Earlier tonight, Anime Your Way’s Raw Meat Cowboy (RMC) posed the question of “can anime find a place in prime time?” It’s an interesting question that many of us have discussed repeatedly over the years. Much like Schroedinger’s Cat, it’s a question with no clear-cut answers or solutions. There’s simply too little empirical data, and no real desire to give anime a prime time spot.
RMC mentions the largest obstacle to this experiment becoming anything more than a mere “what if” scenario: the value of prime time slots. Prime time slots generate the most advertisement revenue, and catch the most eyeballs of any other time in a network’s lineup. People are home, and the largest audience is generally resistant to change.
This idea of “change” is actually another reason as to why the situation will not change in the near future. In America, animation is still a child’s game. While there are shows that skew into adult territory, like Family Guy, The Simpsons, and South Park, there are several shows produced in the vein of Spongebob Squarepants, or T.U.F.F. Puppy that are firmly rooted in kids’ territory. This has led to a stigma that the animation world simply cannot shake, unfortunately, as popular adult shows are treated as exceptions to the rule.
In the case that a network does stumble upon a show to air, they will be forced to run it through the gauntlet that is Broadcasting Standards and Practices. Standards and Practices is the division of the network that determines what content is fit to air. They determine whether a show’s content gets edited, and what gets toned down. They’re the censors that lead to outrage, by forcing shows to change their offerings to avoid as many lawsuits as possible.
This doesn’t even touch on the fact that content that resonates with a wide enough audience needs to exist before it can be placed into the slot. While many fans will vouch for shows like Cowboy Bebop, Slam Dunk, or even Gankutsuou to be candidates for prime time TV, the shows have far too many issues and target too small a niche for the broadcast slot. More marketable candidates, like Black Jack (whih is very much in the vein of House) tend to stray a be too foreign and stray too far from the American norms to really “sit” with the most conservative watchers.
While I’d love to see anime hit prime time TV, I accept that it simply can’t happen… at least not yet. As the market grows more receptive and open to change, the question may not become as clear cut. However, at this point, we’re more likely to see American live-action adaptations of these anime classics instead. Shows like Sam Raimi’s Noir will become the norm far more quickly. Rather than pray for anime to appear on TV in prime time, we should hope that these adaptations that hit the air inspire more people to seek out the source material. This situation could lead to real growth and new demographics that would be an absolute benefit to the hobby as a whole.