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Adult Swim (stylized as [adult swim]) is the adult-oriented nighttime programming block of the American children’s pay television network Cartoon Network programmed by its in-house production studio, Williams Street. It currently broadcasts nightly from 9 p.m to 6 a.m. ET.
Debuting in 2001, Adult Swim serves as the nighttime identity of Cartoon Network, and was established as alternative programming during the late night hours when Cartoon Network’s primary target audience, children between the ages of 7 and 15, would normally be sleeping. In 2005, the block was granted its own Nielsen ratings report from Cartoon Network due to targeting a separate demographic. The block features stylistically varied animated and live-action shows; including original programming, syndicated series, anime, original video animation, and short films with generally minimal or no editing for content.
The block has frequently aired adult animation features, mockumentaries, sketch comedy, and pilots. The block’s shows are known for their sexual themes, frank sexual discussion, nudity, strong language, and graphic violence. Many of its programs are aesthetically experimental, transgressive, improvised, and surrealist in nature. This has become a source of conflict, with some saying that Adult Swim is too controversial, while others noting that its ability to question the norm brings a level of surrealism and experimentalism that is welcome. Adult Swim has contracted with various studios known for their productions in absurd and shock comedy.
As with Cartoon Network, Adult Swim’s reach through various services totals 94 million American households.
Original shows currently in-production and seen on Adult Swim include The Venture Bros., Robot Chicken, Squidbillies, Black Jesus, The Eric Andre Show, Mr. Pickles, Rick and Morty, and Mike Tyson Mysteries. Adult Swim is best known for its inaugural slate of programming, which were parodies and remakes based on Hanna-Barbera cartoons (including Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law and Sealab 2021).
Adult Swim also airs syndicated programs acquired from FOX (such as Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, and King of the Hill), original series produced for sister network TBS (American Dad! and Final Space), and acquired and co-produced anime series. Adult Swim is currently one of the only networks in the United States that airs anime-related programming (besides Disney XD) and the only network that airs such programming aimed at young adults and teens rather than children.
Currently, anime and most action-genre programming air on Saturday nights as part of Toonami, a former Cartoon Network programming block that was relaunched as part of Adult Swim on May 26, 2012 as a “block-within-a-block”. Cartoon Network shows that have gained a following among older viewers have also aired on Toonami; in particular, Samurai Jack proved popular enough in reruns to warrant a revival in 2017. Current Toonami programming, as of November 2019, includes My Hero Academia, One-Punch Man, Dr. Stone, Fire Force, Food Wars!, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Black Clover, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, Naruto: Shippuden, Lupin the Third Part 5, Attack on Titan.