Cable News/Rant: Teletoon Retro in Forever Fun…’Till We Can’t Flog the Rerun

By Cameron Archer

The Teletoon channels recently introduced their winter 2012 schedules. Teletoon, being the petulant, eldest sibling, gets the most attention. Teletoon at Night gets by with new episodes of Crash Canyon and Futurama. Teletoon Retro earns…”new” episodes of Care Bears Family, Jem and King of the Hill. Oh, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles makes its Teletoon Retro “debut” March 2012.

Yeah. You better believe my new CAR article is about my problems with Teletoon Retro, three years from its debut.

I can’t get a bead on Teletoon Retro. At times, the channel is smart enough to pry the live-action, 1966 Batman away from BookTelevision. Adam West’s Batman fits better on a general nostalgia channel than a little-known survivor of Bell Globemedia’s CHUM Limited absorption. On the flip side, I can’t believe we’re in the twenty-fifth year of Care Bears Family reruns in this country.

Granted, Teletoon has to juggle a large number of corporate balls. Teletoon enjoys exclusivity rights to Marvel’s superhero shows, plus Teletoon co-owner Corus Entertainment’s far-reaching programming agreement with Hasbro. Teletoon also enjoys relationships with Time Warner, Classic Media, Cookie Jar, Saban Brands, and 20th Century Fox.

Corus Entertainment fully owns Nelvana, so My Pet Monster, Care Bears Family and Beetlejuice reruns are a given. Woody Woodpecker has an in at Teletoon Retro, as Corus and Astral (i.e., Teletoon’s other half) have done business with NBCUniversal in the past. Walter Lantz cartoons fill time left open by the Teletoon Retro Big Ticket Movie. Corus even controls the Nickelodeon brand in Canada.

Theoretically, Teletoon Retro can air a wide array of programming. It’s a channel where pick-and-mixing is rampant. In theory, Herman & Katnip could be aired alongside Mr. Magoo, various iterations of Batman, various iterations of Spider-Man, Looney Tunes, classic Hanna-Barbera, The Alvin Show, the odd 1980s/1990s item like Freakazoid!, even Beany and Cecil. Since none of those properties are new, Teletoon Retro can be an easily profitable enterprise.

Teletoon Retro’s main fault is that it picks titles based on audience familiarity, regardless of a specific show’s quality. For instance, despite a superior Harveytoons package assembled by cartoon historian Jerry Beck, Teletoon Retro airs the 1990 Casper & Friends package. That’s like spurning the original Yogi Bear to focus on Yo Yogi!, which Teletoon Retro hasn’t yet done. Also, if you like Spider-Man, better make sure it’s the 1967-70 series, and not even the cleaned-up versions aired by Astral’s Family Channel in the mid-2000s.

1980s and 1990s shows are becoming more prevalent on Teletoon Retro. I get the reason for a dedicated 1980s block on Fridays, and I admit I enjoy G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero for camp value, but that was one of the weakest periods in North American animation. Teletoon Retro has also aired 2008′s Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, and currently airs the final few seasons of King of the Hill. By that definition of “retro,” I’m surprised I haven’t seen Life’s a Zoo.tv or The Wrong Coast yet.

Even given CanCon rules and bowing to the American masters, Teletoon Retro is in an enviable position. It’s actually displaced Teletoon as the brand’s dominant face, in terms of total subscribers. I don’t want to see Teletoon Retro waste that. 1930s-1960s animation deserves more of a place on that channel. Hell, put on The Green Hornet and air it after Adam West’s Batman, if you must have live-action. Just find ways to combat cable rot.

Seriously, Teletoon Retro shouldn’t be airing things from the year Teletoon Retro launched. If I have to explain to readers why that’s stupid, they don’t understand the true value of nostalgia.

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