Over the next few weeks we're going to be looking at some of the highest-rated cable networks on the airwaves in much the same way we ranked the shows on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox back in September, and we figured we'd start off with an ambitious one: Adult Swim. Our rationale is pretty simple: It's a top 10 network in prime time even though most of its programming airs late at night; in total day rankings it beats out everything on cable—ESPN, USA, its huge sister networks like TNT and TBS—for the No. 1 slot; and its median age is 23. If you want those millennials who are abandoning traditional TV, especially young men, here they are. Much of Adult Swim's staying power is in its acquired or syndicated content (especially its anime programming and its reruns of Family Guy), but its originals are mighty, as well.
And of course another part of the network's success is its commitment to really, really weird stuff, and to a pretty free-form renewal/cancelation policy. Everybody's seen the bugnuts 11-minute-long segment from the network's irregular show Infomercials, called Too Many Cooks, that devoured the Internet last week—it's not like anything, anywhere. Under senior evp Mike Lazzo, Adult Swim has become a huge financial success; it's also sort of the Wooster Group of cable television.
To some extent, this means that its offerings will appeal to disparate audiences from show to show. Bearing that in mind, here is the network's current crop, ranked from best to worst, although really, everything here is doing its darndest to be its own odd self. We've tried to define the shows and answer the question of whether the content could survive on the broadcast networks, which so desperately need the viewers who dig it. Also, since Adult Swim is nominally a comedy concern (dangerously close to becoming an art collective), we describe what kind of comedy is going on for each one.
For these, we're only breaking down shows that are already on the air or have definitely been renewed; stuff that's in limbo or recently canceled, we're letting fall by the wayside. We're not crazy. Well, we're crazy, but we're not suicidal.