Saturday, March 19, 2016

From Teen Titans to Teen Titans GO!

I haven't even said a single thing about this show yet, and you probably already have something you want to say.

"Oh, great, yet another person giving this show undeserved crap."

"Don't do it! You have so much to live for!"

"Why are you covering this before Teen Titans?"

It's that kind of show; everyone who knows about it seems to have a very strong opinion. Which is why I'm doing a post about its history before I cover it for realsies.

The lone survivor of the DC Nation Slaughter.
The original Teen Titans cartoon was a bit of an oddity. One week, you could tune in to see a dramatic story about family and loyalty. And the next week, you might get a story about the team being turned into animals, featuring a musical sequence. But the show's willingness to alternate between fun and seriousness got it a few fans. I was not one of them... at the time.

Now, back in my day, there was no such thing as a "DVR," or "iTunes." As such, if you wanted to watch a particular show, you had to be in front of the TV as it was being broadcast live. And since we only had the one TV in the house hooked up to our satellite dish... well, let's just say that my parents thought I'd had my fill of TV for the day before Teen Titans was on in the evenings. I only ended up catching the show during high school when reruns would air on Boomerang.

I'll admit, I haven't seen every episode. But I did end up growing to appreciate the show after its time. Though I must admit I found the Doom Patrol stuff more interesting than the ongoing Terra stuff.

But I digress.

My point is that Teen Titans had a lot of different things to offer, so many people have fond memories of it. And then... ugh. It always comes back to this... the DC Nation.

In the early days of my blog, back in 2014, I went over the rise and fall of the DC Nation. But some of the information bears repeating to tell the tale of Teen Titans GO!

There were many factors behind it (which I explained at length in the aforementioned post), but Cartoon Network was basically strong-armed into creating a programming block specifically for DC's new shows, like Beware the Batman, Young Justice, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and a buttload of various short cartoons to be shown during commercial breaks. Among those shorts were ones based on Animal Man, Super BFFs, and New Teen Titans.

These Teen Titans used a more "cartoony" style and featured returning villains from the old show, like Mad Mod and Control Freak. The very positive reaction to the shorts helped along the development of a half reboot, half sequel, half unrelated show, Teen Titans GO!, which was greenlit ASAP.

The show was helmed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic, with Sam Register as executive producer. Horvath worked for Cartoon Networks's Mad Magazine variety cartoon, simply called "MAD," and Jelenic worked on many different cartoon including The Batman, Jackie Chan Adventures, and two episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, among others. Including the fan-favorite episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister." And really, that combination should explain why the show turned out the way it did.

On the one hand, you had a comedic writer. And on the other hand, you had a man with experience working on DC shows. When these two men combined their talents on Teen Titans GO!, they were actually originally trying to create something more along the lines of the original series, but more of a romp. A little bit more humor, a little bit less drama, but still grounded in a "realistic" universe.

Although you can see remnants of this idea in relatively-less-silly early episodes like "Legendary Sandwich" and "Pie Bros," that idea did not pan out.

With the success of the New Teen Titans shorts in 2012, Cartoon Network was pushing for a 2013 release for Teen Titans GO!, which also explains why the show is animated in, some would say, cheap-looking Flash animation.

Not that cheap-looking.
Does anybody remember that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and George are pitching TV ideas to a network, only to fall back on one they had earlier dismissed as being stupid?

Well, Aaron Horvath kept joking about centering an episode around a "meatball party." But they never did anything with it.

Then they started running out of ideas after planning ten episodes.

Then the deadline started inching closer and closer.

So they ended up working the meatball party idea into an episode. And from there, they started letting loose with their weird, silly ideas until their wacky brand of humor became the norm.

The writers have stated that the main goals for the series are to make the viewer laugh, to do the unexpected, and to keep the humor feeling fresh. Well, naturally, this upset many fans who felt that the new show was disrespecting the original, or felt that the Teen Titans should have been completely rebooted, or who felt that Teen Titans GO! simply wasn't funny. But regardless of what the audience thought of Teen Titans GO!, Cartoon Network loved it. In fact, it was the only show of the DC Nation that they liked at all.

