The Leftovers: Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and The Hub

As those of you who regularly follow this blog already know, Goldstar and I discuss Cartoon Network and its’ shows a lot here. Some of you may be wondering why there isn’t much discussion about the shows on the other kids’ entertainment/animation channels Nick and Disney on Astral City. The answer is simple: we really don’t watch anything on either of those channels.

I probably only watch about 40% of CN’s schedule, but that’s more than I watch on Nick and Disney Channel put together.

But in the interest of diversification and playing to all sides, I’ll give a brief run-through on my opinions on the other channels.

Disney Channel/Disney XD/Disney Junior

I put these channels together because it’s easier to discuss them all at once. To say that Disney Channel has become stagnant nowadays is like pointing out that cotton candy has sugar in it. The biggest problem with Disney Channel right now is that they’ve become too complacent. Animation-wise, they’ve put all of their eggs in one basket, relying entirely on Phineas and Ferb (I don’t count Fish Hooks, no one does). Sure, Disney has some new animated series coming down the pike, most of them on Disney Junior, which I don’t get since I’m a DirecTV subscriber and even if I did receive DJ, I probably wouldn’t watch it much because it’s a preschool channel; not being a preschooler nor having any preschoolers in my house, I don’t have much use for Disney Junior, though it’s good that some of the older Disney cartoons are airing somewhere. It would be nice if the Mouse House would put their classic characters in some new shows which aren’t specifically designed to appeal to wee tots, as well as some new decent, clever and creative animated shows which don’t have the names Phineas or Ferb in the title.

I’ll bet you thought I was going to say that the worst things about the Disney channels are their live-action teen/tweencoms. No, I don’t bemoan the fact they exist, nor that they’re popular. Disney has been catering to teens since the studio first hit television (Annette Funicello and Spin & Marty were nothing but the Hanna Montanas or Zack & Codys of their day), so I don’t mind that their 2 main channels, Big Disney and X-D, are saturated with these shows; though I’d mind even less if there were more animated shows to compliment them and if they’re live-action comedies were, you know, funny. I know it’s wrong of me to pass judgment on these shows since I’m far from being in the target age group for these shows coupled with the fact that I was never really into tween shows even when I was a tween, but what I’ve seen of Disney’s LA shows, they look really, really stupid and not funny at all. All involved try way too hard to be zany. The kids on these shows all mug so much they all should have little handles on the sides of their heads. Their LA shows are so formulaic that Disney has enacted a requirement that each of them have 6 to 7 regulars. I kid you not. What’s sad about it is that some of them actually have potentially interesting premises, but then they whiz that potential right down the drain; Hanna Montana could’ve been a scathing satire of the pop star industry (think a kid-friendly Larry Sanders Show), but instead they made it into another dull-as-dishwater school-centric tweencom with one of THE stupidest gimmicks imaginable (a secret identity? Really?? Like no one would recognize the same person in a blond wig), Pair of Kings could’ve been an enchanting little froth island show with a touch of fan service, but they made the 2 stars a couple of goony guys instead of cute girls and made the characters so stupid that they’re almost brain-dead (I swear you’d have to have had a partial lobotomy to be entertained by this orĀ Kickin’ It), Wizards of Waverly Place actually made wizardry boring, not to mention all of that malarkey about the competition to see who gets to keep their powers (they never bothered with that crap on Bewitched) and Lab Rats could have been a cool sci-fi comedy about super-beings and quirky science, but they ruined it by making it yet another show about surviving high-school (this is why I’ve always been turned off by tweencoms: too many of them center around school. I hated school as a kid, so why would I want to spend my non-school hours watching people attending school??), plus, while I don’t want to be that guy, it bothers me how all of the super teens with the cool powers are white and the 1 normal kid is black; as a non-white myself, that just doesn’t sit right with me. Whenever I catch a glimpse of these Disney ‘comedies’, I have to wonder: just how the heck did Out of Jimmy’s Head get canceled?

Finally, though I hate to have to side with the retro-snobs and nostalgia-tards, I have to say that it is a shame that the Disney Afternoon/1 Saturday Morning era shows aren’t airing on any of the Disney channels right now. (Disney should also be doing something with the Fox Kids shows that they currently own rather than just letting them collect dust in the vaults, but that rant’s for another day.) At this point, it’s clear that a Retro Disney channel is out of the question; Disney clearly doesn’t have the desire nor the money to launch a 5th channel, but I don’t think that a Vault Disney program block running on either of the 2 main Disney channels–most likely Big Disney, since X-D is all about boy-centric action shows–would be out of the question.

