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Cartoon Network’s new reality shows, kid style, are variations on grown-up shows.

Cartoon Network premieres four new shows this week, none of them cartoons. These aren’t the first CN shows to feature real people: There have been live-action ‘Ben 10' movies, based on the animated series, and the ‘Roger Rabbit'-style ‘Out of Jimmy’s Head’ in 2006. Indeed, the network’s first real original production, ‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast,’ was cobbled together around interviews with living, breathing humans. (There is also a live-action ‘Scooby Doo’ prequel slated for the fall.) And Adult Swim, CN’s late-night alter ego, has the live-action ‘Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!’ and ‘Saul of the Mole Men.’

The new series are gathered together under the rubric CN Real, which is less a programming bloc than a sub-brand. (Two of the shows premiere tonight and two on Saturday.) As in the past, the current incursion of flesh and blood into the network’s formerly fully 2-D Tooniverse has been met with dismay by (mostly adult) animation fans and CN purists -- I was about to write that it is a ‘hot topic of debate,’ but really there is no debate at all, just a collection of complementary assessments posted on various Internet message boards as to why this is a bad direction to take.

The point might be made that these shows -- by definition -- have not been created for that particular audience, but to serve younger, less particular CN viewers, and perhaps to steal a few new ones from Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. While any but the most juvenile cartoons are suitable for adults -- there is nothing guilty about the pleasure I get from ‘The Powerpuff Girls’ -- most live-action teen shows are set up to mirror their audience.


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-- Robert Lloyd