutters over at the Dead Homer Society have to say, in the grand scheme of things, The Simpsons remains a very well written show. Especially in light of all the other “sitcoms” and “comedies” that the various networks put out during the week.

5. Changes in management structure

Last but most certainly not least, the Simpsons could never be repeated because FOX as a network has changed. When the Simpsons were first broadcast, the creators were given a wide berth when it came to content and biting the hand that feeds them. The simple reason for this was that the network needed ratings and ad revenue, and allowing the producers a bit of leeway went a long way in letting the show find it’s place in the TV world.

Since then, FOX has become successful, and much more mainstream as a result. I can’t foresee a show being given similar leeway (and a share of the merchandising) ever again. It just won’t happen. As a result, we’re unlikely to ever see a show like the Simpsons grace our screen again.

Conclusion

When the Simpsons eventually does get sent to the great big TV in the sky, it’s highly unlikely that a show such as Family Guy will manage to retain many of the Simpsons loyal fanbase and as a result, is more likely to falter when left to carry the network by itself. Once that happens, it seems probable that animation, as a driving force on the FOX network is doomed.

Why Cleveland Brown Himself is the Only Great Thing About The Cleveland Show

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We all know that the Animation Domination block on FOX has been on somewhat of a slide in recent years. The glory days with the Holy Trinity of The Simpsons, Family Guy and Futurama have long since passed and sadly attempts to improve the variety of the block (such as with Sit Down, Shut Up) have not ended well. Nowadays, we have The Simpsons and an hour and a half of Seth McFarlane for company on Sunday nights.

Last season it was the turn of Cleveland Brown, a side character in Family Guy, to strut his stuff in his own spin-off show. There was rampant speculation at the time on whether or not he was worthy of such an accolade. Yes, it’s true that on Family Guy, he plays a deathly boring character whose only reason for existing was to be the butt of jokes (as if he needed any worse luck when it came to bathtubs). However, with his own show, Cleveland has been forced to add a bit of depth to his character, although he does so at the expense of everyone else in show.

The key to any good show is the interaction between the characters. In most shows, said characters normally have personalities distinct enough that they bounce back and forth off each other. A great example is The Inrcredibles, where the family members constantly clash with each other as their different powers take flight.

In The Cleveland Show, you have the typical “nuclear” family; husband, wife & kids. So far so much the same as Seth’s other two shows. You have Cleveland’s biological son, a simpleton who never has much to say, his adopoted daughter who seems to exhibit some of the worst traits of being a teenager and his adopted son, who acts like a much brasher version of Stewie from Family Guy. Donna would seem to be a good match for Cleveland in terms of character, but she has yet to have near as much airtime has him.

As for Cleveland’s buddies, let’s just say they all have one defining trait and we’ll leave it at that.

Which leaves us with Cleveland himself. What has changed about him in his transition from side-characters to main protagonist? Well for one, he has a lot more screen time, so he has a heck of a lot more talking to do. Besides that, he is still somewhat hard to pin down. He’s a devoted husband and father, but he is not averse to getting them into obscure situations that involve, say, a shootout.

He displays a higher level of intelligence than previously, although that may be the result of actually being more involved with the show. He is an optimist at heart, always looking for the good in folks, although that does not preclude him from having negative opinions which he does dispense when it suits him.

As the centre of the show, he naturally gets involved in a lot more activities than his family, and he has some genuine funny moments. The fact that he even displays a lighter side (perhaps even a colourful one) is a significant indicator that he is the most developed character on the show.

Cleveland Brown is, however, not a decent enough reason on his own to watch The Cleveland Show. The girlfriend and I gave up at the second ad break last Sunday, simply because the effort required to stay up didn’t justify the awesomeness that is sleep. If you, however,¬† enjoy a show with only one half-decent character, The Cleveland Show will do the job.

Napoleon Dynamite, Animated

The original Napoleon Dyanamite was the sleeper movie of 2004. Besides being a pretty decent movie, it gave rise to a number of cultural phenomenons, namely “Vote for Pedro” T-shirts. In recent days, word has come through AWN that an animated series based on the film is in the works.

There are a number of curious aspects to this announcement. First of all, why now, more than 5 years after the fact? Surely it would have made more sense to strike while the iron is hot? Surely nothing indicates the dwindling public appetite more than the Napoleon Dynamite Festival, which was held for a few years after the film was released but was discontinued due to near non-existent attendance numbers, right?

