Cartoon Network is set to extend its Friday-night
original-program block this week with the debut of two new shows, Mike, Lu & Og and
Courage the Cowardly Dog.
The two new animated series have already won a timely seal
of approval from TV Guide, which just put both on its list of "Top 10 New
Cartoon's original "Cartoon Cartoon Fridays"
block -- which kicked off this summer in primetime -- will serve as the launching pad for
the new programming.
With the additions Friday (Nov. 12) -- along with the
dropping of animation showcase What a Cartoon -- that block will now be four hours
long instead of three-and-a-half, airing from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
"We knew we needed a critical mass of originals to put
together a program block," Cartoon senior vice president of programming and
production Mike Lazzo said. "This summer, we hit that mass."
New original Mike, Lu & Og --about a
sophisticated New York girl who goes to a native island as an exchange student -- was
created and directed by Rugrats veteran Chuck Swenson and several Russian
animators. It will air at 8 p.m. Fridays.
Courage,about a dog who defends his owners from
supernatural threats, was created, written and directed by John Dilworth. It will air
Fridays at 9 p.m.
The two shows mark the seventh and eighth original series
Cartoon has developed and put on the air, and so far, none has been canceled. That
outstanding batting average is due to the careful development process the network has for
its original programming.
Several years ago, the channel did 48 seven-minute cartoon
shorts, which it aired and also tested with focus groups. "We knew early on which
were working," Lazzo said.
Based on that, Cartoon developed series Cow and Chicken,
Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, The Powerpuff Girls, Ed,
Edd n Eddy and I Am Weasel -- and, most recently, Mike, Lu & Og and Courage.
"Now they are all on primetime Friday night,"
Lazzo said. "We feel we have a great vertical block."
TV Guide described Mike, Lu & Og as "a
ravishingly original, totally charming cartoon." The magazinecautioned that Courage
is really scary, "but older kids who like a good scare will find it exhilarating
and funny." Courage, in fact, is rated "TV-Y7," or recommended for
kids over seven, because Cartoon considers it a little frightening for smaller children.
TV Guide also gave a thumbs-up in its top 10 list to
Nickelodeon's animated Little Bill, calling it an "artistically splendid
offering." Nick has ordered 26 episodes of Little Bill, which debuts Nov. 28
at 8 p.m. That series is based on comedian Bill Cosby's children's books, and he
is the creator and executive producer of the series.
Nick originally planned to air Little Bill -- which
istold from the point of view of a five-year-old boy -- during its "Nick
Jr." preschool block, which airs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to Nick Jr. vice
president and Little Bill co-executive producer Janice Burgess. But the decision
was made to move it to primetime.
"The feeling was that Little Bill had the
potential to have very broad appeal," Burgess said. "This was an opportunity to
give the show a wider audience."
She added that Cosby is very involved with the show.
"The character is close to his heart and close to who he was as a child,"
In terms of ratings, Cartoon's originals have always
been its best performers, Lazzo said. In fact, October ratings for the Cartoon Cartoon
Friday time slot were up 20 percent over October 1998 to a 1.8, according to Nielsen Media
Research data. And ratings for kids six through 11 were up 40 percent to a 3.5.
Lazzo added that Cartoon now has 10 to 12 new pilot shorts
in production as potential new series.