Nickelodeon/Nick At Nite/Nicktoons/TeeNick

Again, it’s just easier to talk about all of these channels at once. TeeNick I neither watch nor care about, period. So let’s move on. I used to watch Nicktoons periodically before it went all action-y, so now I don’t bother with with it. (I prefer comedy over action overall, so aside from the DC and Marvel superhero shows and the occasional shonen anime, I really don’t bother with action cartoons much.)

Big Nick, like Disney Channel, has become too reliant on a few shows: they literally hinge everything onto SpongeBob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer and iCarly, figuring as long as these 3 shows continue to earn ratings and put butts into seats, why should they bother to try to make anything else of note? If I were CEO of Nick, I’d consider enacting a 65 or 72 episode limit to the channel’s original productions, so they wouldn’t risk outstaying their welcome. And sorry, but Nick’s live-action efforts are just…boring. Disney Channel’s LA shows are bad, but some of them at least sound interesting on paper. Nick’s current LA show ideas are so bland, dull and generic that I wonder if they weren’t conceived for heart patients. A show about 2 polar opposites who are aspiring songwriters and a show about a girl who’s the only female in a house full of guys, namely her single dad and her brothers? This is comedy to these people?? You know what I miss? The goofy ‘green slime’ era of Nickelodeon. The time when Nick wasn’t preoccupied with trying to out-Pop Disney Channel and just said “We’re goofy as hell and we don’t care!” When their shows were actually creator-driven and not just based on some successful movie or game franchise. Don’t get me wrong, some property-based shows can be entertaining too, but when that’s all your network airs, it comes off like the soulless by-product of committee thinking. I don’t need for Nick’s older shows to come back, but I would like to see a return to that old spirit. Maybe then there’d actually be something on that channel I’d go out of my way to watch.

As for Nick At Nite, some have suggested doing away with Nick’s nighttime block altogether. Admittedly, the sitcom reruns doesn’t serve much purpose now that Viacom has an entire channel for that (TV Land), but at this point Viacom can’t just sign off at 8PM or run the kids’ programming all night long, not even the classic Nick shows. Presently, they’re locked in a competition for the 18-34 year old demographic and competing with the likes of Adult Swim, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Conan for that age demo, and they’re not going to win them over with reruns of AAAAHHH! Real Monsters.

I personally don’t think N@N needs to go away, but I would revamp it. Here’s what I would put in its’ place:

I’d keep the Nick @ Nite name; the nighttime block doesn’t have to go away just because the programming would change. I’d have N@N start at 9PM and switch back to Nick proper at 7AM, except on weekends when Nick proper would be expanded to end at 10PM when kids wouldn’t have to get up early the next morning. As for what this “new” N@N would play, if anybody remembers the former N@N shows On the Television, Mad Movies with the LA Connection and Turkey Television, I would fill N@N with alternative comedies similar to those and possibly mix that with animated shows akin to Liquid Television and Daria and unconventional sitcoms like The New Adventures of Beans Baxter, the FOX live-action version of The Tick and Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (heck, while we’re at it Viacom could revive their former young adult-skewing game shows like Remote Control and Beat the Geeks on this block as well) as sort of a Comedy Central/Adult Swim lite, and on Friday and/or Saturday nights I’d toss in a Nick Rewind style block of former Nick shows, both live-action and animated during N@N’s first 1 or 2 hours. Just rotate the lineup every couple of months to keep viewers interested since there wouldn’t be any new episodes coming down the pike. But that’s just what I’d do.

The Hub

Finally, we come to The Hub, aka, The Little Channel That Could…or Hopes to One Day. Hasbro has made no bones about how they wish to be thought of in the same breath as the Big Three kids’ and general family entertainment channels CN, Nick and Disney, thereby making this trio a quartet, and while The Hub’s ratings could stand to climb a little, I think they could actually pull this off, if they stay alive long enough. Shows like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Dan VS and The Aquabats! Super Show! are creating substantial internet buzz, though that doesn’t always equal ratings. Hub’s nighttime schedule, however, is a joke., at least to me it is. Aside from Dan VS, I don’t watch anything on The Hub at night, as nothing on there interests me. Those 30-year-old sitcom reruns are flatter than day-old soda. the only ones I cold see myself peering in on occasionally are the Adam West Batman show and maybe Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. I’d personally go with the quirky comedy block like I mentioned above with Nick@Nite, but I just plain love quirky unconventional comedies and miss them on TV. I understand Hasbro doesn’t want to run anything too edgy as that would taint their “where kids and families come together” image, but I’m really hoping The Hub will stick around long enough to find its’ voice and offer some nighttime shows which aren’t as dull as drywall. I personally think Mystery Science Theater 3000 would be a great fit for The Hub, but again, that could just be me wanting to see the show somewhere other than YouTube again.


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