Fox's 'Animation Domination;' Remembering Toonami

Post-Game: The Simpsons 20.1

Once upon a time, Bill Cosby ruled Thursday nights from his platform on NBC.

There was one episode where he was looking for his youngest daughter, who was hiding behind the couch. When Cos “caught” her, she popped up wearing a mask of Bart Simpson.

That goes to show you how smart a man Bill Cosby was. That little bit showed he had a good idea what was in his future.

At that time, Fox had moved The Simpsons from its original Sunday evening slot to Thursday against Cosby. Much to everyone’s surprise, and by that one suspects even Simpsons fans, the show survived, even thrived. Fox saw the error of their ways and moved Matt Groening’s enduring creation back to Sunday.

Further, Fox started populating The Simpsons with similarly more mature themed programs. Some didn’t make it. There’s a scene in a past episode of the show where a graveyard is populated with these shows, including The Critic and The PJs. Groening’s own other creation, Futurama proved there is a way around it too.

Still, Fox did manage to build a block around the show. They recruited Mike Judge, who was already a name thanks to his work on Beavis & Butt-Head, and he came up with King of the Hill. They got another up-and-comer, Seth McFarlane, who responded with Family Guy, and later American Dad. About a year or so back they tied all this together as a block under the name of “Animation Domination.”

This Sunday Animation Domination returns with all-new episodes, with a few surprises in the works for 2009, too.

As it stands, the block starts off pretty much as it should (all times eastern):

8:00 p.m. The Simpsons

8:30 King of the Hill

9:00 Family Guy

9:30 American Dad

As for what to expect, let’s get it started:

The Simpsons

Just the title of the debut episode alone, “Sex, Pies and Idiot Scrapes,” should warn you. Groening and company are kicking off their 20th season in classic fashion. As always, there’s an A plot and a B. The log line describes them as Homer being sent to jail after a haphazard, booze-free brawl at the Springfield St. Patrick’s Day parade. When he goes to get his bail bond, Homer meets Lucky Jim (guest voice Robert Forster) and Wolf the Bounty Hunter and decides to try his own hand at the lucrative profession. The new and improved Homer the Bounty Hunter soon teams up with Ned Flanders to create quite the unlikely bounty-hunting duo, but when Homer’s new no-mercy attitude gets the best of him, Flanders is less than impressed. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, Marge begins working at an erotic bakery.

Future episodes include “Lost Verizon,” featuring Dennis Leary and Brian Grazer. It revolves around Bart winding up with Leary’s cel phone, but Leary will get his revenge. Also in the works is an episode called “Homer The Whopper,” which not only guest stars Seth Rogen, but is also co-written by him. It revolves around Homer becoming an all-new superhero named Everyman. Isn’t it great to see the show never forgets its comic roots? Maybe they’ll have the likes of Alan Moore do another guest appearance.

Also in the works is “The Good, the Bad and the Drugly” with everyone’s favorite princess, Anne Hathaway. In this episode, Hathaway turns Bart into a Good Samaritan and Lisa, unable to cope with the world anymore, goes on anti-depressants. That isn’t the only show involving Lisa either. Another one is called “Four Great Women and a Manicure,” where the adult Lisa is played by Jodie Foster.

For some reason, it kind of makes sense that Lisa would grow up to be Foster, doesn’t it?

KING OF THE HILL

This year marks a keynote event for Mike Judge’s enduring creation. Fox will air King of the Hill’s 250th episode. That isn’t all. Hank’s going to have a new member to his family, thanks to Luanne.

The series will start in classic KotH style, too. Entitled “Dia-BILL-ic Shock,” the episodes centers on Hank Hill’s long suffering neighbor Bill gives up all hope after being diagnosed with diabetes and starts using a wheelchair thinking it will soon be his fate since he is not willing to change his eating habits. When Hank and the guys see Bill’s distress, they pull together to make Bill’s life easier and wait on him hand and foot. Then he meets a crippled rugby player named Thunder, and the tables will be quickly turned.

Future episodes include “Earthy Girls are Easy,” where Dale starts acting like he’s Green in order to get some much needed action. From there, the next episode is entitled “McMansion,” which has the neighbors using nature to their advantage when a new owner attempts to tear down the late Dotty Dwyer’s home.

As always, the series features the voice cast of Mike Judge as Hank Hill & Boomhauer; Kathy Najimy as Peggy Hill; Pamela S. Adlon as Bobby Hill; Brittany Murphy as Luanne; Tom Petty as Lucky; Johnny Hardwick as Dale and Stephen Root as Bill

FAMILY GUY/AMERICAN DAD

One gets a feeling this is going to be a critical year for Seth McFarlane. The Animation Domination block kicks off with its usual 9:00 p.m. block of Family Guy and American Dad. Come January though, his FG spin-off The Cleveland Show will enter the schedule. Is McFarlane stretching himself too thin? More on that in a bit.

In the meantime, the latest season of Family Guy will kick off with a Brian falling in love with another human, until he loses her to Cleveland Brown. So Brian counters with, of all people, Cleveland’s ex, Loretta. As for Stan and family, they face a double whammy of their own in the form of Roger’s “Sweet 1600” while son Steven does the nigh-impossible, enter puberty.

Still, it’s the two surprises that can help Fox’s animation block maintain its life for some time to come. Come January, two new shows will enter the fray, the first being the aforementioned Cleveland Show, the other being based on an Australian live-action series entitled Sit Down, Shut Up.

SDSU is being produced by Sony with Rough Draft US as the primary studio. Comedy writers Michael Hurwitz (who also worked on Arrested Development) as well as Eric and Kim Tannenbaum (2 ½ Men) are leading the creative team. The series revolves around a group of teachers who realize that education is only a side product of their occupation. It will feature the voices of Henry Winkler, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Kenan Thompson, Tom Kenny and Maria Bamford. Based on the advance word Fox has put out, this is a truly cynical look at the education system and will feature the animated characters against photographed backdrops.

Getting back to The Cleveland Show, the series will have Family Guy’s favorite door mat leaving town for Stoolbend, Virginia. His new family will include a daughter too mature for her own short skirts, a five year-old boy who can teach Cleveland a thing or two about the ladies and a new beginning with his former high school crush. If that isn’t enough, his neighbors include a couple of rednecks, another family that still thinks it’s the Victorian era, and a family of bears. That’s right, bears.

In all, it looks like Bill Cosby was a very smart man. He made his money with his old NBC show, attempted a few other projects, then basically got out of Dodge where the groundbreaking comic can sit and live handsomely off his royalties from The Fat Albert Show.

Based on everything seen, Fox’s Animation Domination block is the new sheriff on Sunday nights. Don’t be surprised if it stays that way for a few more years.

TOONAMI JETTISONED

As is being reported around the ‘net, Cartoon Network has confirmed that last Saturday’s Toonami block was the last ever of the long-running group of programs.

For those who don’t remember, the block started in 1997 with reruns of past great action-adventure shows such as Thundercats and Reboot, where it aired on weekday afternoons. It hit its stride though a few years later when CN acquired the rights to Batman: The Animated Series and a little phenomenon called Dragonball Z. Near the end of the decade Toonami was moved to Saturday evenings, and initially anchored by the series Naruto.

According to various sources, CN will continue to air Naruto for some time to come, at least until the end of what many anime fans call the “filler” seasons of episodes.

As for Toonami? The aforementioned inside source says a new block will be launched shortly. What it will be called is still up in the air, but should be announced in the next day or two. We’ll follow this story as it develops.

NEXT COLUMN: Secret Saturdays or Superjail? Find out this Thursday.

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