Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
No other broadcast network has had nearly the success in programming primetime animation as Fox, from The Simpsons to King Of The Hill to Family Guy and beyond. But Fox isn’t content to rest on those laurels, as it made clear during an afternoon TCA session hyping its forthcoming alternative-themed Animation Domination High-Def experimental block that’s scheduled to launch on July 27. It will run Saturday late-nights over 90 minutes (11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.), initially rolling out six 15-minute series that will try to rival Cartoon Network‘s Adult Swim in the experimental space. But while the head of the overall initiative, Nick Weidenfeld, tried to minimize comparisons to Adult Swim — over which he was head of development for eight years — he told critics today that it ain’t about trying to out-do Adult Swim on its turf. “I’m not sure I’d call it competition with Adult Swim,” he said. “They do action programming on Saturday night, so I think there’s space for interesting animated comedy to exist…I think if we’re competing with anyone, it’s with the Internet and with ourselves more than any other network.” The initial shows on Saturday night will include offerings like Axe Cop, based on an Internet sensation about what comes from the imagination of a five-year-old boy, and High School USA!, about a group of super-positive high school kids.
One of the possible hopes with the Animation Domination entries is that one or more of them could break out and get developed as a Sunday night primetime comedy series in its own right, as happened with a show called The Simpsons when it spun from The Tracey Ullman Show way back in the late 1980s. Weidenfeld admitted that was one of the long-range goals of the initiative. “That’s one path we could go down, for sure,” he said of using the Saturday block as a feeder. “But at the same time, the stuff we’re making isn’t exactly the same fare as the broader Sunday shows. And we haven’t been given a directive to do that. It’s more about finding a new model and a new outlet for animation.”