Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 6: This Is CNN!

CNN sign!

The artist formerly known as Cable News Network. You can pronounce it “Conan” for short, but people will look at you funny.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Atlanta is home to a few major companies with international reach and historical impact. Among them, CNN was closest to our hotel. The 1980 brainchild of local media mogul Ted Turner, best known to our generation as the guy who brought us Turner Classic Movies and who thought it would be cool to have It’s a Wonderful Life garishly colorized, CNN was the first 24-hour all-news channel, back in the days before every hobby, profession, concept, or word had its own dedicated 24/7 cable channel out there.

The building has been around since 1976, but it’s been the CNN Center since 1987, when CNN and its eldest offspring CNN Headline News relocated and made it their broadcasting home. CNN’s primary programming now shoots in NYC, LA, and DC, but HLN and other CNN offshoots still call ATL home. As it happens, the CNN Center offers tours to the public. We thought it sounded fun. Neither of us watches CNN regularly, though Anne dabbles in HLN’s true-crime programming. Sadly, our tour did not include a meet-and-greet with the narrator of Forensic Files.

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“Star Wars: the Clone Wars”: a Few Kind Words at the Funeral

Star Wars: the Clone Wars Clonetrooper Gatling laser

What do you call a Clonetrooper with a Gatling laser? The winner.

While Star Wars fans worldwide have been agog ever since the Walt Disney Company commenced production of the still-untitled Episode VII, a large segment of the fan base has been in mourning this month over the news that the season-five finale of Star Wars: the Clone Wars, which aired March 2nd, would be the final episode of the Cartoon Network series. Though ratings didn’t seem to be an issue and production on a sixth season had already been underway, the message between the lines in the official Lucasfilm press release was that the company’s new long-term mission would be focusing on the ostensible Episode VII era, the future of the Star Wars galaxy after Return of the Jedi, rather than filling in gaps between the previous films. Anyone still in denial had their hopes crushed this week by new reports that Lucasfilm is actively reassigning some Clone Wars contributors to different projects and downsizing others.

Fans are hoping the completed season-six material is allowed to see the light of day in some fashion (as DVD extras? as exclusive online content? as a Disney XD miniseries? as convention bootlegs alongside The Star Wars Holiday Special?), but no promises have been made. The final episode, “The Wrong Jedi”, gave cold comfort and depressing closure to the Jedi training of the series’ central figure, young Ahsoka Tano, providing one last twist of fate that would allow her a gateway into potential further adventures, either in season six or in other media. Now that Episode VII has become Lucasfilm Job One, Ahsoka fans probably shouldn’t get their hopes up.

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Cartoon Network to Showrunners: Sell Toys or Perish

Green Lantern, Young Justice, canceledTV animation fans are still coming to terms with recent announcements that Cartoon Network had canceled two Saturday morning series, both part of the DC Nation programming block — Young Justice after two seasons, and Green Lantern after a single season. Cancellation isn’t unusual for the basic-cable channel — their programming history is a long shopping list of short-term productions. In fact, if you set aside the frequent Ben 10 reboots (the Scooby-Doo of a new generation in its own way), their longest-running series outside the Adult Swim block (i.e., still producing new episodes and not existing solely as reruns) is Adventure Time, which will celebrate its third birthday next month. The minds behind Young Justice should probably count their blessings that they were allowed two entire seasons instead of being truncated after six episodes.

Typical Cartoon Network cancellations tend to come and go without a public post-mortem or much of a protest. However, the curious circumstances surrounding these shows’ unforeseen terminations was addressed last weekend at the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, where longtime Warner Brothers Animation producer Bruce Timm was asked about the cancellations at a Q&A. In the wake of a January article about Young Justice ending due not to low ratings but to anemic toy sales, multimedia news/rumor site Bleeding Cool followed up with Timm’s response regarding Green Lantern, referencing weak merchandise sales as the primary cause of death:

Since the Ryan Reynolds’ film, retailers were stuck with film merchandise that just wasn’t selling. This led to those retailers being very reluctant, if not downright refusing, to any carry merchandise from the Animated Series. Therefore, a lack of sales on that front lead to a lack revenue for an admittedly expensive CG series.

In reading the paraphrasing of Timm’s comments, I couldn’t help feeling a little naïve and a whole lot disappointed. Though the shows weren’t quite for me, I can respect the efforts that went into them and the fan bases they garnered. The part that struck me in the worst way was that, if those two articles linked above are to be believed — and I’ve seen no evidence that anyone in authority disagrees with them — then the crews of both shows essentially lost their gigs regardless of the quality of their own work. If the stories were engaging and the animation was suitably competent, it didn’t matter. Even though Nielsen commoners didn’t exactly boycott the show, ratings were seemingly a secondary consideration. The bottom line, as I understand it: they failed as toy commercials.

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Cartoon Network Celebrates Memorial Day with Preview of “Annoying Orange”

In honor of all those foodstuffs who died in the line of kitchen conversation, Cartoon Network will be airing a sneak preview of their upcoming, reverent TV adaptation of the YouTube Golden Age classic Annoying Orange on Monday, May 28th, at 8:30 EDT. TV scientists await with instruments at hand to measure the effects of a mere fifteen-minute exposure on the health and stability of unsuspecting Nielsen families.

The official teaser:

I’m out of the loop on 85% of all YouTube phenomena, but I first caught sight of this citric sociopath in his mainstream breakout role alongside other notorious YouTube mascots in a Sprint/Regal Cinemas ad, warning the cell-phone fetishists in the audience to power down. He was hard to ignore as his distinct voice arose from the ruckus and stabbed me right in the ear. Thankfully my son was on hand to explain the concept to me without rolling his eyes too much.

I was surprised to see this pop up on the Memorial Day schedule with little or no fanfare from my immediate social circles. Clearly the world must be warned.

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