Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The polls are worrying me. These kind of numbers might be peaking just a bit too soon, and the gut-wrenching awfulness of panicky backlash, like last year's, is a frightening prospect. Though it does, thankfully, appear that such backlash may be muted, it's not much helping that nervous twitch in my neck I get every time I see a TORIES GAINING headline. The solution, as ever, is simple: write at length on a heartily frivolous topic to take my mind off the problem. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I watch a lot of Teletoon, Canada's pale imitation of animation-focused American cable station Cartoon Network. It's my default channel, the one that I tend to rest on when nothing else is on and the repeated loops of the news networks are getting on my nerves. (CTV Newsnet in particular - and I could swear I made comments to the CRTC at their request that helped to successfully lift that annoying little requirement from their broadcast license. Oh well; I guess old habits die hard.) Sure, I've seen every episode of Futurama, Family Guy and Home Movies dozens of times over, now - often muted - but that kind of repetition is still better than most of what the broadcast networks have to offer. What this does mean, however, is that I'm particularly sensitive (so used to the usual patterns of them as I am) to any change in programming, promos, bumpers, station identification, etc. Promos for the newest block of special programming only showed up today or yesterday, and no information, unfortunately, is yet available on the Teletoon website. Let it not be said that the enforced incompetence of Cancon rules imposed upon Corus in determining the station's programming is somehow made up for with marketing savvy in 'New Media' areas. Hell, look at the extent of what they've accomplished, under their late-night program block brand name of "The Detour," to promote marquee series Bromwell High - and what British co-producer Channel 4 has. (Both links highly NSFW.) The latter is an excellent example of interactive Flash with original animation; the former is...somewhat less so. In any event, the special block is horror-themed, titled "The Dead of Winter" - and interestingly enough, seems to feature all the same wonderfully 80s series that were picked up for a temporary run for Halloween-themed blocks last October: The Real Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, and rare permutations of Scooby-Doo. That's nothing short of brilliant, and I don't just say that because I love at least two of those. Indeed, it's a joy to see The Real Ghostbusters again; not only is it a show featuring many excellent scripts by later Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, but it also has the power to engender soft pink feelings of nostalgia for that circa-1990 point in my childhood when I was absolutely obsessed with the entire Ghostbusters franchise, and those are probably qualities of equal merit. (Seriously. Obsessed. I picked my first pair of glasses based on the premise of wanting to look like Egon - and not with Harold Ramis' prissy little wire-rims from the movie, either, but the perceptually thicker frames of the animated Egon's character design. Yikes, huh?) Beetlejuice, likewise, is another blast of nostalgia, yet manages (by virtue of the actual production being contracted out to Canadian animation house Nelvana) to fulfill part of the daily schedule's Cancon quota. More interestingly, it's probably the most Tim Burtonesque of all subsidiary works based on Tim Burton's increasingly bizarre oeuvre, with direct thematic links to The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow and Corpse Bride; it's the full extension of the expanded universe from which all Burton's Gothic meandering is drawn. Even more interestingly, the writers somehow managed, by sheer force of will, to paper over the whole statutory rape-based premise of Beetlejuice and Lydia's relationship established in the original film. That's some accomplishment for an animated spinoff that's still pretty dark, even if it does occasionally drift into clumsily rendered Relevant Childrens' Themes of the period. (I sometimes wonder how anyone growing up in the early 90s managed to avoid a neurotic complex over the persistent unwillingness of the entire planet to embrace vaguely-justified, simplistic environmentalism, of the kind that was for a time ubiquitous on Saturday morning TV.) For these, then, I can most definitely applaud a weird kludge of a programming theme; kudos to whatever Teletoon executive sold their boss on reusing the entire Halloween block in situ. Now, if only the same persuasion could be applied to arranging for more than sixty minutes per week of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim original series, perhaps in lieu of an episode or two of Family Guy on the non-Canadian side of the programming ledger...