The other question I’m asking myself is where will it be broadcast? As it turns out, FOX is the one who is hoping betting heavily that the series will take off. When it would be broadcast is another matter. Sunday is firmly the realm of Seth McFarlane and FOX has yet to find an animated hit for a weeknight outside of The Simpsons.

The overall idea could stand up as a series, but the characters will not. Back in 2004 they were fun for 90-odd minutes, but can you imagine them coming back every single week? Things could get very stale very quick. Past experience has shown us that even a show with a great plot, diverse characters and progressive animation can get tossed over the fence almost as soon as it hits the airwaves.

Personally, I wish the Hess brothers all the best with their endevours, just don’t expect me to be waiting with baited breath.

The Declining Quality of Animation on FOX

It was akin to a religion for me, and the only night of the week when I would absolutely have to watch “my shows”, yet recently, I have begun to skip Sunday nights altogether. Yes, FOX still has a full schedule of animated shows that is completely unrivalled by other networks, save for perhaps [Adult Swim].

What happened? Where has the love gone? Well, I’m not entirely sure. Let’s start at 8 o’clock and go from there.

The Simpsons. What can I say that hasn’t already been said ever since Principal Skinner was outed by Martin Sheen as an impostor. The quality of the show has clearly fallen since the heady days of the 90s and some people have been actively campaigning for the show’s cancellation in recent times (shoutout to the Dead Homers Society).

While it is clear that the show will be around for a wee while yet, it is unclear just how much farther it can fall. For example, last Sunday night’s episode was about a beached whale and not much else. If it wasn’t for the combination of a thunderstorm and some ice-cream, I may well have nodded off.

The Simpsons continues to hobble along being a mere ghost of it’s former self. Even the shows that supposedly outdid it are themselves falling into laziness (see below). The future beyond The Simpsons does not seem particularly bright as they are such a hard act to follow, here’s hoping FOX makes a decent choice.

Moving on to 8:30, we now have the Cleveland Show. For the previous decade, we were treated to a mild-mannered Texan and is cronies. Looking back, I should have been more appreciative of Mike Judge’s unique brand of humour. In between the launch of The Cleveland Show, were were treated to the severely underrated Sit Down, Shut Up. I’ve made my thoughts known before, but suffice to say, I believe SDSU was sorely needed in a full-time slot. Sadly, FOX didn’t agree.

The Cleveland Show as we all know is a spin-off from Family Guy, which pretty much says it all. Even though the humour is not near as pointed as it’s parent, it is still recognizable for the crass jokes and wacky neighbours. As a show it is funny enough, but the show that follows does not do it any favours.

Family Guy is the comeback king (well, almost, Futurama has to be the comeback king, seeing as it was even deader that Family Guy when it was resurrected a few years ago) and since its return has proven to be a strong ratings success. OK, sure the jokes have gotten even more borderline and the plots have evolved to the point where the characters have practically no, um, character.

When viewed immediately after Cleveland, the similarities are too easy to miss. Both shows together end up leaving me feeling like I wasted half an hour in there somewhere, even though I didn’t.

The best show doesn’t begin until 9:30. Even then, it falls far short of the Simpsons in their prime but that didn’t stop me praising the show a while back. I still stand by that post. Why? Well compared with Family Guy and The Cleveland Show, American Dad! is breath of fresh air. OK, the first season was pretty lame with its overbearing political slant, but since then the show has matured enough to the point that it’s half decent.

For me though, it’s on a bit late, the curse of having to get up at 6 every morning in order to hit the gym before work. This late timeslot also seems to render it the forgotten child in the promos during the earlier shows. In the grand scheme of things, it continues to survive, which I am grateful for.

Having said all the above, I do appreciate that FOX continues to have faith in animation and does continue to look for new shows with the aim of replacing ones as they inevitably peter out. It’s just that right now, the evening is filled with shows that are so desperately boring overall, that I would much rather watch any one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films for the 20th time.

FOX needs to realize that staying in a comfort zone for too long isn’t healthy. I understand that they can’t add more hours to the day, but with the overall shift to on-demand viewing, they could easily vary the schedule from week to week without any severe damage. I have hope for the future, but right now, I’m just one fan who would rather watch something else on a Sunday night.