Adventure Time ran for 9 years, 10 seasons and one Minecraft themed special. As nicest of guys Jonathan Holmes wrote, it influenced a whole heck of a lot of similar, brightly colored, emotionally complex shows in the coming years, substantially impacting the media landscape for a cartoon about a boy and his dog. I was a sophomore in high school when it first aired in 2010 and still vividly remember the ad campaign asking “WHAT TIME IS IT?!” So yeah, I’m bummed. Even though my watching habits tapered off after a few years, the end of Adventure Time is the final show of that phase of Cartoon Network’s history.
That sentence probably makes no sense so I’ll explain. As series get canceled and producers and executives get shuffled around a network’s direction and style will change with it. For example, probably the most well-known “phase” of Cartoon Network was when shows like Dexter’s Labratory, The PowerPuff Girls and Ed, Edd n Eddy aired (It also had that awesome city with all the characters living in it!) Yes, the shows had their own narratives, styles, and showrunners, but together they contributed to the channel’s identity, something you could point to and say, “Yup, that’s a Cartoon Network show.”
So shows during the same time period on the same channel have similarities; not regulatory, but they sure did affect me mightily. As previously mentioned, Adventure Time premiered in 2010 around the same time other gems like Regular Show and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. Additionally, a block of superhero shows called DC Nation floored comic book fans with the incredible Young Justice as well as the criminally underrated silver-age stylized Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I remember recording all those shows, getting wings from my favourite local place, and having the best Friday nights an antisocial nerd could ask for.
And while that is a little sad (fine, a lot), those are some great memories for me. Those shows helped form my tastes in comedy and action. Those shows convinced me to minor in animation in college. Those shows helped shape my values as a person! Sure, I’m probably a more extreme case, but I don’t think I’m overestimating the influence and impact shows like these can have if someone watches it at just the right time in their life. It’s nostalgia to the max, but a good type of nostalgia, an appreciative and thankful one that I’m sure not only I have experienced.
However, understandably things change and the channel’s identity changes with it. Sticking with Cartoon Network (because I am a manchild who still only watches cartoons), the era before my prized shows was headlined by some…. different types of shows, and that’s totally okay! While I personally didn’t enjoy Chowder or The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, plenty of my friends quote them and adopted their irreverent, often surreal humor. Hell, I’m sure plenty of viewers watched it at just the right time in their lives had the same experience with those shows as I did with mine. To Cartoon Network, it was simply another phase of programming replacing the old shows that ended, but for viewers, it could be so much more.
That’s bonkers! That’s an immense impact on people during formative experiences in their lives, and I’m not talking solely about kids shows. That common identity a channel cultivates that viewers can identify with, cannot be understated. I realize this is common knowledge — of course media you consume influences you — but just think how different a person you could be if you hadn’t discovered your favorite show or that one incredible episode you stumbled upon because the current slate of shows on a station happened to be up your alley. It’s like hitting the jackpot to the “you” lottery you never knew you entered.
It’s odd how certain shows stick with you; I didn’t watch the Regular Show or Adventure Time finales. Heck, I’ve probably only seen 20% of Adventure Time episodes, but it hit me surprisingly hard when I found out it was ending. All the other shows are off the air now (Young Justice revival notwithstanding), fully solidifying those wonderful Friday nights in the past. However, I and plenty others can still reflect and appreciate how that slate of shows affected us in such meaningful ways. Thanks for being so mathematical.