Adult Swim resurrected Tooname on April 1st as a joke, going so far as to show the first episode of fan favorites like “The Big O,” “Blue Submarine No. 6” and “Bleach.” This caused such a hue and cry on Twitter that it prompted Adult Swim to tweet the next day, “Want it back? Let us know. #BringBackToonami” When it finally got greenlit to return, the hashtag became “#ToonamisBackBitches.”
Hosted by wisecracking robot T.O.M. (voiced by Steven Blum, best known for voicing Spike Spiegal in the dubbed version of "Cowboy Bebop"), the afternoon schedule grew, then split off into a midnight selection and another program block on Kids WB. Toonami finally came in an end in 2008 with a nuanced sign-off from T.O.M. using the Spiegal’s iconic final word (“Bang.”)
The cult of Toonami is still online -- the Comics and Cartoons board at 4Chan had weekly "Toonami" livestreams as if it were still 2001. Existing purely for anime fans and educating an audience so nerdy they eventually turned to Japan for their animation fix, Toonami inadvertently inspired the migration to online streaming for people that wanted fresher material. Sites like Crunchyroll and even Funimation, which embraced YouTube and uploaded full episodes there for free, are updating daily with new content that changes instantly with the seasons.
The current Adult Swim motto of “if it was popular before, it’ll be popular again” regularly gets warmed over with shows like “NTSF:SD:SUV,” the latest cop show procedural from Paul Scheer; a 15-minute, one-off mockumentary about the ongoing evolution of “The Venture Brothers” as Hank, H.E.L.P.eR. and half-brother Dermott form their band Shallow Gravy; and PFFR's (“Wonder Showzen”) new “The Heart, She Holler,” described as "a satire on the emotional Hee-Hawification of America, set in a town so inbred, the folks have become almost supernaturally wrong."
It's a line-up that's eerily close to what you'd find in Adult Swim's mid- to late-2000s heyday, one that included “Xavier: Renegade Angel,” “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” and “12 oz. Mouse.” In an interview in advance of their “Cabin Boy” screening this week in New York with The L Magazine, director-writers Adam Resnick and Chris Elliot were reminded of their 1994 film's influence and predictive power -- "it has character actors and no straight man, it has moments of unabashed anarchy (like the flying cupcake who spits tobacco), it has running gags that change context (pipe-cleaning), and it has a Twin Peaks alum. That's... practically the Adult Swim formula.” Resnick answered, “ It's true. Some of Adult Swim's weird humor, some of that oddness... Cabin Boy did have some of that.”
Just look at Dino Stamatopolous, who worked with three different series on Adult Swim: “Moral Orel,” “Mary-Shelly’s Frankenhole” (as creator/producer/writer) and “Tom Goes to the Mayor” (as a writer). It would be amazing if Adult Swim had the ability to try out new products instead of focusing on the stoner concepts that gave them a guaranteed dorm room audience. You think that's an unfair criticism? Two words: "Tight Bros."
As their programming stands, Adult Swim is about to hit a very large rock called "The Internet.” The network is no longer the only game in town when it comes to funny, quick segments -- there’s the entire web and specialized YouTube channels that pump out new content daily like The Nerdist and Machinima, all capable of dealing with an audience’s whims and shaping their expectations in real time. The biggest irony of Adult Swim may not be in the tone of its programming, but that it set the stage for these new online channels that now threaten the network's future.