In news that should feel queasily familiar to fans of DC’s recent animated series, Cartoon Network has yanked the new Beware the Batman cartoon off the air after a mere 11 episodes.
Anthony Ruivivar, the voice of the new Batman, says the show will return in January 2014, but a new Beware episode was scheduled for this Saturday on TV Guide and most cable listings as of this weekend, which indicates this is another very sudden Cartoon Network decision, par with their last minute decisions to pull Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series last year, only to dump off their remaining episodes… also in January.
What makes this more astounding is that 1) this leaves Teen Titans Go as the sole series available for the supposedly one-hour DC Nation programming block; 2) they’re taking a Batman cartoon off the air, not less famous heroes like Green Lantern or the Young Justice kids; and 3) they made this choice after only 11 episodes.
I didn’t watch Beware the Batman, and I certainly didn’t care for the early concept art, featuring a gun-toting Alfred helping his master fight crime. But I can’t imagine how bad Beware the Batman must have been to get pulled off after less than four months. Making a Batman cartoon that doesn’t appeal to kids sounds impossible to me. It’s snatching defeat out of a victory so certain that it would require magic. It’d be like making Clark Gregg unappealing, or preventing George R.R Martin from killing a beloved Game of Thrones character. IT JUST CANNOT HAPPEN.
And yet Cartoon Network and DC appear to have accomplished the impossible, because even the Beware the Batman premiere only drew in 1.12 million viewers, compared to a random episode of the earlier Batman cartoon The Brave and the Bold, which had an audience of 1.87 million. Critics often lambasted Brave and the Bold for being "silly" or even "bad" — but it had a loyal, devoted following, which doesn't seem to have flocked to Beware.
But whether Beware the Batman was as good as Brave and Bold, it doesn’t matter — because clearly, kids haven't flocked to it in the same numbers. And it is astounding that even a bad Batman cartoon couldn’t get an audience. Batman is still the most popular superhero in the world, and superheroes are more popular than ever. So what’s the problem? Is it DC Animation, unable to figure out how to interest today’s kids? Is it Cartoon Network, who would rather promote their own original series rather than share the profits with their sister company? Is it too many executives, who when they don’t get the blockbuster result they want immediately, decide to scrap and destroy everything rather than give anything a chance to get better?
My money’s on all of it. In an interview with ScreenRant when the show premiered, Beware the Batman creator Match Watson announced that “the action genre of television cartoons right now is sort of on the verge of extinction.” This should be obviously nonsense to anyone who watches cartoons on a regular basis — Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Legend of Korra, Ben 10, hell, even Adventure Time is an action cartoon, albeit one with a lot of wackiness. Meanwhile, Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble and even that terrible Hulk and the Agents of SMASH seem to be doing all right on Disney XD’s Marvel Universe block. Maybe viewers expect more from their action cartoons nowadays — more story, more comedy, more whatever — but the success of Marvel’s cartoons indicates even that isn’t a necessity.
Additionally, Cartoon Network seems as happy to partner with DC as a Superman forced to ally with Lex Luthor. Whatever DC comes up with, Cartoon Network moves randomly around, re-schedules, pulls at the last minutes, keeps off the air for months at a time — and honestly, I barely see any promotion for any DC Nation cartoon on Cartoon Network itself. I don’t blame it for putting their own shows like Regular Show and Adventure Time over DC’s, but you’d think the bigwigs at Warner Bros. would tell them to play nice once in a while.
But the biggest problem, in this particular case, is what happens if Cartoon Network and/or DC really are scrapping Beware the Batman so soon — what the hell are they going to put in its place? Even if repeats of Regular Show would get better ratings than brand-new episodes of Beware the Batman, wouldn’t it still behoove CN to run new shows when they have them? Would these RS ratings be so high that they’re worth preventing Beware the Batman from possibly catching on in the future? What about the DC Nation block? Don’t you think turning it into a half-hour of Teen Titans Go won’t hurt it, especially when you want to launch whatever New 52-ish Justice League reboot you have in the works?
As I said, I don’t even know if Beware the Batman was any good, and I don’t know what plans DC and CN have going on. I don’t know if it’s best to write Beware the Batman off now, or if there’s some political/business struggle behind the scenes and Beware was the casualty. But I do know this: If you can’t keep a Batman cartoon on the air for more than 12 episodes, you are doing something horribly, terribly wrong.
[Via Comic Book Movie]