Behind the scenes at Cartoon Network, they secretly plotted to kill off the DC Nation. I'm sure many DC Nation fans remember the time when Cartoon Network decided to air Dragons: Riders of Berk instead of the DC Nation before excitedly tweeting that the DC Nation would be triumphantly returning next year, after giving no previous indication that it was on hiatus.

No. We hadn't heard. Because you never told us it was leaving in the first place.
They didn't even tell the people working on DC Nation material.

In all seriousness, not cool, Cartoon Network.
But along with that specific incident, there were a few general policies that they employed to slowly kill the DC Nation off, too.

First of all, they refused to advertise the DC Nation shows during any other time of day but the DC Nation itself. Despite this, viewers kept finding ways to keep the viewing numbers up through word of mouth. Or message board, as the case may have been. Ironically enough, a good number of these viewers were female. And Cartoon Network had been trying for a while to get more girls watching their channel.

Second of all, they refused to push for any toys to be made based on the DC Nation shows. You might think this is a relatively minor point, but keep in mind that cartoons have been vehicles for toy shilling for decades. Some are just more subtle about it than Transformers and G.I. Joe.

And finally, Cartoon Network executives lobbied for the cancellation of the DC Nation block because it wasn't selling any of those non-existent toys.

Green Lantern: TAS: Canceled after one season.
Young Justice: Canceled after two seasons.
Beware the Batman: Canceled after half a season, with the remaining episodes marathoned off at 3 am on Toonami, angering the people who wanted to watch anime.

But Teen Titans GO! would survive because somebody at the network with clout liked it.

So before the DC Nation was unceremoniously dumped in the trash and ignored forever, Teen Titans GO! made the gradual shift to weekday schedule slots, allowing it to build up an audience outside the people who tuned in to see the DC Nation block. This blatant favoritism was add to the vast list of reasons why the hatedom for Teen Titans GO! quickly grew.

I went back and forth for a while on whether or not I would analyze the hatedom for Teen Titans Go! before I covered it. Eventually, I decided that the best way to look at this show is to take it one episode at a time. Analyze what works, criticize what doesn't. Talk about the ways this show intentionally trolls haters (the many, many ways), but more importantly, I'm giving it a chance.

It's not a serious superhero drama. And I won't be criticizing it simply for not being what I might want it to be.

But that doesn't mean it gets a free pass.

The NewtCave's look at Teen Titans GO! begins with "Legendary Sandwich." See you then.


  1. All I have to say is, good luck.

    As for my history with this show, I'll admit that I was interested in it at first. It looked interesting, to say the least, and seeing the Teen Titans return in any form (I had not known about the New Teen Titans Adventures) got me curious.

    At first, the show had a certain charm to it that kept me watching for at least a little while. But that charm quickly wore off for me before season 1 ended. The last episode I actually saw was "The Left Leg". I have not seen a full episode of the show since then.

    And, seeing the kinds of things the show did after that, I'm glad I stopped watching.

    All I have to say is, good luck for when you get to a few "special" episodes.

    1. I know exactly what you're referring to....

  2. Are we sure that Darth Sidious isn't in charge of Cartoon Network? "Now, witness the power of my fully operational Steven Universe!" "What about the DC Nation shows, master?" "Wipe them out. All of them."

    Please don't suck, Justice League Action. I mean sure, it has James Woods as Lex Luthor, but then again, Agents of SMASH had Clancy Brown as Thunderbolt Ross. Good casting does not equal good writing.

    Rant over,
    That One Anon

  3. Wow, quite the convoluted history to one of the worst superhero cartoons ever made, let alone how they ran out of ideas so quickly. Ever see Mr.Enter's reviews of TTG? They're really good.

    1. Not before you left this comment, no. (That's the irony of making web content; you have less time to consume web content.)

      Man, the guy sounds calm and angry at the same time. No easy feat.

  4. Shame on all of you for hating Teen Titans Go! It IS a great show, so enjoy it for what it is and stop being @$$-holes like everyone else with your phony and uninformed analyses and everything! 😡

    1. Sorry you feel that way, man; I never meant to provoke anyone. I'm sorry we disagree, but I won't tell you that there's anything wrong with your opinion.

      Everyone's allowed to like what they like and dislike what they dislike. I can't tell you to hate TTG anymore than you can tell me to like it.

      But there actually are episodes I like, as well as episodes I dislike, to be honest.

      "The Night Begins to Shine" is freaking CATCHY, man.